(Still in back-to-school mode here at The Chatty Professor, though I’m celebrating two exciting shout-outs this week: The Austin-American Statesman did a beautiful piece on Say This, NOT That, and I was honored to be in a KING-5 segment. But let’s get to important business–a recommendation I think is critical for all students and a first week tip I don’t think is discussed often enough…)
Wonderful student, this could happen to you!
Several years back, my campus implemented a college-based student e-mail system.
That’s right. Gone were the days of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org submitting e-mails that may or may not be correct. Now, students were assigned email@example.com (or something to that effect).
I have my course management system (CMS: Angel, BlackBoard, Moodle, etc. ) e-mail forwarding to my Outlook. I prefer it this way because I don’t want 15 places to check e-mail. This is all clearly noted in my syllabus. When I would respond to a student from my Outlook, the e-mail would go to their campus e-mail.
There was SO much missed communication all term long because bootielicious and viperbites (and many of their friends) did not read this in the syllabus! I actually had students submit papers that I reviewed, but the students never received the feedback–or the potentially higher grade–because they weren’t checking the campus e-mail.
So what’s the communication (and technology!) lesson here?
The time to start checking your tech for your class is right now, the second you know about it! Here are ways to do that:
-Most obvious: Is your campus using college-based e-mail or your personal e-mail (and if the latter, does your college have your correct e-mail address)? Find out! If you are using college-based e-mail, get into it, make sure your password is working (if not, get to that help desk today!), and test the e-mail out now!
-If you don’t really want to use college-based e-mail, fine! Ask your professor or your campus help desk, “Can you help me forward my campus e-mail to my personal account?”
-Next order of business: If your professor tells you on the first day that your class is using a CMS (course management system), special website, etc., log into it within 24 hours of your first class! Why wait? Chances are, your prof would like for you to e-mail him/her with confirmation that you are safely logged in (and, you know, you could even e-mail your prof and say, “I want to let you know I’ve logged into Moodle successfully” anyway). Or, you may want to take my next suggestions and add a few questions.
-If you have trouble logging into your CMS or anything else, do not wait until your next class (or worse, the next week!) to figure this out! First, look at your syllabus for instructions to see a) if there are any; and b) to find out what your prof recommends for technical support (as in, should you contact the professor or campus technical support?).
Take the steps suggested on your syllabus. If there are none, then e-mail your prof immediately, go see him/her during office hours, or call them up (the number should be on the syllabus–yes, you can pick up the phone!) and say, “I am attempting to log into the CMS (or whatever your class technology is) and this is what I’ve tried (then describe). I looked at the syllabus for further instructions and these were the next steps I took. What do you recommend from here? I do not want to fall behind.”
You can also contact your campus technical support at the same time and see if you can get resolution there, too. Then e-mail your prof and say, “Thanks so much. I covered all my bases and took care of the issue.” Believe me, your prof won’t mind hitting “Delete” and will be impressed that you took such swift action for yourself!
Even in your tech despair, wonderful student, I want you to show how proactive you are! Always tell what you’ve done to solve your own problem! Don’t just say, “I’m so lost/confused!” or worse, “This system sucks!” (yes, students say this!).
-Once you’re in the CMS/website/whatever, why wait to do your first assigned task? Use the tools now! Post that introduction to the discussion forum! Do that syllabus scavenger hunt! Take that first quiz! Heck, why not snoop around the dropbox where you would post an assignment (and go through the motions of attaching?) or open up your first module or three?
Work early! If you have problems, the time to take care of them is now before you have a high-stakes assignment due. If your discussion forum is going to give you some crazy code every time you hit “Submit,” this is the time to figure that out and say to your prof, “I was going through the technology, doing these tasks, and here’s what happened.”
Believe me, most profs would jump for joy to hear that students are forging ahead with their technological tasks and then getting stuck, rather than lagging behind and asking us to catch them up.
-Last tip: Check your syllabus (remember, I want you to read it THREE times!) for any funky tech diversions–like profs who have their Angel e-mail forwarded to their Outlook!
I know first-hand that class technology can hang students up in a big, big way, and, at times, when you’ve already missed a critical assignment. Week one, everyone is in help mode and it is a low-stakes time.
Take advantage of it and set yourself up for success!
Colleagues and students, I’m sure I missed some first-week technology tips. Add them in the comments!