Coffee heat rising

Money Happens; So Do Fiascos

Lenten thanks, Day 21

Thank God for WordPress.com!

Two nice little checks for The Copyeditor’s Desk just came in: a payment from Google and a handsomer remittance from an editorial client. This brings the corporation’s bottom line to almost six grand, plenty to buy a new computer, which I’m going to have to do one of these days. When I tried the credit union’s new electronic deposit tool, it worked with no problem. So today I can deposit the cash that fell off those money trees without having to burn gas or time.

Time. Yes. We could all do with an infusion of that. One fiasco after another here: I’m working 18- to 20-hour days again, trying to cope with the avalanche of little disasters.

The misbegotten Blackboard has done it again. OMG, how I hate Blackboard; hate to the nth power! After half the world has upgraded to IE9 or Firefox 4, now IT sends out a notice that neither of these is compatible with Blackboard.

Actually, we might more accurately put it the other way around: Blackboard is incompatible with IE9 and Firefox 4.

Either way you look at it, it means a bunch of my students can’t get into my course sites unless they download Chrome or Safari. And one of those is a 100% online course!

I recently upgraded Firefox myself, but for reasons unknown, it only updated to 3.9, and so at least I can still get into the courses. If the upgrade prompt had installed 4.0, I would be screwed. The only way I could access the online course at all and manage the incoming papers from the face-to-face students would be to sit in the campus library, in a miasma of rhinoviruses floating on the air, for hour after hour after hour.

Well, no. Actually, I could get in with Safari, but it’s much less convenient. Compared to Firefox, Safari is a pain in the butt to use.

Yesterday I worked from three in the morning to after midnight, with a hiatus to stand in front of two f2f sections, creating new a website on WordPress.com to accommodate the online course. As some of you may recall, building the course in Blackboard took several months—indeed, the school paid me the equivalent of an entire course’s stipend to do that large amount of work. So, trying to move the course (and the two freshman comp sections) to a new platform in a matter of days is no joke.

I think, however, that it’s going to work.

The “Journalist” template will accommodate a lot of pages in the right sidebar. That’s good, because moving all the course materials over here involves posting 26 pages. That’s right. Twenty-six.

Below those, there are 15 sets of external links to sites ranging from examples of different article types to trade groups and job boards. The sidebar, in short, is toilet paper.

However, two students have said the material is more accessible than it is in Blackboard. That tells you something about Blackboard! 😉

The “subscribe” function will allow students to receive e-mail pings when new announcements go online, which BB doesn’t provide…well, actually, it does have an RSS function, but the District disabled it. Students have to proactively go TO their Blackboard site and physically scan up and down the front page looking for new posts. The straight, conventional blog format in WordPress allows new announcements to appear at the top of the page; if you post a “permanent” announcement in BB, it sticks to the top of the page and the weekly learning module updates get pushed below the fold, giving students the impression that no new announcements have come up.

Of course, WP lacks the assignment submission function and the grade sheet function. However, those are easily replaced. My plan is to set up a separate Gmail account dedicated exclusively to the online course, which will segregate student papers from the flood of spam that pours in from the community colleges. It will be easy to return graded student papers as “replies” to incoming Gmail. And as for their grades: a one-line spreadsheet with the functions built in will tell students what their current score is and show their percentage of total points. I’ll e-mail a blank spreadsheet to them and let them enter their own scores in their own little spreadsheets.

Meanwhile, two clients imagine I’m working on their stuff. One has an arcane problem with Word, which I may not be able to fix from my Mac.

Three sets of student papers are pouring in as we speak.

The Book Publisher’s Association thinks I’m going to mount their March newsletter, which is now three weeks late, in the arcane web publishing platform they use.

And the Carnival of Personal Finance is slated to go online here on Monday.

4 thoughts on “Money Happens; So Do Fiascos”

  1. I took a couple of online classes two years ago and, as a student, I wasn’t too keen on Blackboard then! Blackboard’s servers had a habit of going down in the middle of a test and I had the hole in the wall of my then-office to prove it because I got so frustrated I threw a volcanic rock (paperweight) at the wall! LOL From your perspective, the whole endeavor sounds like a nightmare.

  2. @ Quest: Hee heeeee! That is hilarious… Okay, I don’t suppose it was funny at the time 🙄

    Sometimes it takes a real effort of will to restrain myself from throwing the mouse across the room.

  3. I am glad you were able to make moves on wordpress…maybe have the school invest in building a more robust standalone site next year? You can do all those things easily in the stand alone version

  4. @ Evan: You would think that would make sense, wouldn’t you?

    But remember: we’re talkin’ bureaucracy here. This is the sort of thing that would have to be approved by a committee. In fact, I intend to keep a REAL low profile about my scheme here. Some of my colleagues will find out about it, but as individuals they have little motivation to cause a flap. However, if one were to bring it up to the online folks as a real, official alternative to BB, for which the District is paying through the wazoo, “flap” would come nowhere near describing the brou-ha-ha that would ensue.

    It’s not just one school that has to approve; it’s an entire district with more than a dozen community colleges — one of the largest community college districts in the land. If you’ve ever worked for a large corporation, you’ve got the idea… 😉

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