When I started my doctoral program, I knew I would have to be away from class for several weeks during the school year. I have never really liked the results I get with substitute teachers, even though I have been one and understand their problems all too well. I needed to do things differently.
I designed a Web site that would serve as the repository of all my assignments. I also decided to post the agenda for every class, every day. It seemed like a good idea until I realized that I had to update it every night. Still, having fresh information on the site every day added a level of anticipation to each class.
On the site, there is a link for each class. On each class page, there is a link to the Daily Memo. In it, I post whatever I want the students to do for that particular day. They check it every day, whether I'm in class or not. When I am on the road, I update the site from wherever I find myself that evening.
I even throw them little curve balls, in which I ask them to email me something, again through the site, about the assignment they are working on. I rarely read through these responses very carefully. Rather, I use them as a way to see who is looking at the Daily Memo each day.
Now, when I have to be away, substitutes fight to get my class, because they know they really don't have to do anything. I've already done it!