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.
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
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
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
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
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 . 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.