Monday, September 08, 2014

Day 61 - To make the punishment fit the crime

I spent what felt like a lot of today compiling the programme handbook before the first day of Freshers' Week.
In the end, it is 47 pages long, and over 10,000 words. If I had written them all, I would be feeling pretty proud of myself, but I mostly copied and pasted them from other sources (although I feel slightly proud of my assessment matrix at the very end).
What bothered me about the whole process was primarily that it is in the wrong format.

I think that the format you make something available really matters. If you are handing out a physical handbook, this has a different function to an online handbook. What I have been required to create this year has been neither. It looks like a printed book, but functions like an online handbook.

This creates a couple of problems. The first is that, as a Word document, one can follow all the embedded links, but it remains an editable document (although there are ways around that of course) and the glossy pictures mean that it is huge (around 10MB), but as a PDF, unless it's converted using proprietorial Adobe software, you can't follow the links (although this reduces it down to 5MB). In order to read it, one has to download it, and do we really need such enormous files? The second problem is the logistical problem of reading the document. Getting from one page to the next is fine, but if you then want to go back to the contents and then hop forward, hop back, etc., it is not really a very good format for doing this.

It amazes me that, while we have the online VLE that we have, that we do not make more use of it for exercises like this. A web-based handbook in the same environment that the students are required to use, that doesn't need to be downloaded, and that is easily navigable, is surely what we should be working on instead of this ineffectual hybrid.

I suppose my point is that if you want a printed handbook, provide us with a template for a printed handbook, and if you want an online handbook, provide us with a template for an online handbook. Stop hedging your bets and putting all your eggs in the 'corporate' basket.

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