T-3: Are you ready?

The fall semester starts on Monday.

Last time I wrote in July, when optimistically the College still thought it could bring back students and faculty and offer a mix of online, in-person, and hybrid courses. That all changed with an announcement sometime shortly thereafter. I cannot remember when exactly. Time really ceased to have meaning. I feel Christmas is just around the corner, and every now and then it feels like yesterday when I came back from my research trip during Spring break at the Eide Center last March. Earlier today we were reminiscing about a departmental retreat. “That was only a year ago?!?!” — yeah, well, May 2019. It was in the Before times.

I had grand visions of how I would design a fab course with full-fledged “choose your own adventure” style reading selections for the students, where they can hop around at will. It turns out that I needed to do a lot of staring at the wall (or rather at a hummingbird. Ah, Hummie- what will I do without you when you migrate south?) and let my body and brain take a break of some sort. Yet I don’t feel rested. There are these wild swings between “raaahr! raring to go!” and “Oh FXXX what’s happening?” In my last post I said I’d like to resume near daily posts about life in the trenches, what it looks like to put all that great advice, and plans and best practices in action. Yeah… I already spend so much time at the computer that I’ve become resistant to the idea of writing a regular blog again. So I won’t make more promises about the frequency of this ‘ere little blog.

Am I ready for the fall semester? Considering we start on Monday, I’d better! I have syllabi, i.e. the structure of the assignment and the vision of the course, and I have rough topics for all courses (though the topics aren’t listed on the sites yet). I don’t have specific readings. I have a first week with orientation and set-up activities that’s fully worked out, and I released two courses on Tuesday, and a third one on Thursday. Students have already been working on them. One (slightly panicked?) student emailed me that he couldn’t find his little tile for the Bergbuilds setup in his Onelogin portal, he had really looked for it everywhere! Relax! 1) the assignment isn’t due until next week Thursday; and it’s because our DL team is overworked, understaffed, and hadn’t got round to setting up the infrastructure yet. (It’s all set now) But I am pleased that students are already exploring, and that my instructions seem to be clear enough to have them setting up the basic tools for the semester.

I am most curious about the Cloud Lounge, an instance of elgg. I run it in the most basic mode because I haven’t got the patience or know-how to customize it. Not now. It’ll do fine. I know there are other and more recent options for community building, but what I like is that I can tell the students they can set up their own space like that if they want, because it’s run on my Domain. No adverts, no tracking, no #elemess. And the first pet-pictures have already arrived. That means the students are feeling at home, and that is a Good Sign.

Blue plush toy hippo with Muhlenberg face mask perched on plexiglass barrier
William is showing how #MulesMaskUp to keep the community safe, on and off campus, during a brief inspection of the plexiglass barrier at the department.

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