Friday, January 14, 2011

High Tech and Low

I spent much of today arguing with technology again.

This almost never works. The same can be said for the technology, though, so I like to think that some kind of karmic balance is being maintained in the universe through all of this process. Someday I will be reborn in a time and place where it all actually does work, though I have this awful feeling that rather than moving me forward to a time when technology is perfected this process will simply move me backward to a time when “high tech” meant “rocks.”

Rocks are great technology. You can hit things with them, throw them at other things, and if they are big enough you can sit on them. Really, what more do you need?

A while ago I agreed to develop a class that would be partially online and partially face-to-face. It sounded like an opportunity at the time – if I can pull this off, I’ll be the only one who has the class and thus will likely ensure a continuing stream of income for as long as Home Campus wants to offer it, no small feat for a historian these days. Plus I was unemployed at the time. I figured how hard could this be?

A lot harder than I thought, it turns out.

Not because the project is all that hard, objectively speaking, but because it does not mesh well with my skill set. I like technology, but I’m not all that good at it.

Witness today.

My mission, as I had indeed chosen to accept it, was to add a private discussion area to the online site for a newly enrolled student.

Understand – I’d already created such areas for all of the other students. All I had to do was wedge this new one in. I’ve gotten the rest of the class set up and ready to go, so I’m not unfamiliar with the software platform. And there’s a handy little .pdf that you can download that in theory lays out all the steps that one needs to do this. It’s the same .pdf I used to set the other areas up in the first place.

Well that was two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Everything went along smoothly and it looked like it was done and then – hey, where’d it go? I can see it on this screen, but when I go to that screen, the one the students will have to access it from, it isn’t there. And when I go back to my screen, there it is again.

It’s like … magic.

Only in reverse.

I suppose I could delete everything and start over from scratch – the instructions work fine when you start from scratch. But that just seems a bit heavy-handed, and I’m not sure it would be something I’d want to do if I had to add a student once the class actually started.  So this is, in fact, a skill I think worth acquiring.

I still haven’t gotten it to work, though, and I’ve run out of icons to click randomly upon.

I could always bash it with a rock, I suppose.


Lori said...

I feel your pain. I have spent many hours fighting with various Learning Management Systems. I even installed one and acted as the systems administrator for it (ANGEL LMS. Their support consists of "hey, why don't you check our user's group board"). My conclusion is that they implant code that is set to blow up at a predetermined point in time so that they can then sell you upgrades.

Jennifer said...

It's not you. Really. I spent my last 2 years at UCB cursing out a similar system - and I was the house computer person in the department.

David said...

@Lori - don't you love that kind of support? If things like the users group board were helpful, I wouldn't be calling support. Argh. Actually, our support is pretty good, mostly because I know her name and she responds to my questions.

@Jennifer - You know, that's just not making me feel better. ;) If the sysadmins like you and Lori can't figure this stuff out, I'm likely doomed. I became a historian for a reason.

KimK said...

What I love about rocks is that they come in infinite variety, suited to infinite tasks, even though every task is not suited to a rock.