Anth 143 is the largest course offered by the department. It is only taught in the fall. (There is a small section taught by a grad student in the summer, but there is no offering in the spring.) Will there be TAs for it in fall 2010? It's hard to imagine a 700 student course without TAs. But it is equally hard to envision having TAs when there is no cash in the system to pay them.
Needless to say, this news created a detour in the discussion of our class project - having mentors to help teams of students do their project work for the course. Can there be realistic intensive student projects if there aren't TAs to grade the projects? We talked about possible work arounds - calibrated peer review, for example. But there is a lot of set up work for the instructor to implement any of these and that is a big part of the issue in implementing any sort of change in such a high enrollment class. So we spent some time whining about lack of resources and the campus not having its priorities right. Not anticipating any of this going into the meeting, I'm afraid I contributed to the doom and gloom. I had no rabbit to pull out of my hat. I didn't see our project working if there were no TAs.
After railing about the issues for a while, we spent some time talking about the use of mentors, as a hypothetical. We did talk about how the mentors might be deployed, scheduling evening sections (perhaps Sun - Thurs), one hour per week, to have a fixed time and space for the mentors to meet with the groups. We also talked a little bit about how that might go and designing the course up front so the teams could get through any stumbling block they might encounter early on and have the mentor help them with that, also so they would bond in advance of the project work they'd do later in the semester.
The other avenue of this we talked about is a totally online version, possibly in the summer, maybe in the fall as well offered as an 8 week course during the second 8 weeks of the semester. It seems that getting the summer calendar in sync with the fall and spring calendars might happen by dividing up the longer semester into halves. I'd favor that. It is a very long semester.
In any event, I thought you should know it isn't full steam ahead, but there still are possibilities.