How to manage email sent via the email instructor button effectively

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Contents

Problem:

It is difficult to effectively manage the feedback email sent via the email instructor button, especially if several instructors and teaching assistants reply to these emails, or if these emails come from multiple courses.

First solution:

Set up a new Gmail account for this email only and share the log-in and password with the other instructors and TAs who will use it.

  1. Visit mail.google.com and create a new account with a descriptive name such as RochesterMath101Fall2008@gmail.com or WeBWorKforProfessorName@gmail.com. If you are sharing this account with other instructors or TAs, choose an easy to remember password.
  2. Log in to your WeBWorK course and click Course Configuration. In the upper-right corner click E-mail. Enter your new Gmail email address in the box for Additional addresses for receiving feedback e-mail and click Save changes.
  3. Once you are sure the gmail account is working you can change the "E-mail feedback from students automatically sent to this permission level and higher" drop-down menu to "nobody". This means that student email feedback will be sent only to the gmail account and prevents the feedback from being sent directly to the professors associated with the course.

Benefits of first solution:

  • It is quick and easy to set up, and it is free.
  • Multiple users can have this Gmail account open at the same time, and while one user is replying to an email the other users will see the word Draft in red next to that email in the inbox.
  • The Gmail inbox is organized into conversations, which means that the student's original email and all subsequent replies to it are kept together in a convenient digest. This makes it easy for an instructor to see the student's original email, all replies to it by other instructors and TAs, and allows you to add to the conversation.
  • The number of emails in each conversation is clearly displayed in the Gmail inbox and all new email is at the top of the inbox and has a white (rather than gray) background, so it is easy to separate the new email from the email that has already been answered.
  • It is also easy to set up labels in Gmail to filter the incoming email into virtual folders, which may be useful if the same Gmail account is being used for several different math courses at the same time.
  • Also, the link to the particular WeBWorK problem the student asks about will open in a new browser window.
  • You can leave this Gmail account open on your office computer all the time and it will automatically retrieve new email very frequently.

Potential drawbacks of the first solution:

You are relying on Gmail to provide a service. There may be temporary outages.

Additional comments

For Mac users you can install Gmail Notifr which will run on your desktop machine or laptop and will check periodically to see if there is unanswered mail on your Gmail account. This will remind you if unanswered questions persist on the gmail account for too long. [1]

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