Synchronizing Technology, Classrooms, and Material

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LanceBy Lance Eaton

Frequent Flyer adjuncts can feel like their life consists of repeatedly having to bring the mountain to the people.  Synchronizing information, technology, material, and communication across multiple schools can be next to impossible since most schools have no interest in doing so, thus Frequent Flyers are left to their own devices for maximizing their resources to reduce the amount of redundancy in their world.  But in the digital age, adjuncting can be much easier.

Copier technology has become a god-send and all those copies I used to have labor to make (fighting off other faculty tooth and nail for the copier) and lug about from campus to campus are bygone days.  Many of the new copies allow you to scan to email.  They operate as mass scanners in which you can turn those handouts into PDFs and put them online.  Nowadays, I hand out the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and all other material can be gotten online.

Where online?  Course management systems (CMS) is typically a good place.  This is an online reservoir for school material, discussions, links and other digital content or work that the school has connected to registration so students who take particular courses are automatically logged in.   Any school worth its education has invested in either Blackboard, WebCT, ANGEL, or any of the others.  But CMS offer a good example of problematic plurality for the Frequent Flyer.  Some schools use Blackboard, others use ANGEL, and there are a still a few others out there.  Since each school, has its own server you cannot bring material directly from one school’s courseware program to the next.  So you’re constantly having to re-do everything every semester for different courses at different schools.

Moodle bypasses this problem as a free CMS program offered through Google.  That allows you to do less reinventing and more sculpting of your online components to get it the way you want it or to figure out what worked and what didn’t.   the drawback is that one must train himself/herself on it whereas with school-sponsored CMS programs, they will often (but not always) offer a range of trainings on it.  Of course, Moodle does provide its own extensive training resources.   It’s not perfect but as an open source program, it’s continually being tweaked to improve its quality.

Those concerned with combating that ever insidious issue of plagiarism might also consider services like TurnItIn.com.  Rather than scouring the internet and other resources to figure out if that paper is taken elsewhere, TurnItIn.com and other plagiarism-checking sites do it for you; measuring that paper not just against the internet and some databases but also against previous papers submitted to the program.  The downside; you either need to pay for a subscription yourself or encourage your school to get a subscription.  There’s certainly some concerns about the use of such technology, but as someone who continually finds 5+ cases of plagiarism per class of 30 per semester (despite going over it extensively), it’s an essential time-saving tool.

What other tools do Freeway Flyers used to save time and avoid redundancy?  How do you keep from reinventing the wheel each semester?

About the Freeway Flyer: Lance Eaton has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he focused primarily on Popular Culture and Gender/Sexuality studies. He also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University, where his concentration was on nonprofit organizations. He teaches at several schools in the Greater Boston area including Emerson College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and North Shore Community College. He’s professionally written and presented on topics such as comics, zombies, audiobooks, and adaptation. He also keeps a running blog with his students at http://hitchhikingadjunct.blogspot.com. When not flying from school-to-school, he also enjoys reading comics, cycling, gardening and cooking.

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