Thursday, September 28, 2006

Parking? An Issue?

I can't believe I'm writing a post about parking. I guess with over 20,000 students at GCC it is bound to be somewhat of a problem. Well, yesterday as I was leaving campus to run home for something, I was accosted in the parking lot by an overzealous faculty or staff member. Okay, accosted is probably not the word. I was kindly asked if I was faculty or staff as I searched my overstuffed gadget back for my keys. I was parked right up front in one of the prime "employee" parking spaces, and my week old rental car did not display the tell all blue sticker identifying me as superior to others and worthy of front row parking. Don't get me wrong. I most certainly appreciated the perks afforded me as a faculty member. GCC's parking lots are huge, and with it still over 100 degrees everyday, I'm thankful I'm not walking a mile to class in the morning.

I turned to respond with my red stringed propaganda proudly hanging from around my neck and was immediately recognized as one of the elite. The enforcer of employee parking gave me my reprieve but continued on his merry way to write down license plate numbers for the many cars not stickered and parked in prime parking spots marked "employee." This was all interesting to me because there seem to be plenty of campus security on campus walking or riding the "beat." However, in one week's time, I received only one "warning" for parking in employee parking without a sticker. I'm sure with the lack of enforcement many students will risk it once or twice to make it to class on time. Heck even I considered getting a temporary parking pass for the week, but with those odds I didn't bother.

Actually I find it all quite amusing. We voted down employee parking at SMC. They have the attitude that the paying customer should be just as privileged to park up front as the president of the college, so you won't find a spot mark "president" on the SMC campus. But of course it's easy to agree to that when the walk from the furthest spot in the lot at SMC is shorter than my walk from the HT1 building to the HU building on the GCC campus. I'm getting tired just thinking about it. :-)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Vyew - One of the Perks of Computer Literate Students

I've been using Vyew to conference with my hybrid students in my ENG102 course this semester at GCC. This is new for me because at SMC I didn't have enough students with computer access at home for it to work. I send invites to join the converence via email. Students then log in to Vyew and are able to view their essay that I have uploaded to the presentation. I use the built in drawing tools to annotate the paper as I talk through it with the student. Students call me on the phone. There is a built in free conference call feature with a set phone number, but the number is long distance. It's easier to just use cell phones.

What is Vyew?

Vyew is a browser-based conferencing and always-on collaboration platform that provides instant visual communication without the need for client downloads or installations. Vyew's multimedia workspace enables shared viewing of presentations, files, photos and one's desktop. Included are tools for whiteboarding, annotating, text chatting, and phone conferencing. And it's all FREE! Yep, Free Web-Based Collaboration is their tagline. You will need to install flash if you don't already have it. It works on both PC and Mac.

This is a great tool for hybrid students because it can be done anytime during the day, and students don't have to try to meet with me during my limited office hours. They can schedule conferences through the day or evening as long as I'm available. Today I did four between 12:30-3:30pm all from the comfort of my home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

First CTC Meetings

GCC had their first College Technology Committee (CTC) meeting of the semester last Tuesday. There were about 45-50 people in attendance, which was surprising to me. I'm not clear on how many of those folks were faculty, but I did recognize about five as such. The committee is headed by a faculty member. At South, our CTC is co-chaired by myself (faculty) and the head of Instructional Technology Services (MAT). We average about 3 faculty per meeting even though we have an open door policy and invite everyone to attend.

GCC has been experiencing some network bandwidth problems during prime time 8-noon this semester, so that was a hot topic during this meeting. It was reported that District decided to block some popular websites to help alleviate the congestion, but that was short lived because the sites being blocked were sites that instructors wanted students to have access to. You can probably guess which sites were being blocked: My Space and YouTube.

This apparently has not been an issue on the SMC campus. The network appears to be working as fast as it normally does during peak hours. Given the number of students we have on the SMC campus, less than 4000, network congestion just doesn't seem to be a problem. However, some of the other issues discussed at the GCC CTC meeting could apply.

One such issue was the college website. The committee discussed the possibility of a website redesign to get uniformity of pages throughout the college. They discussed forming a Web Steering Committee to get this process going. Surprisingly there were quite a few people present that are responsible for one or more college webpages, about 8. That's surprising because at South, we have one person in charge of the website. We can all edit it if we like, but for the most part, one person manages the whole thing. SMC has already started their on web redesign, but they have hired an outside consultant and company to redesign the college webpage.

SMC will have their first CTC meeting this coming Wednesday. On the agenda for the first meeting of the semester is: budget development, softchalk/elluminate and other teaching tools, goals for the year, and student email. We're making a strong effort to get more faculty involvement this year, so we're going to try to put things of interest to faculty on the agenda. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Will We Ever Be Able to Do Away With the Copy Machine?

I'm not sure why I would ask that question considering making copies is big business, especially on college campuses. I guess I ponder this because I had to make copies for a class yesterday for the first time in a year or so. Well, at least it feels that long. Anyway I can't remember the last time. It always seems like a waste of paper. There is a point to this post. The Big Switch. Making copies. Yeah, it's pretty much the same here at GCC as it is over at SMCC. Both campuses use Ikon Office Solutions for their copy center needs. IKON is an outside vendor contracted by the Maricopa district to provide facilities management services. So all the colleges use them. At South they boast,
IKON Office Solutions is proud to be the provider of copy equipment and services at South Mountain Community. We currently maintain twenty-two copy machines on campus including 2 satellite locations (Guadalupe Center and Ahwatukee Foothills. We are responsible to keeping your machines serviced and stocked with supplies and paper. In addition to our maintenance responsibilities, we provide a full-service Copy Center located in the center of campus in the back of the Learning Resource Center.
I'm not sure how many machines they maintain over at GCC, but I'm sure it has to be at least double. Ikon basically offers the same services at both campuses. We have a pin code that can be used on any machine, copy requests can be made just about anywhere on campus and left for pickup and delivery, copies can be requested via email using this strange Excel form that has to be downloaded. Some day I'm sure they'll make it simpler by creating an online form with an attachment feature. Some day. For now, IKON as far as I'm concerned is doing a good job in both locations. Of course that's easy for me to say since I rarely make copies.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Students Try Out Exchange in MyCompLab

The first essay in my ENG101 course was due last Sunday, and students were instructed to upload their essays to Exchange in MyCompLab. Exchange is Pearson's new program that helps professors and students exchange comments on students' writing. Students can comment on each other's papers online and instructors can review and grade papers online. Exchange is part of Pearson's MyCompLab 2.0, which is a dynamic and comprehensive site that engages as it helps to improve grammar, writing, and research skills. Highlights include: Grammar Diagnostics, ExerciseZone, Exchange, Writing Process and Activities, Model Documents Gallery, Research Navigator, and Avoiding Plagiarism tutorials.

So far the majority of students were able to upload their essays to the site. One major problem that has kept students from being able to upload and review essays is the requirement of a Shockwave plugin. Most newer computers wil have the plug in, or in IE or Firefox a dialogue box will pop up prompting users to download and install the plug in. Students who are having difficult with the site are the ones unable to download and install this plugin. This is frustrating for both myself and my students. Students will have to use the computers at school in order to use this part of Exchange, which may not be as convenient for them.

We adopted a Pearson Longman handbook for this year over at SMC, so I was lucky enough to be able to use the online materials with my courses at GCC. The handbook we adopted is the Brief
Penguin Handbook. I think it's a little better than the handbook they use at GCC. When it gets down to the nitty gritty, a handbook is a handbook, but what else the publishers offer in terms of technology and online supplements is what separates the good handbooks for the so-so.

No Mail, No Phone, No Worries

And who's complaining? Certainly not me. I finally made it over to the mail room, which is no where near my office, to pick up my mail. I thought it might be a good idea to at least get my pay stub from my first pay check. The box was jammed pack with mail, all of which was addressed to Nancy. Apparently GCC is marking Nancy's mail with SMC and sending it over there, but they are just marking GCC on and sending it back. Guess they didn't get the memo down there. You'd think having mail forwarded from one place to another wouldn't be so difficult. Of course this doesn't answer the question to "Where is my mail?" Guess I'll have to solve that mystery tomorrow.

It's week 4 and no one has noticed that I still don't have access to my office phone. To tell the truth, I don't mind if no one else is complaining. I give all my students a Skype number that I have forwarded to my cell, so there's no problem with that. I'm not sure who would be trying to call me anyway.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Using Feedburner for Email Subscriptions

With my hybrid ENG102 course this semester, I'm using Feedburner for email subscriptions. Email subscriptions allow for students to subscribe to your blog and podcast feed, and everytime I post a new news post or podcast, subscribers (my students) get an email message with the information right in the email. All they have to do is click on the link to listen to the podcast, but for the news posts, they can read those right in the email message.

First you have to "burn your feed" at Feedburner. That process is a post in itself although it is very easy and free to do. I'll post about that later. But to set up the subscription, all I had to do was copy and paste the code generated by Feedburner into any web page. I put it in Blackboard. The subscription form will be automatically inserted each time the page is loaded. From there, readers can subscribe to receive daily email with my newest content.

So far I only have 9 subscribers via email, but two others have subscribed via iTunes and Yahoo! It is a great way for students to stay in touch with the course content. I have a weekly podcast for the hybrid course that is posted in Blackboard, but for students who don't want to be tied to Bb, they can use this new feature.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Registration Nightmare

So it's not a real nightmare, and it's probably only a problem for me, but the way GCC does registration in the first two weeks is crazy. I've dropped students and now I'm added students and it's only week 2. Here's the deal. The first day we get a list of rosters with a letter that says, "By Friday, August 25, report as a "no show" any student whose name appears on this roster and does not show up for class." By Friday? I'm thinking that's a bit early for dropping no shows, so I wait until Wednesday of this week, and I reported about 8 no shows. To tell the truth, I forgot to do it on Friday, so I did it on Wednesday. Anyway, I felt weird about it, and I hesitated at first. I said to myself, this is going to turn into a headache, I just know it.

So what happens yesterday, Thursday? I get an email with a message from a student looking for me. He wanted to know why he was dropped from my class. Then I got a phone call from another student wondering the same thing, then another email, and the kicker? Today I was taking role, and as I was reading through my old roster I read a name of a student that I had dropped two days before, and surprisingly a student raised his hand. What? I asked him, "Have you been in class before today?" His response, "Well, I think I missed a few days." A few days? How about the first 5. So off to registration I go to reinstate 4 students who decided they really did wanted to come to college after all.

I'm sure there is a good reason behind having faculty report "no shows" right away, but it can be a real hassle. I'm not sure what I would do if faced with this decision again. At SMC, we don't have to turn in "clean up" roster until after the 2nd week. I usually will let a student who wants to register for a full class in because I just know there will be no-shows. On a smaller scale I guess we can get away with that.