I will not pay to access my assignments!

Post ImageI have three classes this term – one on MWF, one on TR, and an evening class on Wednesdays. It’s a pretty sweet schedule actually, because my weekday classes are at 3 PM and 3:30 PM which means I have most of the day to work or sleep. My first class was today, and it was ASTRO 122. It did not go so well. Here’s a rundown:

  1. The professor introduces himself. Here’s his website, and here he is on ratemyprofessors.com.
  2. While going through the course outline, he comes to the point about assignments. He says they are done completely online, using webassign.net. I’m thinking “wicked!” I hate paper.
  3. Then he says we only have access to webassign for two weeks. After that we need an access code. Apparently the code comes with the textbook or can be purchased separately for $11.

At this point, I stuck up my hand.

Me: “Are you saying that I need to pay to get access to my assignments?”
Him (hesitating): “Yeah, that’s right.”
Me: “Well that’s kind of dumb.”
Some of my classmates chuckled…

At the end of the lecture I went up to talk to him. I said that I thought it was ridiculous that I had to pay to get access to my assignments, and that this had to be against some kind of university regulation. He really didn’t say much so I went on and on and on and finally he asked if we could take this up in his office later. I said sure, and left.

The only time he really spoke as I was complaining was to disagree with me about the textbook. He said it was required, so it was assumed that I should have the code. My argument is that you are NOT required to purchase a textbook simply because a professor says it is required for the course (I have searched the Calendar and have found no such regulation). Furthermore, you are NOT required to purchase a new textbook, which would be necessary to get the access code in question.

Here is the message that the webassign website shows after I log in:

According to our records you have not entered an access code for this class. The grace period will end Monday, January 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM GMT. After that date you will no longer be able to see your WebAssign assignments or grades. After you enter an access code, you will again have access to your assignments and grades.

The assignments are worth 20% of the grade in this course. I don’t believe I should have to pay anything beyond the registration for the course in order to get access to the assignments. If there is optional material that requires an extra expense, that’s one thing. There’s absolutely no way however, that I should have to pay extra for something that counts towards my grade.

I’m going to do something about this, I’m just not sure what yet.

I almost feel like I should try to do something beyond just this single issue. The root problem here is that professors are free to use any system they like for course materials, or no system at all. What the U of A needs is a campus-wide system for courses. Something like WebCT, but better. And all professors should be required to use it. In my time at the U of A I have used WebCT, Moodle, ulearn, and many other “systems” that a professor has hacked together. It’s a truly sad state of affairs.

My final school year begins

Post ImageI started what had better be my final year of University yesterday. Three classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and one on Tuesday/Thursday. In every single one, the first class was just a review of the course outline and nothing else. In a way that was good, because we got to leave early, but in a way it was bad too – I had lots of time to kill yesterday. Here are some notes about the “back to school” experience thus far:

  • This year is going to be great: I can walk from my house (remember, I just moved) to class in Tory (northernmost part of campus) in under 20 minutes.
  • I am always amused by the first years running around like crazy people, worried because they don’t know where their class is. I was probably like that too, I know. I think part of the problem is orientation – the University itself should offer a simple, no-frills orientation that is a tour of campus and getting your ID card and nothing else. The SU puts a lot of work into their orientation events, but I skipped mine because there was too much “lets all be friends and sing songs and dance and play games and wear stickers all day.” I wonder if lots of students skip orientation?
  • Wireless in CAB seems much faster than it used to be. Maybe it’s just that hardly anyone was using it on the first day?
  • Also on the topic of CAB (I had to stop there, for old times sake) I found out you can buy stuff from the cafeteria using your OneCard now! Apparently this isn’t a brand new development…but it’s not like I was really on campus last year to know that 🙂
  • I met Andrew, Megan and Renee for lunch at the PowerPlant. It was good to see them and we had a good time, but the service was absolutely horrible. The Plant has a “new look” and stuff this year, but they apparently chose to ignore how impossibly slow their service is. I remember now why I stopped going there. Next time we’re gonna try the new Hudson’s (where Scholars used to be).
  • Construction on the new Sciences building is moving along! Well sort of, the are still demolishing the old buildings, but still, it was a very busy and active place.

Now that the “course outline classes” are finished, the real lectures will begin tomorrow. I am taking two 300-level economics courses this term, a first year astronomy course, and a 200-level EAS course (as you can probably tell I am filling in the gaps for my program requirements). So far it’s a tossup between the astronomy course and the environmental economics course for which one looks most interesting. Astronomy is the clear winner in terms of scenery though 😉

Breakfast with Indira

If you’re a student at the University of Alberta and you’ve been itching to share something with the woman in charge, you may be in luck! University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera is inviting all students to a special breakfast event:

I’m writing you today with an invitation. I am planning a Breakfast Roundtable meeting just for students on Tuesday, April 18th from 7:30-8:30 a.m. in the Saskatchewan Room of the Faculty Club. Please come, if you are able. Over a continental breakfast, we can discuss some of the issues and challenges you face, and I can hear your bright and creative ideas for enriching the student experience.

Please RSVP by e-mail to jackie.wright@ualberta.ca or by phone at 492-1525.

I wonder how many students will actually end up attending this event. I am tempted to go simply to suggest that she not ever have a roundtable like this so early in the morning ever again! I mean, 7:30 AM? I might as well not go to sleep the night before if I am going to attend! On second thought, that’s probably why it is so early, so that there are fewer students willing to get up and go.

Read: UAlberta

President Samarasekera's Message

Post ImageOn Monday an email from University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera made its way into my inbox. The email contained her Spring Break message to students. I have mirrored the PDF here. A few things stuck out for me from the message:

  • She definitely likes her quotes, using three in the message – one at the start, one in the middle, and one at the end.
  • The message sounds very big and forward-looking.
  • To my knowledge this is the first time she has communicated her “Dare to Discover” vision directly to students, though she didn’t get into any detail.

At the end of the message she invites students to get in touch with her at president@ualberta.ca and on the undergraduate page of her website. I’m going to have to read her vision and think about it for a while. Too bad she doesn’t have a blog – there, that’s my first bit of feedback, be one of the world’s first university presidents to keep a blog!

UofA Heads Downtown

Post ImageWell it’s official! The proposal from the University of Alberta to purchase the aging Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Edmonton was unanimously approved by the University’s Board of Governors today. From today’s Edmonton Journal:

Gary Kachanoski, the U of A’s vice-president of research, said the deal would harnesses the intellectual and research power of the university to establish Edmonton and the surrounding area as the next knowledge-based sector in North America. The total cost of buying the building and refurbishing it will be about $62 million.

Of the city’s money, $7.5 million will go towards renovating the former Hudson’s Bay building to house the TEC Centre – which will give affordable space on the building’s third floor, and eventually its second floor, to fledgling technology-based companies. The University of Alberta will match that amount.

Sounds like they want to get things moving quickly too. If the purchase goes through successfully, construction will begin this fall with the first tenants moving in sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.

As I have said before, I think the deal is excellent for the University and for Edmonton’s downtown. I’m really glad the deal is going go through!

Read: Edmonton Journal

UAlberta Podcasting?

Post ImageDoes anyone know of any podcasting projects taking place at the University of Alberta? If you do, leave me a comment or drop me an email or something. So far the only “podcast” I have found was created by the Libraries:

iPod Walking Tour – Main Floor Services
This is an audio tour. Please download the file to your iPod (or any other mp3 player), and then come and explore the Main Floor of Cameron Library.

You can get to the mp3 file (which comes in both English and Mandarin -language versions) at http://www.library.ualberta.ca/podcasting/. While this technically is not a podcast (as there is no RSS feed to subscribe to), it’s a step in the right direction, and the URL is clearly indicative of more content in the future. And it should be noted that the Libraries provide a number of other RSS feeds already.

Differences in CAB

So far this year I had been avoiding CAB (Central Academic Building) on campus like the plague. Today though, I decided to check it out. I have a lab Tuesdays at 2 PM, so I have a little time to kill between classes. Every other day I can just go to the office.

Anyway, as I’ve been sitting here, I’ve noticed a number of differences:

  • As Dickson noted, it seems the food services company Aramark has their own wireless network. Of course, it’s secured, but that’s okay because the ualbertawireless network works here (that’s what I’m connected to).
  • They are now speakers on the pillars playing what sounds like The Bounce (lots of hip hop whatever it is). This just adds to the noise, but I guess it would be worse.
  • Maybe I’m blind, but I don’t see the microwaves! Looks like they have disappeared.
  • The have big, plastic, funky napkin holders at the checkouts now that only let you take one napkin at a time. That didn’t prevent me from taking a stack anyway though!
  • There’s no one here anymore. Four years ago I could walk into CAB and be sure to find at least one table of “the group”. Now I’m hardpressed to find someone I know at all.

And as much as things change, the more they stay the same. I bought a slice of pizza, and purposefully used my debit card. And not surprisingly they still charge a 35 cent surcharge. Bastards.

I need to find a place on campus that is quite and has reliable wireless. Any suggestions?