All Things Tech

technical-difficulties

I am currently in an online conference with Myenglishonline.  It’s a national online conference for EAL/ESL professionals.  I’ve been looking forward to it for months, now.  Logged on this morning to the welcome session with no problem.

Now, the site is overloaded.  Nothing opens.  Can’t log on to anything.  The page timer icon spins and spins, and nothing happens. Into the void…

When I was doing some research into the pros and cons of various LMS’s, one thing that came up was something about balancers, or a gateway.  If there is only one door, then it can get bottlenecked when you’ve got a load of participants trying to get through at the same time.  To solve this issue, you need multiple entry points.  And an idea of what your numbers are.

I know that planning any kind of webinar or online conference, there can be multiple issues that come up.  In the welcome session, the host started off with a contingency plan in case of difficulties such as this.

Glad I thought to log on to Twitter.  I don’t normally use Twitter, as I don’t have a cell phone.  The host, Briar, just tweeted about going to a test server site and said to check emails.  For some reason, I don’t get emails from these guys.

The point of writing this was that I was considering applying to TESL O for their volunteer webinar admin position.  Am still thinking about it.  I think I’ll be checking with the myenglishonline folks after this conference to learn a little about their experience with this medium.

Resisting the Urge to Hurl Virtual Sheep

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Having spent a great deal of time in the computer lab between September and November of this past term, I was hoping that I would have been able to hammer out the basic functions of the LMS with the learners.  We spent hours going over quizzes, polls, uploading assignments, responding to discussions, responding in blogs, etc.

The learners went on to their employment counselling downtown.  I no longer had them in my classroom, but they were instructed to continue to log on  and complete weekly assignments.  I was able to get the learners back for two days last week, and again, no apparent issues.  I even had two learners from the Spring session return to complete the co-op part of the program.  They were both impressed with the LMS, and took some time in the computer lab reviewing WHMIS in preparation for the WHMIS test at the co-op partner (Home Depot).

Time Off – Use it Or Lose it

It seems that the amount of time off  they’ve had has been detrimental to their LMS retention rates.  The two snow days didn’t help.  Week 1 assignments were, for the most part, incomplete.  Only one learner completed both parts (read an article in Workopolis and respond, and the go to the discussion group and discuss the training they had at the co-op).

It can’t be a time issue.  They are only in the co-op between 10am and 2pm.  There is even a computer lab at the co-op that they can use to access the site and to do the work if they are there before or after their assigned hours.

Unrealistic Expectations?

It got me thinking.  Am I expecting too much?  Then I think about high-school credit co-op programs, and no, I’m not asking too much.  If they were taking this course in high-school, they would have major assignments on top of weekly assignments that would receive late penalties if not in by the due date.

If they were taking courses at a community college, they would be required to log in and complete assignments weekly as well.

So, Solve the Problem…

Problem = Learners don’t have the time or inclination to do the online tasks.

  • Possible Solution = Potentially offer one “make up lab day” every two weeks in the lab.  I would need to arrange this with the employment agency
  • Possible Solution = Make up screen shots of each task that definitively outlines how to do a particular task
  • Possible Solution = Visit the learners and solicit their feedback.

The problem is that I don’t know for sure what the problem is.  Are learners completely unable to shut out family life and complete a task at home?  Do learners not have access to internet/computers at home? (No one has before mentioned this as an issue).  Are the tasks too difficult?  Have the learners consulted past classes, who might have told them they had no further ESL assignments once on co-op, so they may feel this is unfair?

Maybe they think that they still have plenty of time to complete the assignments and aren’t worried about it.  At this point, I think that I will send out reminder emails to each of them, with their Week 1 grades attached.    If this doesn’t prompt some action, not sure what else I can do. 

I would toss the virtual sheep at them, but I threw my shoulder out in a virtual squash game.