Friday, August 24, 2018

New Semester, New Beginnings

The Fall 2018 semester is now in full swing at all of the institutions for which I teach. Normally, there isn't much change from one semester to the next, but this one is very different in one regard. I teach online classes for two community colleges and one university. Over the course of my career, I have used both the Blackboard and Moodle platforms. This semester I am adding a third platform to my repertoire, as the university for which I teach has switched to Canvas. So far, the learning curve is not quite so great as I had feared.

When I first started online teaching, I was required to complete a summer session course on how to use Blackboard. When that college later switched to Moodle there was no required course so I was on my own. The transition was rather simple and I really don't have a preference between the two platforms. Each has its upside and downside. For the switch to Canvas, the University developed an online tutorial, designed to walk faculty through Canvas step by step. It was extremely valuable and helpful in getting the basics of my course set up. Of course, as with any online platform there are all kinds of tricks, bells, and whistles to play with, but I'm happy to just have the basics in place for this semester. I can experiment later, once I'm more familiar with the platform. There have certainly been some growing pains; for instance, when a student emailed earlier this week to tell me she had accidentally reported my profile photo. I told her not to worry, that we are all learning this new platform together, and no one had contacted me regarding the report. The next test will come when it is time for the first assignments to be graded. The tutorial makes it sound extremely easy, so I'm hopeful. For now all I have to worry about is signing student ADA accommodation forms, answering questions that students should have seen in the Syllabus, and the usual beginning of semester paperwork.

All this being said, Fall semester is always my favorite because there is something to look forward to at the end of it - the holidays. Spring semester transitions almost immediately into summer session, which transitions just as quickly into Fall semester. At least I feel like there's a break after Fall semester because of the holidays. So even though it has just begun, here's looking at you, Christmas!

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