esgruc2's Blog

by: esgruc2
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Grades are in, final thoughts are here

When finishing up the last few sections of reading questions I always thought there must be a better way to submit them, then simply copy and pasting them for a word processor into BlackBoard, with each question requiring it's own webpage. I found that there was another way when BlackBoard was accidentally set up differently for one of the sets of questions and the process suddenly became a lot less painful. Instead all of the questions were displayed on one webpage and you could easily copy and paste from your word processor, without have to save and go to a new webpage every time. I would much rather see this type of set up implemented as opposed to the one page one question layout. 

When it comes down to it I'm sure I could continue to nit pick this and that, however there really wasn't anything I couldn't look past during the course. I never felt like I was going to fall behind and not be able to catch up, things never seemed to be moving to fast, all of the information needed to complete the course was right there, and I finished with a B without having to stress myself out in a classroom during the summer. I would highly recommend these courses to anyone who is looking to make up credit hours here or there or even to those of you just looking to get a little bit ahead.

Due when? I'm not quite sure...

 When the online course was first started I had a syllabus which laid out all of the assignments and the due dates. Looking back at the syllabus everything had a very strict deadline and assignments were due several times a week, which doesn't work well for those with hectic schedules. Upon finding out the due dates for most assignments would be extended so that as long as you had your work in for the time before the exam it would be counted, this helped relieve some of the stress. However now I am beginning to find another problem, the only way to figure out when assignments are actually due is to go back and search through e-mails sent out by the professor. If you're like me you prefer your inbox to be rather clear, which forces me to do quite a bit of digging if I'm unsure as to when something is due. I would have loved to see the BlackBoard "My Grades" section to be updated with all of the due dates, but after a bit of research it seems like from a technical side for the professor it would be more complicated then it should be, but I have another suggestion. Instead of sending out all of the important information such as due dates in mass e-mails, I would rather see all of that information posted directly to the announcements section of BlackBoard. That way there are no e-mails to dig through and all of the important updates you need to get through the class are all in one general area. I say the more announcements and the less e-mails the better! Two birds with one stone I think would sum it up, do people still say that?

Test two is right around the corner

I can't say I'm excited to take another test for Ant 160, but rest assured it has nothing to do with the class itself. In fact this test is quickly shaping up to be smoother then the first for two main reasons:

1. There is now a 26 hour deadline where I will have from 6am on Friday to 8am on Saturday. Keep in mind that once I begin the test I will only have an hour to complete the exam.  During the first exam we were only given two, three hour time slots, and these were the only times you were able to take them. One was during the morning and the other the evening, so chances are most people were able to complete the exam in the allotted time spots. However I'm sure there were some complications on that front, and now having a 26 hour opening everyone should be able to find an hour to set aside and take the test when they're ready, and at their convenience. I'ts the little things like this from a personal convenience side that make me happy when it comes to the online courses of the College of Arts & Sciences. 

2. We already went through this one time. During the first test some people had some glitches thanks to Blackboards instability, and some people didn't quite catch on to the whole only having an hour to complete the exam. This time around we should see an increase of things going off without a hitch, and I'm going to guess I won't have anything to complain about after the exam is completed, except for doing poorly on it like the first time...

One Exam Down, Two to Go

Seeing as that the entire exam was taken online through Blackboard, it only seems right that I should mention exactly how this works. For the exam there were two different time frames when the test was able to be taken, making sure that everyone had an opportunity to complete the exam even with different schedules. We were able to take the test between 8am - 11am or for everyone who is not an early person such as myself, there was also an 8pm - 11pm time frame available. Once starting the exam you only had an hour to complete it, however for an online multiple choice test this is more then enough time. The only downside I found with this system is that during the test if you come across a question which seems unclear, you have no way of figuring out what the question is referring to, and simply must guess. There is also the possibility of cheating, you are on the honor system here. Only allowing an hour for completion helps to discourage this thankfully, you would certainly not have enough time to look up the answers and still complete the exam. Not to mention you wouldn't cheat in a course in a class-room so why do it online? The best part is the immediate grading, as soon as you finish the test you'll know exactly how well you did and know how much you need to improve. Hopefully you all do better then myself....oh well, there are still two tests left.

Don't rush yourself, but worst comes to worst, you can do it!

So I may have been in a bit of a rush over the past two days trying to catch up on everything after I finally got back from my trips, and yesterday I finally finished getting caught up after finishing my first exam. I'll be the first to say that I do not recommend cramming to get all of the work done in a few sittings. On two different occasions I was up until at least 6 a.m making sure all the work was done before the final June 30th deadline for it all came to a close. With the long deadline there was plenty of time to get all of the work done at a nice solid pace, however I was at a disadvantage due to some poor planning. On a better note it shows that no matter how busy things get in your life, if you still work hard and concentrate you will be able to finish the work for your course in a timely manner, so there is no reason to stress over these online courses through the College of Arts and Sciences. With all the work easily accessible at your fingertips, long deadlines, and a little hard work, these online courses are much better suited towards a busy student, or at least one that doesn't want to feel rushed, then an in-class course. 

Ask and you'll probably receive

 Well since I am in the middle of cramming to get some work done thanks to poor planning on my part over my vacation and Blackboard has decided to give up on my I thought I'd do a quick blog post. A few posts back I mentioned that I wished it was possible to download all of the power points within the course in order to use them if I ever got stuck without the internet. Whether it was on a plane, on a car trip, or stuck in a hotel in Seattle with no internet. Next thing I know the entire class received an e-mail stating that work was being done to make sure we were all able to download the power points. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought that it was a good idea to be able to have them at our finger tips at any given time. It is little things like this which is making the class evolve into a terrific learning experience each and every day. If you have a question or concern it is extremely easy to get them answered, and if you have an idea to better the class, chances are it will be greatly considered as well!

Now if only Blackboard would let me back into the system so I can finish my make-up work before the deadline hits and I can keep preparing for my exam tomorrow. I'm pretty excited to see how exams will work on this system and of course will let you know as soon as I do.

Don't worry, you still matter!

Incase you are worried that you won't have any contact with your professor throughout the course of an online education class through the College of Arts and Sciences, I'm here to let you know that you can throw your worries to the wind. After being in the class for over a week now, there hasn't been a day go by without some sort of update from my professor. All of these e-mail updates also come with some sort of benefit to the class itself, whether it is a problem being solved with Blackboard, an extension of deadlines, or just a simple check-in, it is all here. One of these e-mails even came with a study guide for my first exam, this sort of attention to students and the class is not at all what i expected when signing up for the online course. I am extremely pleased with how involved the professor has been with the students. It has been a fantastic to work through technical problems, have the class tailored to the many different schedules of busy students, and even get the classroom advantages such as study guides all from an online course. The internet has made it possible to bring the classroom home with you, and by taking advantage of many different types of technologies these courses are shaping up to be everything I expected, and beyond.

Deadlines are your best friend

Upon starting my online education class I was feeling a bit stressed and stretched much too thin. Deadlines haunted me in my sleep and they always seemed right around the corner, especially from my outlook as a traveler. As we began to get a week into the class is became apparent that everyone was as stressed as I was, and before I knew it the deadlines became much looser. Now as it stands my first couple weeks of assignments are not due until the day of the first exam. This type of mentality to me just sort of makes sense. Students absolutely need to make sure they have covered all of the content that will be incorporated into the exams however should not be rushed to complete the assignments. During the summer everyone is on a different schedule and no one's life is exactly the same. By widening the deadlines it helps to incorporate all of the different lifestyles and greatly increases the chance students will be able to manage, and pass the class. As we continue to get deeper into the class everything seems to be falling into place, and the online course is becoming exactly how I imagined it would be. The more the class is accepting to all walks of life, the more I enjoy the course and encourage everyone who is looking for a good way to catch up on credit hours to take these online education classes through the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Content of a course

I of course can only speak for one course as far as content is concerned, but I wanted to talk a little bit about how the lectures have worked so far. You can easily access the lectures by navigating Blackboard looking for those open folder icons to dive deeper into the section, and they display within the dedicated media player. Chances are you'll need a pretty good connection for them to load promptly and not have to wait for any sort of buffering, I have yet to run into any problems with loading the videos on any of the connections I have used. For me the lectures are just like a power point you would see in class with the professor talking while the power point flips through sides. At any time you are able to pause the power point to take notes, or go back in case you needed to listen to something important all over again. By having the voice speaking as the power point plays it gives you more of a sense that you are in the class room, it is a nice human touch so that you don't feel completely on your own. It also allows the professor to speak more in depth on a subject then if you were just reading text and attempting to decipher information on your own. The only thing I wish was different is that I am not able to download any of the lectures. For me it would be much better if I could download the lectures and put them on my iPod or iPad or even just on my laptop so I could watch them offline. It would be extremely beneficiary if I was able to watch these lectures while in the airport, on a plane, or even on a long car ride. Other then that small complaint the actual content of the online course so far is extremely well put together and makes you feel like you truly are part of a class. I am excited to dive deeper into the course and see what other type of content displays itself throughout the next several weeks. 

Blackboard troubles are easily solved

One of the main problems of an online course is that you never know when technology is going to fail you. Fortunately there is always someone right around the corner to solve your problems and get things back on course. My first few assignments were inaccessible due to a problem with .pdf files. Within less then 24 hours the problem was solved and the assignment sheets were made available thanks to the support team for Blackboard. In between the time that it took for them to become available my professor was able to get the assignments uploaded in a different form so that students could continue working without having to wait for Blackboard to be completely fixed. The professor was also able to extend deadlines for those who were effected by the technical issue. All of these people working together helped make sure that what could have been a complete disaster only  an extremely small set back. I however was unable to purchase the book for my first two assignments before leaving town because the book required was sold out at the bookstore. The way the class is set up I am not able to work ahead and do assignments from the other books in place of the assignments which are currently being requested. This causes a problem for someone like myself who was unable to get the book required, and has no transportation in the situation I currently find myself. It is extremely important to make sure you are completely prepared with all of the required texts before leaving town, or you will quickly learn that these online classes are not viable on the move. As long as you are prepared there is nothing else to worry about, especially from a technical standpoint. If something happens with Blackboard or with any of the videos and lectures it is guaranteed that they will be fixed in a timely manner and you will do nothing but benefit from the problem. The speed and understanding that comes with technical help will make sure you stay on track to finish the class, without having to worry you will fall behind.

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