Monday, 2 April 2012

"Help...I can't see my course"

(L-R) Ian Mumby and Khalid Rahmatullah
Learning Technologies Team Helpdesk
Life on the frontline with the Learning Technologies Team Helpdesk...

"Help .. I can't see my course"
The biggest percentage of support requests we receive on the Learning Technologies helpdesk is from students and staff requiring access to their relevant MOLE courses. MOLE (My Online Learning Environment) is the University of Sheffield’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

At first, this seems surprising because in the case of students, access to MOLE courses is granted by electronic transfer from the university’s student registration system. As long as we have a valid MOLE course ready and waiting to accept students, when their registration process is complete, the student is automatically enrolled on the relevant MOLE course. The two systems talk to each other frequently during the day scanning for completed registrations and exchanging the relevant data.

In the vast majority of cases, this procedure works extremely well and we are not involved in the process at all. Sometimes though, there are instances where the criteria for this automated system to successfully conclude are not met exactly and some old fashioned manual intervention is called for. (Hooray for us humans!)

Normally this requires checking the registration system and confirming that the student has indeed signed up for the course and working out why the automated system has failed to give them access.
Frequently though, there hasn’t been a ‘problem’ as such that is responsible for disrupting the automated procedure. It may be that the registration process is not yet complete because all the relevant paperwork has not been submitted by the student. In these cases I have to explain the delay and politely decline their request to give them instant access until everything is in place.

Also the time factor element can come into play in that the process from initial student registration to course access can take a little time to complete. This doesn’t go down well with some students who expect everything to come together and be good to go instantaneously and meets with cries of despair such as “but my first assignment is due next week and I need to get started now”. In such cases I will contact the department running the course and ask them if they wish to authorise me to add the student to the course.

Frequently students require access to last year’s courses or teaching staff ask us to give students access to a complimentary course that although the student hasn’t registered for, the staff believe it will be beneficial for them to have .

Staff always have to be enrolled manually if they have not been involved in the course before. If the course ran last year and they were part of it, they are automatically enrolled in this year’s course. But staff change courses too and often don’t realise that someone needs to inform us when this happens otherwise we won’t get to know about it and they won’t be added. We are often contacted by staff intending to prepare a course for the first session to be held the next day only to find they don’t have access to it. This can be awkward for them if they discover this at the weekend!


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