Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The annual three week ‘Manic’ Period

Obviously the beginning of any new academic year is a very busy time for the majority of us and the TEL help desk is certainly no exception. Each year, the three week period comprising of ‘Freshers’ week and the following two, are by far our busiest. ‘Manic’ is the word I always use.


The ‘Supportworks’ enquiry system which we use, records the volume of traffic we handle and the last five years totals for this period are as follows:


2016-17 - 677
2015-16 - 613
2014-15 - 741
2013-14 - 747
2012-13 - 786


This year as in every year, nearly half (45%) of all the enquiries during this three week period are from folk (staff and students) asking to be given access to their particular MOLE courses.


For students in particular, these requests are mostly unnecessary as the MOLE system is populated with student enrolments automatically by electronic transfer from the University's main student registration system.  Once the choice of courses is completed on their main registration record, student’s MOLE accounts are automatically updated (the process runs four times each day) and the list of courses shown on their MOLE homepage then changes to reflect this.


Today’s students live in a world where they are used to things happening instantaneously (in an IT sense anyway) and having completed their registration process, if they cannot see their courses in MOLE straight away they tend to assume something has gone wrong.  We manage to answer the vast majority of enquiries the same day as they are received and in most cases in the interim period of the enquiry being sent and us reading it, we usually find that the above automated system has done its job and the student has been given access to their courses. We simply then just need to reply happily confirming this.


Of course no system is 100% perfect and there are times when we have to step in to manually add a student to a course, but thankfully this is not very often in comparison.


Staff are not added to courses automatically unless the same course ran last year and they were a part of it, in which case they are automatically enrolled in this year’s course too.


New or existing staff, requiring access to a particular course for the first time always have to be added manually. We can do this and staff already having the role of Instructor in a course can add other staff to that same course.


Sometimes individual staff members don’t realise they are not added automatically to new courses and they contact us in a panic because they need to prepare material for the first teaching session to be held shortly, only to find they don’t have access to the course.


Sometimes a teaching department’s Administration/Clerical teams send us long lists of staff that need adding to courses. We also receive quite a lot of requests asking us to merge two or more courses together in MOLE. Obviously we don’t mind doing this but ideally it would be better for everyone concerned if we could receive these enrolment lists and merger requests earlier in the summer (courses are usually created in July and even earlier in some cases).

Add to the mix the usual everyday requests for assistance in how to do something, Turnitin queries, technical problems etc and it all adds up to a ‘Manic’ three weeks - but guess what? ...I love it!!!

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