Helping students who miss a training session

Students who miss a session don't need to monopolize class time upon their return - not if you plan ahead for absences.

When you’re teaching a class of any kind—especially a computer class—some students are going to miss a session or two. They get sick, their cars break down, or they go on vacation. Then they show up the next session and expect you to bring them up to speed, right? But the rest of the students expect you to pick up where you left off. So, Professor, what do you do? Here are some tricks to make life easier for yourself and for your students who must occasionally miss a class.

The short review
Most trainers build in time at the top of every class to review the material covered up to that point. If your students are using a workbook that contains explanations as well as practice questions and exercises, your students who miss may not need a lot of hand holding. You can simply spend a couple of minutes reviewing the previous session for the whole class and then place the burden of “catching up” on the students who missed. Let them do it on their own time.

The buddy system
One time-honored method for dealing with students who miss is to establish a buddy system at the beginning of the course. You tell your students at the beginning of the training that they’ll be responsible for getting material they miss from a “buddy.” Have your students form teams of two or more and exchange phone numbers. Students who miss a session are then expected to check with one of their buddies to find out what they missed.

The class summary
Here’s a trick I’ve used to help myself as well as the students who miss a class. After every class, I take a few minutes to type a narrative of what happened. “First, we talked about this, then about that. Somebody asked this question, and I gave this assignment.” The next week, I give that summary to everyone in the class—not just the people who missed. That summary helps in a number of ways.
  • You create a permanent record of your teaching, which helps you evaluate yourself and plan for the way you’ll present material in future classes.
  • You reinforce the lessons in your students’ minds. They’ve heard you utter virtually the same words you’ve written in your class summary.
  • You help the students who missed the last class. Those folks don’t have to seek out a buddy or bug you to re-teach the previous session before or after class or during breaks.

Moral of the story: Any time you teach a class that lasts two or more sessions, you’re going to have students who miss. Remember to plan in advance for how you’re going to deal with them.
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