Saturday, April 12, 2008

Through the Grading Wall

With a sustained effort late into the night, grading is at last done. Just a bit more content planning for the rest of the semester and the time will fly by.

One of the features my university does not have is a gateway and/or checklist for students to review prior to taking online classes. Some students are still having trouble just saving and sending files correctly - even with specific instructions. The "digital natives" definitely only know their personally-relevant pockets of tech info and aren't always as "eager" to learn something new that has to be done a certain way to work for everyone. For example, to keep track of student work that is submitted as Word or PowerPoint files, they are expected to follow a specific naming paradigm. If the assignment directions are in a Word file, I name that file the same as they are to hand in with an "xxx" in the file name for them to replace with their initials. But, guess what, it's not unusual even late in the semester for them to send me a file that has defaulted to their title on the first line of their file - something unworkable when you're dealing with groups of 20 to 30 files of the same assignment (ie you can't have 25 files that say The_1920s.doc and keep everything straight.) And, despite
putting a heading on the actual page that says "Your Name Here" and "Date Here", they often erase that or, I'm guessing, start with a new file and forget all the guidelines.

Whether the students plan to teach or to go into other careers, they will run into network systems that have definite rules that don't take files and/or input that "almost fit". And, students have several ways to not only check that the file is named right on their computer but also to confirm it was submitted correctly. I highly suggest to them -not- to do anything but browse for the file on the computer and NOT to put anything in the blank boxes on the dropbox screen (we've gone from Blackboard to ANGEL on my campus). The early common mistake was to "name the file" in the blank box "correctly" but send me a file without their initials or the proper file name. And, I try to encourage them to use Open Office if they don't have Microsoft Office. The Microsoft Works people don't seem to understand how to do a "save as" and then send me a file that has .doc.wps which means they haven't followed directions and have typed in the extension instead of chosing it. Even pointing them to online videos doesn't seem to work. I'll just keep revising my instructions and once they don't get points for a file I can't easily open, they usually figure it out. And, once they figure it out, there is usually a chance to resubmit based on previous work. But I think the main issue is that most who take online are still not aware of the tech required despite the up front info I give them and also think it will be easier than an in-person F2F class. Of course, some of these same students are surprised when there are books required for their online history course.

Yesterday I received a friendly email from one our tech-savey librarians who didn't realize he was suckered into helping the student who refuses to learn and keeps finding new people to help him. Of course, this student forgot to tell him that he had a whole folder of information on blogging in his ANGEL site and that we had spent class time on it earlier in the semester. This student found it easier to go to complain to someone than review the material. He also made it clear from previous comments that he hadn't been regularly accessing the course ANGEL site as stated in the syllabus and multiple times in class.

Today I can focus on some more fun aspects of my work. A colleague with whom I'm working on a grant project just called and updated me on what I need to know for my trip to Baltimore this week. I then go from Baltimore to the University of North Texas for an alumni event. Should be fun and my first non-stop (Baltimore to Denver) flight in years. At last with Southwest it should go smoothly.

We're having one last bout of winter weather and I'm enjoying my last fires at the farm. There are clouds but no rain, thank goodness. It looks like it will be another week before the morels are up - we just simply haven't had the warm spring days to get them to pop.

And, I'm going to have to figure out how to get rid of that armadillo that was rummaging around the front yard last night. Argh!

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