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.