UAF online presence a mixed bag

By Elika Roohi
Sun Star Reporter

College campuses have been doing more and more of their business online. Even President Obama talked about digital textbooks in his State of the Union address on Jan. 25. UAF is no exception.

UAF conducts a significant amount of its business online. Students apply for admission, register for classes, order textbooks and much more, all online. One major component of UAF’s online presence is the Blackboard web program that UAF uses as a supplement for classes. Students can use Blackboard to submit homework, take tests and check their grades. But for everything students can do online, there are some key things they still cannot.

Take parking permits. Students and staff can log on to the UAF Parking Services website and buy a permit, but they either have to wait for their permit to be mailed to them or they have to go pick it up in person, according to Yolanda Esters, Manager of Facilities Services.

Parking Services isn’t the only place to still have a mandatory physical component. While students can register for classes online, they are unable to do so until they have turned in a hard-copy registration form signed by an advisor to the Registrar.

Despite certain online limitations, UAF has been steadily improving its online capabilities. In January 2011, Blackboard has been upgraded to the latest version, Blackboard Learn 9.1.

“It’s good practice to be on a fully supported version of important applications like Blackboard,” said Martha Mason, OIT Support Center Manager.  The version used by UAF now is currently the only version fully supported by the vendor.

The new Blackboard upgrade has several new features.

“Students can opt to receive notifications in their Facebook profile about new course items, assignments, or grades,” Mason said.

In addition to getting homework notifications on Facebook, the new Blackboard adds YouTube and Flickr right into the Blackboard environment, and teachers can use and assign eBooks through Blackboard. Blackboard also has an app for the iPhone.

The Blackboard expansion hasn’t been without glitches though.

“You do get some issues whenever you change something,” Mason said.

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3 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    UAF should push to eliminate the registration component of having an advisor have to physically sign a hard copy of the registration.

    Specifically, we should set up a system where students can schedule a video chat with the professor about their classes, and the professor can do a digital signature. Aside for a bit of hardware (a Wacom bamboo type tablet, or an touch screen like an iPhone), all the technological components are in place.

    A student could schedule a video chat during office hours using the Google system the university uses, and could chat via their home computer or an IPhone 4 type device, to a professor set up for video chat. After discussing and reviewing the students schedule, the professor could sign the proper digital section of the form with a stylist and a touch screen. The form could be submitted electronically immediately, so the student can register right away.

    There would be one added benefit as well. The student wouldn’t have to waste gas and money driving to UAF, and around from the professor to the refistrars office All that gas savings of thousands of students would add up. Surely if we support this save-the-environment sustainability program, this push would make sense.

  2. Darem H. Salah says:

    How about a ‘LIKE’ button ?

  3. Web Editor says:

    The ‘Like’ button is live.

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