Cisco Clean Access Agent? What the Heck is That?!

Welcome to the wonderful world of paranoia. In its infinite wisdom, Augsburg College, a place I will be going often this year, has begun to require (not suggest, not recommend, require) a program called “Cisco Clean Access Agent.” Fortunately, it only applies to Windows computers (well, that makes it better…), but you can’t access the network without it. Actually, you can, but it’s only a limited network that allows ports 80 (HTTP) and 443 (HTTPS) exclusively. No chat, no gaming, no POP, no nothing. Only surfing. Period. What’s wrong here? The thing is, I don’t want to have another startup…

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Extra Content, Extra Bandwidth, Irritated Users

This is another course-related post, though it can be applied to the Flash-enabled Internet as a whole. A major problem these days in Flash animations is the overuse of the Flash file for mundane things like fade effects, which really don’t add much to textbook-like content like courses. My accounting course is particularly guilty of this. Many times through the material, an animation will offer to help me understand something. The fade isn’t really that bad, and sometimes it’s handy, like when adding things item-by-item to a list of accounts, but what really burns me is the unnecessary voice narration…

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Careless Programmers Make Frustrated Students

If you’re a programmer of JavaScript, and you work for a company that develops online courses, please, please, please make sure you coordinate with your content team. Really. I’ve come across so many errors having to do with badly-programmed little “quizzes” within courses that could have been solved by better communication between the content and interactivity teams. Take an example from this past weekend: A “self-check” quiz (not graded, just helps students learn the material) asks that the user convert a series of measurements from one unit to another. It explicitly specifies that the numbers are not to have commas…

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Busywork, Busywork, Busywork…

Working this past weekend on my Physical Science course, I have seen nothing but busywork for the last two days (and a lot of in the material). The written assignment on the Metric System I started over an hour ago is still keeping me busy, not because it’s hard, but because it repeats the same exercises over and over and over again ad nauseam in a multitude of ways. I can understand the need to drive fundamental concepts like unit conversion into students’ heads, but the difference between ten questions and a hundred is like the difference between nicely handing…

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School Email Sucks

Today’s generation of Web servers can do a lot of things: Run a store, provide static information, publish random writings (like mine), host sites anyone can edit (Wikipedia, specifically, and wikis in general), bring news updates instantly (RSS/Atom), and run schools. That’s right, run schools. Built on the Apache Tomcat server base, the Blackboard Learning System has been adopted by many schools, including Augsburg College (which has since switched to Moodle, mentioned below) and the notorious Houston, MN, School District, better known as MCoOL (those are the ones I know). Other platforms like Moodle don’t seem to be as popular,…

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