Coping with an unhelpful predecessor

This Unit Coordinator recounts the horror of starting in her role without any support and sharing of materials from her predecessor. She offers helpful advice to new coordinators starting out. More...

I am the undergraduate coordinator in the school of economics at this university.  I was offered a course that no one else wanted to coordinate, and took up the challenge about two years ago. The previous coordinator who had taught the subject for many years decided not to share her materials.  Originally, I had three months to prepare for the start of semester in the next year, but wasted time going up the line and to the Dean to have her persuaded to give me the materials.  She sent things through eventually, but files were locked or in pdf format and I could not open or edit them.

The difficulties I had with this unit extended into locating tutors.  Many who had already tutored in the unit were reluctant to be involved.  In the frequent meetings I organised with my team, I found that sessional lecturers were also reluctant about contributing more than they had to.  Eventually, I located a tutor from overseas who joined me at the university for a year.  He arrived unencumbered with any of the ‘baggage’ associated with the unit and was good at his job. I encountered a number of other difficulties arising from being employed at a new institution that has its own set of protocols.

When I relinquish this course I will be advising the incoming coordinator about the policies they need to comply with; sessional staff remuneration and contracts; procedures regarding the bookshop, library and printer; clearly communicating their expectations to everyone involved in the unit; moderating marking for consistency; handling plagiarism; managing the Blackboard site; tracking grades in Excel; university teaching conventions and organising generally.

I will also explain the history and lifecycle of the course and suggest who they need to talk to; who is helpful and who is not. I would introduce them to the administrative staff and I would take them step by step through the topic booklet.  If I had been given this sort of information, I feel sure that my early months would have been less stressful.   Hundreds of undergraduates, including international students that I need to keep an eye on, and my own family life ensure that I keep busy.  Fortunately, I love organising and consider myself highly efficient.  These skills have really helped me to handle the demands of this role.

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