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Only one student is enrolled in my class. Advice needed.

Started by Anselm, August 27, 2023, 05:57:25 PM

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This is for calculus based physics, a class that my school will always offer regardless of enrollment numbers, just like organic chemistry.  I have gotten as low as two people but only one is a first for me. I can't imagine running my normal lecture with just one student.  I also don't want the student to feel too much pressure to always be on the ball at all times.  Some students have bad days and want to zone out and let others do the talking.  I've been there and I get that.  Maybe I should treat the class time like a one on one tutoring session.  Thoughts?

I am Dr. Thunderdome and I run Bartertown.


If (s)he can't take another section or in another semester, then just treat it more like a tutorial. I'd open most sessions with a question such as "what did you understand best?" or worst. Then maybe no more than 15 minute mini-lecture. Then, problem solving, but let the student go as fast or slow as needed after first demonstrating the technique. If time, 5 minute wrap up or ask student to do wrap up.


Yes to something more tutorial-like.

If it were me, and I was teaching logic to just one student, I'd also ditch the whole standing at the front of the room thing and just pull up a seat next to them, show them how to do the day's thing, then guide them through sample problems and troubleshoot in real time.

What a score on your end--just a single student's work to mark! And what a score on the student's end--all of the professor's attention and help! There's basically no way for them to fail, short of just not showing up.

What a win-win!
I know it's a genus.


For folks at my place, teaching an underenrolled class could go one of two ways:

for TT faculty, they'd be assigned another class on top of that calculus. So if you're teaching a 2/2, then you'd have a third (because in the eyes of the dean, that single student doesn't constitute a whole class). Tenured profs in this position often hand off that class to an untenured prof to burden them with the 3rd prep.

for NTT faculty, salary is adjusted down based on the low-enrollment algorithm.

If neither of those apply to your at your dept, then teach it as a tutoring session. I'd even find an alternate place to hold class, something more conducive to 1-on-1 instruction.


When I was in 4th year, I had a course like that. I would meet with the prof once a week; he'd assign a chapter of the text for me to read and problems to do, which we'd discuss the following week. I did the exam in his office, on the exam paper he wrote out longhand since there didn't need to be more than one copy.
It takes so little to be above average.


I had a class like this in college (only two enrolled) and we met in the professor's office to discuss course material. It was one of my favorite courses and I still talk to the professor.
As for how it would count toward your teaching load, here we would treat it like an independent study (1/3 of one credit hour). Make sure you know how it counts and thus how much effort/work the institution expects from you.