by Nathan J. Lichtenstein | published Dec. 9th, 2013
It’s fair to say that the RIT community is technologically inclined. Almost all the information a student could need is online, from finances to housing to the cornerstone of course management: the Desire2Learn myCourses system. While this system is not unique to RIT, it is an integral part of the education organizational process and we believe that all faculty members at RIT should be using myCourses in some capacity.
A challenge that some professors face with the myCourses system is the practicality of its implementation. Yet with the variety of features offered by myCourses, professors have the ability to choose between functions to find the right balance of online supplementation for their specific classes.
Assistant Professor Jobby Jacob is an excellent example a professor who uses myCourses as a supplement to the classroom environment. A member of the School of Mathematical Sciences, Jacob is primarily teaching calculus and linear algebra this semester. As a mathematics instructor, he says that many of the features that myCourses offers are not always practical for his use. However some features that he uses regularly are the grade book and content.
Jacob uses the content section to post homework and homework solutions. This is convenient for the instructor and student alike, since it provides a central place where students can find all of their assignments. For the professor, it also reduces the hassle of handling physical paperwork. Jacob also posts course grades so students can keep track of their standing in class.
With the tools that are available, we truly believe that professors should do all they can to ensure a student’s success. Posting grades online is a key part of that. If a student knows where she stands in a class, she will be able to seek out help earlier. Professors who do not post students’ grades online are doing their students an injustice.
As if these reasons were not enough, myCourses is a technology recommended by the RIT administration. According to Michael Riordan, a lecturer in the School of Media Sciences who uses of many of the features of myCourses in his classes, “It’s from the provost so of course we should [use myCourses].”
The system is already implemented institute-wide. Students and faculty alike are familiar with myCourses and, whether an instructor chooses to use the system or not, he is already plugged into it. Although Riordan is in favor of myCourses, he understands that other systems exist and concedes that they may very well be better.
“If it’s not myCourses, it better be something that’s comparable so the information transfer is there,” said Riordan. “But if they have a better system for distributing documents or something else, then by all means [use it].”
For every proponent of myCourses there are going to be nay-sayers. However, just because a professor may not be technologically inclined should not mean that he can abandon technology altogether.
“It’s a browser plus a couple buttons,” Riordan said. “To me it’s not acceptable that [professors] wouldn’t be able to at least integrate the parts that are relevant to the course.”
However, Glen Hintz, 30-year RIT veteran and professor of Medical Illustration and basic web design, holds an opposite opinion to Riordan regarding the usability of myCourses. While Hintz uses myCourses for “everything,” he does not regard himself as a great user of the system. He said he finds myCourses difficult to use and the functionality of the features to be confusing and counterintuitive.
While Hintz does a great job of loading myCourses with class content, he has yet to discover how to properly organize all of the content he prepares for his students. This is due in part to a lack of thorough training and documentation on the myCourses system. This is especially unfortunate for a professor like Hintz who does so much to incorporate technology into his classroom yet seems to fall short when it comes to myCourses organization.
The current Student Government president and vice president mentioned requiring professors to use myCourses when they were interviewed by Reporter in the April 26 issue. We do not agree that administration should force professors to use myCourses. Instead, we would encourage the administration to further train faculty members in myCourses use. Hopefully this extra attention given to hesitant instructors would open their eyes to the potential.
To those professors, as students we plead with you to use myCourses. Whether you see its impact or not, many of us get a great deal of use out of the system and would benefit so much from your cooperation, even if it’s something as simple as posting grades.
illustration by Andrew Philpott