Over the summer, there were some changes made to the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) campus website and academic communication platform, iLearn. Whether students and faculty were aware of the changes to be made, the alterations seemed to come as a surprise to many.
Students and professors alike express frustrations with the updates to the online campus platform. “One of my professors doesn’t use iLearn and created a Google site instead. The professor posts everything on the class Google site, which creates another step for students to go through,” said CSUMB Human Communication major, Faith Espinoza.
Some instructors choose to create Google Team Drives or shared folders for posting course related materials and assignment submissions, instead of (or in combination with) using the standard CSUMB learning platform, iLearn.
“We (the students in the class) had to ask for online permissions to access the Google folders, which created more stress, since we then had to wait for the professor to accept the permissions. Everything for this class is structured through email. It’s frustrating not having everything in one place. It’s also time consuming having to learn how to use another new source, since some professors don’t want to use iLearn anymore. It creates more work for students.”
Faith has noticed unexpected iLearn glitches too, “I have struggles with the iLearn site itself. At times, it freezes when posting to the forums and sometimes deletes written text.” To alleviate this issue, Faith has begun using word processing software to type her iLearn responses, and will then copy and paste her text into the iLearn forum once it is complete. That way she doesn’t lose everything she has written if she stays on another internet tab for too long.
Faith’s experience with instructors’ iLearn use is not an isolated incident. Many professors have course materials scattered throughout several different online platforms, further confusing and exhausting students. In one course, students are expected to check their emails, the syllabus, as well as iLearn at any given time during any given day, because the instructor posts materials at all different times. In one instance, course materials were emailed to students at 9:55 p.m. the night before the 10:00 a.m. class. Students were expected to have read the materials that were emailed to them late at night for class the next morning.
One of the most poignant changes to iLearn is that students are now required extra clicks to get to their courses on the website. Before the summer 2018 online changes, students had minimal screens to navigate through in order to access iLearn from the main CSUMB campus website. Now, students are now required to sign in twice, once on the CSUMB main page and again on iLearn. For students with slow internet connections, each extra click they must conduct is more time wasted and further frustration mounting, before even beginning any coursework.
Not only are students required to conduct more clicks to access iLearn, but once they are signed on to the site, students now have an extra screen to go through in order to view their courses. Prior to the fall 2018 semester, students were directed straight to the webpage on iLearn that housed student courses. This navigation setup was convenient for students who wished to quickly access their assignments and coursework. Now, students must click a hyperlink labeled “Courses,” once they are able to access their iLearn profile, in order to view their syllabi, coursework, professor announcements, due dates, amongst other vital information pertaining to students.
In some cases at the beginning of the semester, professors were not aware of how to upload new material. This lack of understanding made it difficult for instructors to relay important information to students. In one instance, a professor was under the impression that they were sending an email to their entire class, and instead, the email was only received by one student. The email’s purpose was to communicate to students that class would not meet that day. The result of students not receiving the professor’s email of absence was that the majority of students in the course showed up for a class that the professor would not attend. For students who live on campus or are relatively local, this is not a big problem. However, for commuters (a large portion of CSUMB students), driving all the way to campus for no reason wastes money, resources, time and mental capacity.
“As a new lecturer, I was never given any kind of iLearn training and was more or less tossed into the deep end. When these new updates to iLearn took place, I didn’t receive so much as a courtesy email about it. It was really frustrating to open up iLearn and come upon the changes this semester, especially when I had just gotten a hang of the old iLearn,” described one part-time CSUMB lecturer.
In another case, a professor submitted their syllabus onto the appropriate iLearn course page, but it was unintentionally placed in such an inconspicuous area that many students were unable to find it. The syllabus is one of the most, if not the most important document that students must refer to for information regarding the class. This instructor had good motives for posting the syllabus on iLearn for students to access, although it was little use to the students who were unable to locate it.
Even though some professors may have a little difficulty using the new iLearn site, students are still responsible for completing their coursework on time and in the expected fashion. This is why it is so important that all users are able to work on the CSUMB online platform with ease. If students are unable to find or access coursework that they pay tuition costs each semester to receive, their quality of education is reduced.
This education quality reduction can be avoided if campus participants have, at least, the opportunity to learn more about updates made to online campus platforms during the off seasons. Communication to faculty and students alike in the form of a quick email describing some of the new changes to online campus platforms would be widely appreciated.