Technology Rant II

The challenge was to get Natasha through the “Online Learner Workshop” in order for her to register for online classes.  The Workshop is intended to help students understand the modern virtual world of internet-based education.  It is a wonderful techno-service-friendly world in which we live!!!

After successive weekend attempts to help Natasha access her college Online Learner Workshop, I sent a very thoughtful note to the college help desk (yes, it was really objective and polite….really).  The “Off-hours Help Line” did not pick up after about 20 rings.  We had tried about three different varieties each of her user id, password, and student number, because different variations are required for the college “Blackboard”, “WebEducator”, and “Student Services” pages.

NOTE:  I am using thinly veiled pseudonyms for the pages and I am closely guarding the college identity.  I am a part-time employee and Natasha is a student.  We value those roles.  But I suspect the experience is very much the same at community colleges throughout the country.

Natasha and I were then called and emailed on separate occasions by multiple members of the college online services staff.  I was called at work by a pleasant woman who sympathized with our situation.  Everything was re-set and we were sent a 17 step instruction on how to gain access to the Workshop and proceed through the learning experience.

Flash back a couple of years ago and I was going through a similar experience to get access to the college system to work as an adjunct instructor.  Back then each user was required to take a 3-day orientation.  Let me restate that for effect…. 3, three, THREE eight-hour day, orientation….  That’s 24 hours!!!  This is required to access to a web-based education system that is intended to simplify the college education process.  I simply told the college I was not going to take leave from my day job for 3 days just to learn how to post my student’s homework to the internet.  It was a very wonderful woman with my department that made it all better.  And I am posting homework the old-fashioned way….  I hand it back to the students at the beginning of class.

Well, unfortunately, my Natasha does not have the same advantages now as I did then.  She is one student among thousands of others.  She is indistinguishable from the computer-illiterates meant to be weeded out by the benevolent Online Learner Workshop.  So, I suffered along with her this time around.

We finally got on the Workshop.  Three hours and about 180 questions later, Natasha had completed the Online Learner Workshop.  The questions ranged from recall of the value and utility of the Online Learner Workshop, to what a PDF file was, to how to attach a file to an email.  At the end, Natasha and I could not help but feel that after successive attempts to get access to the system, to the hours invested in the “education”, that we had both lost a good part of our lives….

There were two modules of the Online Learner Workshop dedicated to “Technology Knowledge” and “Technology Uses”….  What does the Workshop consider as “technology”?  You got it…email, internet, digital photography, word processing applications.

OK, folks, I am officially a grumpy old man.  If this is technology, and it is supposed to make our lives simpler, then I am going to go back to living in a cave.

The Online Learner Workshop taught me nothing and it taught my wife nothing that isn’t already obsolete….  And we won’t get that time back.  Whatever is invented that WILL get us that time back….Now that is technology!!!


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