Thank you for these questions. First, I checked quickly and did not find your course among the distance learning courses that are coded in Banner by your college. If it really is not there, then none of your students received the usual communications so it is not surprising that you would have an unusually high level of problems. Nevertheless your questions are good and might lead to improved approaches. I will insert my responses following your questions. Elizabeth Alexander, CTE and other faculty members can supplement and correct my responses.


Jeff Olson



Cherepon Lois wrote:





I sent this rather long message to this list on Monday,

but guess it either didn't get posted or the address was incorrect and

it never arrived.


Here's my list of questions:


1) Is there a better way to prepare the Distance Educ

   students for working online?


   Should we (can we) make it a requirement for them to take a

   workshop on how to use WebCT, or at least, provide some detailed

   information?  Handing them the URL doesn't seem to cut it with

   some students, especially those who never used a listserv (i.e.

   the "discussion" component).


We are preparing an introduction called Student 101 using WebCT to orient students. I agree that we should require it.



   Several of the students in my course never received any

   official notification of how to logon to WebCT, etc...

   Could we establish a way of either contacting them prior

   to the semester, with all the course information they'll need?

   Perhaps, it might be best for the faculty member to make that

   initial contact.


Communicating with students is always one of the most difficult things to do. Sometimes it is a problem with the university approach, sometimes with the students and sometimes an intervening cause. Communication needs to occur in many different ways. Even then it does not always work. I remember once taking an angry student down the hallway of the main classroom building and showing him every ten feet where the information that he claimed had never been communicated was posted in letters more than one inch high. He also admitted that he did not read our letters. At the beginning of the semester, the Online Learning office mails a letter to every registered student using the address that they have given St. John's. We do not know why some do not seem to receive it. The most likely explanations are that they have not updated their St. John's address or they do not open their mail. Both of these are common problems. If you course was not coded as a distance learning course, your students would not have received this letter. The letter directs them to email the faculty member immediately so that you can inform them of any special requirements before the semester begins.


We also have a distance learning web site that explains all of these things. The assistants in the computer labs have been trained to assist students and there are instructions on the online learning tools web page that explain how to do it and where to go if they have trouble. CTE receives emails and phone calls. We are going to implement St. John's Central (Campus Pipeline) university-wide sometime in the near future. It provides a courses page with a link to each course. If the course is a WebCT course then the student goes directly into the course in WebCT without any additional log on. If you have other suggestions, they are welcome.



2) The course I teach has several software requirements,

   including the MS Office Suite. Several of my students

   don't own this software, which means that to complete

   their assignments, they have no choice but to come to campus.


   Is there a way, without breaking our licensing agreements, to    

   provide them with this software at home?   They can't access it

   from the SJU website or network from home.  AND, they didn't have

   advance warning about these requirements (especially those

   who never received the proverbial "letter").


   It seems rather unfair to offer a course with software

   requirements, not tell them about it until the first day

   of the semester, and then expect them to simply have this

   on their home computer. Also, we make it available on campus

   for the students who meet us face-to-face, so shouldn't we

   attempt to provide a similar situation for the online students?


Elizabeth Alexander requests this kind of information from faculty members teaching courses coded in Banner as distance learning courses at the beginning of every semester and provides it on the distance learning web site. I believe that the letter that is sent to students encourages them to check out the requirements. If not, that is a change that we should make. We keep the letter brief to increase the likelihood that they will read it, but we should provide this kind of information in the letter. It would at least benefit the students whose addresses are current and who open and read their mail.


The Microsoft licensing agreement does not permit students to receive a copy. Your class is unusual because Microsoft Office is actually a requirement. You should check with the IT course software support people to see if there is somw way of providing this software to your students that is not possible for classes generally. If not, then the students would need to purchase Office as a course requirement. The academic license might not be much more than the cost of some technical textbooks, but I agree that it is important for them to know.




3) Does anyone have an initial Face-to-Face meeting with their

   class, to iron out details?  Can this be required, or strongly

   recommended?  How can you setup this type of meeting if the

   course isn't mounted on WebCT until the first week of the

   semester?  In other words, How can we contact them prior

   to the semeser to organize a face-to-face meeting?


Some faculty members do this. I had an optional one last semester. It should be optional. I hope that Student 101 will help, especially after St. John's Central is implemented. Course design can also make a difference, depending on what is creating problems for them.



4) How do you go about reserving a classroom, or a computer lab,

   to have a face-to-face meeting or workshop?  Do you go through

   the Dean's office?  Do you just set it up on your own?

   Are there optimal times to do this?  Should you get a consensus from

   your class or just schedule it and hope they can make it?


You do this through your department chair.



5) I've run into difficulties sending, opening and deleting mail

   on WebCT, and some of my students have too, especially on Sunday

   evenings, after 10:00.  Does SJU do computer maintainence during

   this time?   Several times, I've been unable to delete messages,

   reply to messages, or manage the messages.  Sending a new message

   isn't a problem.


CTE should respond to this, but my understanding is that this does not happen on Sunday.



Lois Cherepon