1.4 The Time-Line For My First On-Line Course (Fall 1996)


• These notes were made from a log of experiences with my first computer based course.


• Since then many improvements have been made (see PAD 168 as an example) by IT based on feedback - If you have any needs, talk to them.


Pre-August - Notes entered into computer.

Aug., 12 - Notebook computer arrives.

Aug.,13 - Notes handed to printer.

Aug.,20 - Investigate computer projection equipment in assigned classrooms, the overhead projectors are only for TV, but there are 10baseT network sockets in rooms. There are data projectors in a locked hallway cabinet. Keys for cabinet are ordered.

Aug., 23 - Start up software to test run, it. Results are OK.

Aug., 26 - Classes start. The keys are not ready yet, I need to arrive early to ask somebody to unlock the closet. I test data projector, it only displays 640x480. The setup time was under five minutes. The last ten minutes of first lecture done with computer and data projector. When the lights are turned out the room is too dark to see paper (no side scatter of light as with overhead). The lights only go on in half of room. The trackpoint on the computer is very awkward to control scroll bars, etc. Even though part of the screen is chopped, it is mainly scrollbars. Using the word processor software, only half a printed page appears, and page breaks can fill a screen. The second section had windows with screens, and the light levels were fine. - Lesson Learned: do an early test run before the first lecture.

Aug.,28 - Arrived ten minutes early to get cabinet unlocked and equipment set up. In the dark room I decided to use overhead projector pointed at wall for ambient light - seems to work well, but proper lighting would be better. Took a regular mouse (instead of trackpoint) to help control problems. Used working model to run a simulation, seemed to clarify conceptual difference between statics and dynamics.

Aug., 30 - Settled on 10 minutes early as the expected pre-class preparation time. Noticed dark made some students sleepy. Ran entire lecture in dark, including questions. In second section I tried to do problems on board to parallel what was on the computer, had to remove fluorescent bulbs at front of room to get reasonable lighting. Show-of-hands survey indicated that; they liked not having to copy down notes - more time to think, no problems seeing screen, or following along. Projector cabinet key arrives today. - Lesson Learned: Be aware that the dark room puts students to sleep.

Sept., 4 - Arrived a bit late, having to pick up the data projector cost lecture time. Students seemed a bit sluggish in dark, tried turning on lights to solve a problem on the board, this seemed to help a bit. - Lesson Learned: Change the mode of presentation to keep them active.

Sept., 6 - The bulk of books, computer, etc. is somewhat annoying - needed to take the power supply because of the extended time (3 hours) of continuous lectures.

Sept., 9 - The notebook power manager was shutting down the laptop every couple of minutes, went to lecture on blackboard. Took power supply to second lecture.

Sept., 13 - Power manager acted up in first class, PC was almost unusable - Lesson Learned: decided to take power supply each time, or disable power manager software. Picked up digital camera Apple Quicktake 100 - the camera was relatively easy to setup and use, but battery life was too short (<5 minutes) so the power supply was needed when downloading to computer. The camera took 8 or 32 pictures. The lower resolution of 320x240 was too poor for sharp detail, so the camera could really only hold 8 pictures.

Sept., 16 - Web Site almost ready.

Sept., 17 - Introduced students to Web pages, reception was good. Worked on getting web pages up, including hypertext links to gifs. This was only possible by tricking WebWorks software into passing it through without converting characters. Lesson Learned: plan for the document conversion process, the software available still limits abilities. Made some graphics to go with pages - gives the pages a polished look. Took pictures with digital camera - it was very sensitive to light levels, and distance/close detail was blurry.

Sept., 18 - Presented in class using Netscape off local disk files - increased font sizes, and DPI for gifs (up to 120 from 74) to better fill screen. The text was more viewable on screen. By contrast the normal screen font is too small. Lesson Learned: Use Netscape instead of Framemaker to present.

Sept., 20 - Presented with netscape again, this time using the network and the Web site - this ran well, but as the morning progressed the transfer rates slowed, especially as the hour approached.

Sept., 23 - Presented off local disk again, ran much faster. Added course info to web site, including sample problems and syllabus. Prepared first midterm, and had answers prepared, and ready to post after test.

Sept.,24 - Got camera and started taking more pictures. Got copies of Working Model quick start guide, plan to give to students tomorrow, and will suggest a problem to try next week.

Sept., 25 - Demonstrated Working model in class by building a ball between wedges, a robot, and a block hung by two cables. Also gave out tutorial manual, and indicated that next week some problems will be assigned to be done on working model. Student reaction was ‘WOW’. Lesson Learned: Visual impact should be used whenever possible.

Sept., 26 - Fixing up things, but realize that pictures collected in future must be to fulfill need. there are too many pictures to take, and not enough disk space. Got some email questions about textbook problems. Did not have textbook. It would have been nice if all questions were on-line for easy reference, and so that notes could be added to the problems.

Sept., 27 - Exam day. Showed mpeg movie of Tacoma Narrows bridge - a good visual part. More videos would be great. Solutions posted on line, and students seemed to have them printed shortly after the exam. Lesson Learned: When possible post exam solutions on-line.

Sept., 29 - Some Working Model examples created for classes this week. Misalignment was a small problem - but more practice expected to reduce problems. A 3D problem is not possible using the current version.

Sept., 30 - Presented in class using Netscape only. This included working model links, and photographs. The models were Static, and a loss of interest was apparent. First working model assignment discussed as bonus. Student interest picks up. The lab version is not working well, (it later turns out that some computer labs don’t support the package) I load a copy of the demo software to my website for local download. Find transcription error in the exam solution posted on-line, fix problem on-line and mention to students. Lesson Learned: Even though we can change things on line, if it is printed mistakes are permanent. Lesson Learned: Just because your computer will do it doesn’t mean the students computers will.

Oct., 4 - The network locked up, had to present using framemaker - considered keeping copy of course on hard drive. Lesson Learned: The Internet is not reliable, have alternate solutions. SVGA to NTSC converter arrived - tried in class, very poor with high resolution graphics. Went back to data projector. Other problems, cables too short, and s-video connector only on ceiling mounted projector. Good rule of thumb, count on a loss of 50% of resolution, and avoid thin lines.

Oct., 7 - tried using the SVGA converter in class again, very poor appearance, but as okay with larger fonts, but the unit seemed to shut down after a few minutes.

Oct., 11 - Had classes, and then working model contest at the end. This seems to have set a fire in some students. Most were impressed. In general the interest level was higher in the smaller class. One very good technique with the data projector is too project the image onto a whiteboard and draw over the image using markers. This allows the students to add/refer to their notes.

Oct., 18 - A very effective use of working model to show the students slip/tip case for a block, and then calculate to verify.

Oct., 22 - Tried a test of SVGA to TV converter in class with large fonts. The students seemed to be happy with presentation styles, and agreed to an in class trial. Helvetica font seemed to be perceived as slightly better, by show of hands. Took a while and changed some of the notes to helvetica, and posted to net. Put some problem solutions on the net that were missing in the text.

Oct., 23 - Went to present in class with SVGA to TV and the network was misbehaving, so could not connect to site. The network was down today, so the students could not get access to the web pages, and I could not update.

Oct., 25 - Data projector did not work in first class, used the board instead. In second class found that the data projector was set for the wrong input. Lesson Learned: Even when the equipment works well, figure out why it is working well just in case. In the conversion process the multiplication sign was changed to a ‘yen’ sign. I also noted that in printing some of the equations were not printed properly, but the students were able to copy off the screen (or could use the web pages).

Oct., 28 - Data projector stopped working, and sent to get repaired.presented on board in class.

Oct., 29 - Presented in morning class using SVGA to TV converter. Did not seem to cause many problems.

Oct., 30 - Exam day. Did not have time to put exam solutions on net.

Nov., 1 - Returned exams - solutions not yet on net, but meeting students face to face to return papers (one at a time). Did the first survey in class. Used the SVGA to TV converter to present, the second class was seeing it for the first time, and complained of the poor quality.

Nov., 4 - Presented in class as normal using board mainly. projector is still missing.

Nov., 5 - Computer did not work.

Nov., 6 - Data projector did not work again. Will use computer and projector next class.

Nov., 8 - Data projector fixed, lecture proceeded as normal.