Science - March 3, 2005

EDUweb starting troubles over

Wageningen University now has two sites, EDUweb and EDUclass that, if they live up to their promises, will make the lives of teachers and students easier. A recent evaluation concluded that lecturers are basically happy with the sites, except for data input and speed. Students also recognise the advantages, but have more grumbles.

EDUweb is the system that gives students and teachers an overview of various information sources on one webpage. After logging in they can see their unread emails, the copy credit they have, as well as their lectures and appointments for that day. Once they have registered, students can see what courses they are doing in ‘My courses’, and can click through to the relevant information. That is where the EDUclass part begins – an electronic learning environment where lecturers can post additional educational material, interactive modules and even tests.

Drop Box
Lecturer Bert van ’t Ooster is reasonably satisfied with EDUweb. ‘It’s probably the slowest page in the whole of Wageningen UR, but I do derive a lot of benefits from it. I no longer have to reply individually to all students who want to register for a course I am giving. They register themselves and I get their details directly.’ Van ’t Ooster uses the EDUclass programme Blackboard to post announcements and make documents available. ‘The system has lots of potential, some of which I am still discovering. As a lecturer you can look over the students’ shoulders as it were, which means you can help them easily when they get stuck. I also find the digital Drop Box very handy: students deliver their work electronically with a date and time, so my mailbox doesn’t get full.’

Two-thirds of the lecturers make use of EDUweb, and a small majority is reasonably happy with the user friendliness of the system, in particular the linking of information sources that the it offers. Many said they lost a lot of time in the beginning before the system was up and running properly, but are confident that things will improve. The most important function is that subject matter can be made available electronically, via the web. Van ’t Ooster: ‘We used to have to run around with CDs, then USB memory sticks, but now they are redundant. You can upload documents anywhere where there is an internet connection.’

M-drive
Students are less enthusiastic about the possibilities of EDUweb. Third-year Biotechnology student Jeroen Sijbers: ‘Yes, you can now sign up electronically for courses, but you still have to log in separately on the CSA (Central Student Administration, ed.) site. And you have to log in repeatedly to get to your M-drive. It is more convenient now that everything is on one site, but I didn’t have many problems with the old system either.’

Mirjam Goedkoop, a first year Animal Sciences student, is not that positive either: ‘I really only use the right-hand side, where the courses are, and my M-drive. You have to use it for your timetable and the course information.’ But she is not so keen on the dependency it creates. ‘If you don’t have an internet connection at home you suffer. Over the last year it was also down two or three times a day, and then you can’t do anything. No, it’s not that exciting. Oh, look, here are my grades; that’s the first time I’ve seen them!’

Disadvantages
A system like this with strict rules and regulations also has its disadvantages, as fourth year Forest and nature management undergraduate Martin van Leeuwen found out: ‘I have enough study points to already start on master’s courses, but somehow or another I can’t register to do so via EDUweb,’ he tells. Students who want to follow courses for more than a total of twelve study points in one period cannot register electronically either. They have to go personally to the lecturer in question.

Van Leeuwen came up against another problem. ‘I received an e-mail confirming that I was registered for a course, but when I went to the first lecture I wasn’t on the list. Now the course is full, and there is no space for additional supervision. Luckily they’ve let me join the course, which is good, because I know I applied on time and otherwise I would have had to wait another six months. But it’s funny that it happens to be the course on Data management.’

Jasper Harms

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