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In the past two weeks, I’ve talked with 5/18 of my full-time students about them reducing their workload from full-time to part-time.

Why is this? The course shouldn’t be more intensive that what we’ve run previously. There are a few reasons I can think of that could be factors.

  1. Self management – The new context of the course puts more of the responsibility of learning onto the students. We’re expecting them to be able to work from home, establish boundaries, and motivate themselves. For some students the direct supervision of being in the classroom might be easier.
  2. The computer context may be stretching students more than expected. I know for at least a couple of students, this has been a major contributing factor to workload.
  3. Bioscience is being taught & assessed in a completely different way than it has been previously
  4. Expectations – even though I stressed to almost every student that they should expect the course to be full-time, many students seem to have heard what they wanted to hear, and have come into the course expecting to be able to put 15-20 hours into it a week.  This expectation seems to be related to the flexible nature of the course, or previous experience with tertiary study.
  5. Something else to do with blended delivery???

But at the moment, I’m a bit in the dark. I’ve just talked with the most recent student who’s talked about reducing workload, and he says he’s been putting in 20-25 hrs per week, so this sounds like a lack of self-management.

More investigation is obviously required.

Despite my efforts to make the course interface as simple as possible, I’m getting feedback that students are finding it difficult to find their way around, and get all of the information that they need.  A couple have mentioned that they would prefer something a bit more like Blackboard.  😉

I’m not quite sure what to do about this.  I’m going to run a tutorial with some of the students who are having difficulty sometime in the next couple of weeks, and that should clarify exactly what the issues are (as it seems like it should be straightforward enough to me).

There always seem to be some problems with students not able to login and access polytech computer services at the start of the year.

This year the Polytech decided to make the move to Windows Live as the new student email system at the last minute,  and this added an extra login, and more problems.

Then down the track, issues with our internet connection led to still more computer issues.

All of this contributes to a fairly rough ride for the affected students, and given that it’s known that frustration with dysfunctional computer technology is one of the biggest contributors to student frustration and poor retention rates (McQuillan, 2007),  I’m seriously considering being more independent of OP’s servers and technology platforms next year.

If I didn’t bother getting students to start using their Windows Live account, but instead allowed them to use the email address that they were already using then we would lose one technology hurdle and a whole lot of running around for me.   I’d lose Windows Spaces in the process (no big loss).  The students have to download MSN messenger themselves for it to be useful as part of the package, so I might as well get them to download skype which is my prefered messaging programme anyway.

If I take this approach, I’d only be dependent on the polytech servers for Elluminate and Blackboard (which we plan to gradually move away from anyway).

It seems to me that this would reduce complications from the students perspective, and reduce the amount of time that I have to spend on fire-fighting at the start of the course which will be good for my mental health.  🙂