minor geek triumph

Maybe I’m the only one who gets into this kind of thing. A few semesters ago I figured out how to set up a spreadsheet to help me manage section switches and adds to my big lecture course where the discussion sections have to all be the same size. This semester, I successfully used mail merge in Word to read the data from the spreadsheet and generate “form emails” sent out via Outlook telling each student what section they have been admitted to. (I don’t normally use Outlook as my mailer, but have it set up as an option.) Overhead in learning it this time was probably close to just sending each email individually, but now that I know how, one more job that will go faster! Hint: Although I hate Word for  a lot of things, its mail merge capacities are very robust and easy to use. Unlike WordPerfect, which I could never get right on the first try, I always get Word to do the mail merge right on the first try. You set up data in a spreadsheet (or a Access), link  to the data from Word, and then insert merge codes. If there is a field in your data with an email address, you are good to go.

Another thing I use mail merge for is generating individualized reports to students about their grades. It can read a grade spreadsheet and turn that into one page per student with all the grade records.

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/soc/racepoliticsjustice/ --Pam Oliver

3 thoughts on “minor geek triumph”

  1. “Another thing I use mail merge for is generating individualized reports to students about their grades.”

    Do you then mail the individualized reports to students? I ask because this (sending grades over e-mail) is against my uni’s rules, not that the rule is enforceable.


    1. Ah, FERPA and “email is not secure.” Good point. No, my university does not have such a policy, as far as I know. Most of my past mail merge grade reports have been printed on paper and distributed in class* although I have sent grade-relevant feedback by email, especially in small classes. Now I’ll have to re-think my geeky satisfaction with skipping the paper.

      * In case you are wondering, yes students like getting an orderly print-out before the end of the term of where they stand in the class and what the computer records show about what they’ve done, especially one like mine with a lot of different components.


  2. so, i am aware of this FERPA policy, but i don’t understand it. i get sensitive/personal email from all sorts of people all the time: my university, my health care providers, the IRS through turbotax. is FERPA behind the curve, and if so, when will it change?


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