In the next couple of weeks I re-commence my face-to-face university education. This time in a Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching in order to become a high school teacher. As it’s less than two weeks from the start of term, the materials for the courses are now becoming ready. The following is an ad hoc collection of thoughts and experiences as I try to get an overview of the material and the term ahead.
Google being ruined?
Theoretically the institution is moving to Google Apps for Education for students. So the horrendous student email system originally being used is being replaced by gmail. It shall be interesting to see how the Google applications can be ruined by an institutional implementation.
Interesting to note that single-sign on still does not work for all applications. In this case getting the course profiles – the document serves as the “contract” between university and student – system requires another login.
Portals, timetables and ical
So there is a new look portal intended to bring everything into one place, to make life easier for students. However, it is still missing some fundamental elements. For example, a personalised class timetable, as I’ve complained about before.
There is a calendar in this new portal. Ahh, it’s Google calendar. But it’s not pre-populated with anything. I’m currently looking through the course profiles at the assessment. Slowly building up a calendar of due dates, wouldn’t it be nice if this could be done automatically? After all the institution has the due dates in a database, it knows which courses I’m enrolled in. At the very least, the ability to download an ical file or similar to import might be nice.
The absence of this sort of thing, especially if it remains absent in the long term, is another example of the problems facing institutional systems touched on briefly in the post around open source LMS. The IT folk at this institution are focused on package provision, not on the user. They will provide the calendar, but joining together two separate systems is not something they – or the applications – will do automatically.
Personal versus institutional
The other problem I face, is that I already have a gmail account, I already have a google calendar. I don’t want the institution to provide me with another gmail account and another google calendar. I want it to work with what I have. Ahh, there’s the Google docs link, I already use that.
Come on guys, catch up with the world.
Here’s an example. With the old student email systems – a web-based interface – the institution actually modified the system to remove the capability for students to forward email. So, instead of having the email all come nicely to the one place, I had another place to check.
So, can I automatically forward my new institutional gmail account? Yes, I can. It’s baked into gmail and I imagine they couldn’t convince (or pay) Google to remove it. Ahh, it’s also pop enabled, so I can bring it all into the one place (I use Thunderbird as an email client). Ahh, but will the screw around with hostnames, single signon get in the way? Yes, it appears like it does. Should I ask?
Bugger it, forwarding works. Will stick with that.
Of course, my decision here is another example of why institutional systems don’t improve. In the absence of anyone not complaining about the ability to use POP/IMAP the institutional IT folk will claim that there is no need for it, no-one wants it. It never occurs to them that people are smart enough (or cynical enough) to understand the futility of asking.
Of course, it now appears that forwarding may also not work. Actually, I just had to wait. It’s working now.
Bulk email to students
Oh dear, the uni is trying to increase response rates on student evaluation by bulk email to students from the institutional leader. At the very least you could limit this to students actually enrolled in the term. i.e. I was not enrolled in any courses during T3, 2010.
By course the assignments are
- Course 1
- 40% – 10 “investigations” – 2000 words equivalent.
- 60% – 3000 word report, a range of supporting activity.
- Course 2
- 20% – Learning design brief, 1000 words – essentially a reflective blog (on first skim).
- 40% – Blog including 1600 word reflective synopsis.
Oh dear, you have to upload your blog url via a Word document into Moodle. Have these folk not heard of BIM? It’s even installed.
- 40% – 2000 words – a learning design?
- Course 3
- 50% – Lessons plans, implementation and critical de-construction – 23 May
- 50% – Unit of work and evaluation – 6 June
- Course 4
- 50% – 2000 words report – 21 April
- 50% – 2000 word report – 26 May