Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Professor for one year (week 9): Lots of trouble

Last week was a busy week.  I spent two days with the GPP13 participants in Riva San Vitale (TI) with lots of discussions and interaction.  Students at the University of Konstanz had to solve assignments on their own in the computer lab.

Before I started the trip to Riva, I got a message that over the weekend somebody committed burglary at the university.  They stole some items from the athletics office.  This office has a connecting door to our computer lab.  And there we had a dozen iMacs and a dozen MacMinis.  All of the Minis have been stolen!

Now this has various impacts:  Most obviously, my colleagues have to deal with the police and probably with the insurance company.  Then we have to by new computers and set them up.  For the moment, the technician is busy with configuring old iMacs to make sure teaching can go on.  I don't know yet how I will conduct the computer-based exam at the end of July.

Not so obvious are some other effects:  The lab is a bunch of stand-alone computers, you start the computer and then log in using a local account.  There is no connection to any net-based disk space.  Everything is stored locally.  That means that everything students had stored on the MacMinis (e.g., programs and notes) is lost.  Some students already had started to work on projects; unless they had stored these data on a private device, this work is lost, too.

So it is always a good idea to have backups on a local device or to send everything to yourself via e-mail.  But of course it would be even better to offer access to net-based disk space.  When you log in, you connect to your university account and you can store everything there.  This also means that you always use your personal account, not a local one.  That's the way computer labs at the University of Zurich work.  So students don't have to remember which computer they worked with during the last lecture and they can access their data from everywhere.  Also OLAT, the LMS used in Zurich provides some personal storing space; students can use this to store data they want to access from different locations or they want to share with student fellows for project work or the like.  Unfortunately, ILIAS (the LMS used in Konstanz) does not offer this.

When I was just recovering from the burglary message, I got another message basically asking, if I was aware that next semester I would not teach the courses I offered to teach some days before -- instead of a research colloquium, I'm supposed to offer a seminar for students enrolled in teacher training for German.  Aha!

This week is a "normal week", I hope.  Next week I will be in the US, again with GPP13.  I hope surprises will be kept to a minimum.

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