I now feel like I’m beginning to make some progress – though there are still a few things which may throw a spanner in the works. I’ll start with the progress…
I have arranged for our site to be launched to students in the week of 12th Jan. Rather than waiting until everything was in place, course materials uploaded etc, I decided that a better option was just to pick a date and work towards that. Even if no computer science courses are loaded and running, I’ve uploaded some OpenLearn materials to the site for students. If students find the site useful hopefully they’ll apply a bit of pressure to the course teachers to upload their courses.
As well as having Yonas helping to check all the course materials are up to date and uploaded for CS courses, Wondwossen (my counterpart) is going to run a Moodle training course on Monday afternoon for Computer Science staff, so they have the skills to update/maintain the courses themselves.
I’m arranging a series of 1-hour ‘Introduction to Moodle’ workshops for the students, to give them their usernames/passwords and to introduce them to the site and how to post to forums etc (as well as appropriate use of the site!). There are around 300 students in total, so I’ll need 15 workshops in total (only 20 PCs in the lab), hence why I’m keeping them to 1 hour! After this time we’ll have the lab open a few times a week for drop-in sessions when Wondwossen or I will be available to help answer queries.
I’ve also been talking to the (now-ex – see below for explanation!) coordinator of the Distance Education program about how we can begin to move responsibility for the elearning site to them – as it’s a service given to the whole Unviersity, it’s not something the Computer Science Dept can (or should) support indefinitely. This will also involve looking at how to get the server supported by the main uni ICT dept, and training people in the distance ed office who can support and run the teacher and student training courses.
There are several potential hiccups which could scupper some of these plans…
Firstly, next semester our dept is due to be moving to the main uni campus on the other side of town. This could be fairly chaotic as the rooms we’re due to move into currently have no networking. As it’s taken me nearly 3 months just to get the server up and available on the uni network, I’d rather not have to repeat this. With the huge potential disruption in computer access for students, especially while some will be doing their project work, I’m unsure why we may be moving mid-semester. It would seem to me to be preferable to move during the inter-semester break in Feb or during the summer break.
Secondly, the current Distance Education dept has been dissolved and we’re waiting for a new Distance Education dept to be set up, which may not consist of the same people. Until this new dept exists, I won’t really have anyone outside the Computer Science dept to hand over to.
Finally, I heard about a new university-wide e-learning project which is due to be starting soon, who apparently had no idea about the project I’m working on. I think it’s funded by a Spanish Uni (or at least a Spanish organisation) and I’m hoping to meet with them in February so we don’t end up replicating each others work, or rather, so that we do end up working together!
Anyway, I’m off now to go and celebrate New Years Eve, generally it’s a bit of a non-event here as the Ethiopian new year falls in September, so we’ve hired a bar for the evening to have our own party. Hope everyone else out there has a Happy New Year and please keep in touch with emails and comments 🙂
(Hoping that the internet speed will improve soon so my blog postings can be a little less text-heavy!)