Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Week Down, Fourteen to Go

The first week of the semester is done (for me, anyway) and not only am I starting to learn new things about the world around me, the classes included some learning about myself.

While the semester technically started Monday, USF activated Blackboard, our computer system that encompasses everything relating to the college, back on August 10th. One of my web classes, IT Ethics, had active participation on the discussion boards as soon as that sucker went live. That's a good sign, especially since 60% of the grade in the class relies on group projects.

The instructor had an Elluminate session Tuesday night. We don't have a designated meeting time as a web course, but she chose a time and informed us we needed to be online together for a 45 minute session to review the syllabus and ask any questions we might have. Silly me, I thought 45 minutes meant I'd be done in ample time to get to scouts. Wrong. That session was over two hours long, finishing 5 minutes after scouts started.

Still, it was pretty cool. The Elluminate session was like a lecture, we could see her computer, had a chat feature and we could raise our hand to ask questions. You could converse with the group or have a private IM with a classmate, but the instructor could see it-and as a result, we all did. Two classes will be using Elluminate, so I'm tempering my annoyance at the time over run.

The other web course is an interesting story. I wanted to get a jump on the semester's work, so I emailed my advisor to find out how to contact the instructor (she wasn't in the USF email directory) to find out what book we'd be using and the books we'd use as examples in the course work. I got an email back with the instructor and text information, emailed her, and never got a reply.

When Blackboard populated on August 10th, all the course materials from last fall's section of the class did as well-the whole discussion board, assignments-everything. The instructor was listed as the one I'd emailed. As of last Friday, she was still listed on all documentation. Tuesday, we got an email apologizing that the materials were incorrect-from a different instructor!

Everything came down off Blackboard for a day, then went back up. However, the syllabus and assignments are the same (except for shifting the due dates one day). The way I can tell is that I'd printed hard copies of both a few weeks ago. It's supposed to be an easy class, it just has required readings. The textbook is a breeze.

Onto the on campus classes. It is serendipitous that somehow, both of the classes pertaining to my major actually meet on campus. Polytechnic appears to rely on a good portion of course content being web based. I guess it should be no surprise when there are only 1,300 students at the campus.

When I attended Nassau, other than the technical theatre classes, I can't remember a time when I had classmates in more than one class. Ever. HJC, the other school I attended, even though it was much smaller, it was the same deal. This time? I've got several classmates that share the two courses. This is good-we can confer over any questions we might have.

Monday night, first time in a classroom in 15 years. It's a full class, the instructor is funny and it's a subject I gravitate towards. She posts the notes on Blackboard prior to class, so all I have to do is cut and paste into word, follow along during class and add as needed. It will be hands on, since we have labs to do. This is good-I prefer cementing all the reading with something tangible. I'm a little worried about writing an AMA quality paper, but the last time I worried about a class paper, it wasn't that big a deal.

Wednesday morning. While waiting for the instructor, a few of us were chatting about the bookstore website saying there was no book designated, but that B&N handed me a text. One of our little group commented about my Monday night class and asked if I had Prof. H, too. Yep-that was cool.

Once in the class, the professor tells us there is no text, because she and her colleague are writing one. (Back to the bookstore for me!) This class will be mostly hands on, attendance is required and we have to write a blog entry about each class on Blackboard. The instructor works in private practice and has offered to sit down with the psych majors to give a real world view of what career options there are.

Then we did some personality tests and were sorted into our colors. (I thought I was a nurturer/Blue more than an academic/Green, but I was wrong). The groups then had to find their traits in common. Some of the things we found about the Green group were pretty cool, but I still found a lot of what Blue described as commonalities fit as well. The instructor said that typically, this exercise nets her a class that is overwhelmingly Blues, because psych majors want to help people. Our class was dominated by greens (to which I said "you've got a class of academics" and she laughed)

Then, we sorted into groups that had a blend of the colors (hard, since we only had three yellows and four reds) and were given a word problem to solve. Apparently, in each group, we Greens dominated. Hmmm, maybe this green thing fits.

It was important to me to get a mixture of on and off campus classes to get the most out of the return to college. So far, I'm happy with the courses I chose and the mode that they are being instructed. The two on campus classes are going to be pretty involved and are better suited to the in person interaction. The web classes look to have very active online discussion, but don't appear to be missing a thing by not meeting in the traditional setting.

There's still a lot of semester left to go, but the choices I made appear to be good on many fronts. Monday's nerves have been replaced by anticipation and excitement. I can't complain about that.

1 People talked back:

LceeL said...

Good luck - a return to college is a major undertaking. But anticipation and excitement certainly make it worthwhile, doesn't it?