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I just learned that the large blue books that I use to give essay examinations in cost $1.00 each!

Got the Blue Book Blues

They’re 12 pages (6 sheets) of lined 8.5″ by 11″ paper. If you asked me what I thought they cost I probably would have said 10 cents each. I use somewhere between 300 and 500 of these for each examination (big one at least) I given in my larger classes. In other words, I am spending well over $300 just for the paper to write the exams on.

Never was this information given to me. Never was there any indication that I am using up lots of valuable resources. And certainly I receive no benefit from trying to figure out a way to reduce these costs. If this is right, then our department is easily spending something near $5,000 per year to pay for blue books. Surely there is a way to reduce our costs – I may decide to hand out colored paper and have a stapler at each exam – after all, 500 sheets of purple paper costs $8.49 – I’d need about 4 reams for each test, for a total cost of less than $35.00. I suppose I could also save the department money by offering multiple guess tests, or offering fewer exams – after all, I have been criticized elsewhere with the claim, “if economists ran the U of R, all the paths would be dirt and we’d teach the classes in tents.”

I’ll stop there. It’s the weekend.

7 Responses to “Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Getting a Case of the Blue Book Blues”

  1. Kalind says:

    I am afraid you have a problem with your rss feed for posts. I have not received any new posts for the past several days in my google reader.
    Would appreciate if you could fix the same.
    Thank you.

  2. RIT_Rich says:

    Yes but aren’t you forgetting all the other associated costs of using the other method? IE…yes the alternative may cost 10 times less in paper, but is the paper the only cost? What is the cost in stapling 4 sheets together x 300? Is this going to be done in class before the test? That’ll take 30 minutes, min. Are you going to do it at home, before the test? That’ll take you 1 hour. What happens when you or your TA is transporting 2000 stapled papers back to your office, and you accidentally drop some? Staples pop out, pages get torn…now you’ve got some loose papers with the potential of placing them in the wrong order. Sure there’s a small chance, but the cost is pretty huge (to the poor student who now lost essay question # 4)

  3. Michael says:

    I could get in the fun arguement that you really aren’t talking about cost, as we mean opportunity cost economically, but rather expenditures. I think it would be to long for me to do in a reply post, though.
    In my school, I has to buy the bluebooks myself. I guess it can help remove the perception of bias; most my teachers folded the first page so they couldn’t see the name until after they finished grading.

  4. Harry says:

    Talk about productivity, RIT_Rich! Any perfesser who can handle 300 exams, with a platoon of TA’s has to be earning his/her keep. Unless the course was Basic Understanding 105: Is a Dog an Animal? and the final is a true or false question.

    I never thought about Blue Books until wintercow, the ever-active mind raised the question. I would bet a lot that they could be manufactured more cheaply. Do we use them because we always use Blue Books for finals, and use unbound paper for three-question essay questions mid-term?

    The concept of asking students to write by hand answers to difficult (or easy) questions is not bad. They have a better chance to organize their thoughts than in, say,an oral examination.

    This raises another question: some schools have abandoned teaching writing (pen, pencil, cursive, etc.) for technological pedagogical theory reasons. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but how do you take notes without your appliance? Does one learn more readily by typing notes on a laptop, or by writing by hand? Is doodling when listening of no value?

  5. Harry says:

    The above was punctuated poorly. I would normally blame the late Mr. Jobs, RIP, but when you are writing on paper you have no such excuse.

    But why DO we use Blue Books for final exams?

    Note: we used to use them for chem labs, and maybe it was stackability and uniformity, but why blue? And did one not fill up three blue books or more sometimes? How come Cornell does not use 8 1/2 X 11 red books?

  6. sherlock says:

    If I had known this, I would’ve asked for at least 2 or 3 for each of my exams, kept the extras, and sold them back to the school. Get all my friends to do this and we’d have a nice little racket going.

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