I’m lucky in that I primarily teach small classes. It’s a rare quarter when one of my classes has more than 30 students in it. I also tend to teach novice programmers, students for whom one-on-one help can make a big difference. The combination means that I encourage students to reach out to me by email when they get stuck. In fact, I have a one-hour rule that I ask them to apply. For a long time this has worked well for me and for my students.

But as time has gone on, I’ve noticed that students are increasingly less likely to send me email. I internalized this, assuming that I was doing something differently and trying to figure out what the issue might be. Yesterday I got an email from a former student that made me think it might have more to do with my DePaul colleagues than me. This student had a Java question for me. I answered it assuming he was in one of my current classes, but then a check of my rosters showed he wasn’t. I reached out again asking which class he was in. He replied as follows:

Sorry I meant last quarter.  I was in your csc 281 online.  Thanks for the help.  Code academy is helping learn some extra code for a internship I am doing and you are the only professor who answers emails of mine.

I had a suspicion that answering email was something that only selected colleagues continue to do, partially because it’s increasingly hard to get them to respond to my email. But outright confirmation is discouraging. I responded to the student that I couldn’t decide if I was happy or sad to learn that I was one of the few who responded.