All entries for January 2006

January 31, 2006

Out of site, out of mind

If you are a distance or online learner, the University of Warwick is not the plush, handsome campus on the edge of Coventry; it is a series of online spaces where one can communicate with one's peers, submit assignments to tutors, receive marked assignments from tutors, download key learning resources and engage in collaborative activity with virtual teams or study groups.

So, when your university password is suspended, you do not have that access to those peers, to those collaboration spaces, to the place where you receive your marked work, to the tutors or even the online self-assessment tests, from which you might receive feedback on your performance.

However, the current system for resetting passwords – involving a pop-up window which many browsers will block by default and a form that provides no information about how it should be filled in and no feedback if it is filled in wrongly – is a very clumsy solution which creates as many problems as it solves and significant volumes of support calls on many University staff. Furthermore, if students are required to call IT services' helpdesk to extricate themselves from the problems caused by this inelegant, unfriendly solution, then the significant number of our distance learners based in radically different time zones – the Far East for example – are hardly well supported, as they do not share too many of their waking hours with helpdesk's opening times.

So, when we suspend all of our distance learners' passwords and provide a very poor service with which to change passwords, we are effectively shutting huge numbers of students out of the University of Warwick with poor guidance about how to get back in. Our distance learning MBA students are the University of Warwick's single largest group of students. Imagine if the single largest group of on-campus students were blocked from every physical entrance to the University campus. We'd solve that situation pretty swiftly, for sure, without asking the students to go and get their own new keys cut from an unreliable key cutter.

When on-campus students have their passwords deleted, they can still get on site, communicate with their classmates and their tutors, and access their learning resources and their lectures. When distance learners have their passwords deleted (or when they have their programme end dates wrongly entered by the Graduate Office such that their ITS accounts expire, as happened to hundreds of distance learners at the end of 2005) then those students effectively do not have access to the University of Warwick.

Out of sight, out of mind?

Adults in the workplace

Writing about web page

Great post from Euan Semple, whose blog I'd recommend, on the culture of the workplace versus the culture of the web:

I find it increasingly paradoxical that the "grown up" world of suits and offices and job titles is the one that encourages you to remain childish. You are not really encouraged to say what you think, you pass responsibility up to the grown ups above you and you are rarely able to be held accountable for your decisions. On the other hand in the supposedly childish online world of forums, blogs and wikis you have to be prepared to say what you think, be prepared to stand by it and jusfity it in a debate and if you have f****d up your written thinking is there for all to see forever. I wonder when the grown ups will get this?

January 25, 2006

Burns Night

Writing about web page

For a' that and a' that,
It's coming yet for a'that.
That man to man, the world o're
Shall brithers be for a' that

While I love Burns now and shall be eating haggis this weekend, I hated Burns at school. Every year at primary school we were compelled to participate in a Burns recital competition, whereby we had to learn a poem off by heart (I can still do 'The Twa Corbies') and recite it in something approaching a lowlands accent. It was painful at the time and in retrospect I understand why: we were being drilled to do everything but enjoy the poetry. It was all about remembering the words and pronouncing them right.

Years later, as a student in Glasgow, I saw a brilliant play about Burns written by Joe Corrie, a miner from Fife, and performed by John McGrath's 7:84 Theatre Company. And from then I understood that Burns was the original punk, a flawed, complex, radical romantic about whom there really was nothing too respectable.

The BBC have produced a great little mini site in celebration of Burns Night. It looks like a naff tourist brochure or shortbread tin but the content is excellent.

January 24, 2006

Support Keith Bridgewater

Writing about web page

Keith Bridgewater is one of the nicest, most decent and most inspiring people I know. This year he plans to run the London Marathon for Shelter – a charity whose cause is close to Keith's heart on account of the work he does as an officer for Birmingham City Council.

This will be Keith's first marathon. He ran his first half-marathon in 2004 to raise money for breast cancer charities – a cause even closer to home for Keith than Shelter – and he did the same again in 2005.

I'm supporting Keith and would encourage anyone visiting this page to do so to. You can sponsor Keith online at:

January 23, 2006

When I grow up ….

Writing about web page

I want to be seen out and about in some brightly coloured, ill-fitting cycling gear with my crew of like-minded homeboys. Just like these fellas:

Bursting the bubble

Writing about web page

Lovely little piece from Jeffrey Zeldman on the hype and bluster and the sometimes poor behaviour attending upon the Web 2.0 bubble. Zeldman's polemic is measured and forceful and ends beautifully thus:

To you who are toiling over an AJAX- and Ruby-powered social software product, good luck, God bless, and have fun. Remember that 20 other people are working on the same idea. So keep it simple, and ship it before they do, and maintain your sense of humor whether you get rich or go broke. Especially if you get rich. Nothing is more unsightly than a solemn multi-millionaire. To you who feel like failures because you spent last year honing your web skills and serving clients, or running a business, or perhaps publishing content, you are special and lovely, so hold that pretty head high, and never let them see the tears. As for me, Iím cutting out the middleman and jumping right to Web 3.0. Why wait?

I like that final affirmation of the toil of many of us who publish content and serve clients. Thanks Zeldman.

January 19, 2006

Our shabby media culture

Writing about web page,,1687932,00.html

I'm kicking this blog off by pointing to an excellent piece of writing by Polly Toynbee about the ways in which as a culture, and in our media, we treat politicians. In a very powerful paragraph, Toynbee writes:

A free press may be essential to democracy, but how grotesquely it exploits that necessity. Self-righteously we pontificate on politicians, free to damn ministers at whim, shameless about our own far worse venality and hypocrisy. Politicians try to get things done while we shoot them down from comfortable quarters. They come and go – but we stay on and on, never at risk of de-election from jobs no one elected us to. Instead we award one another prizes. We confront no dilemmas where there is no right answer; we always know the answer to everything.

Donald Dewar, Scotland's first First Minister, wrote passionately about how our media create a grotesque picture of our politicians and politics which is not good for voter engagement and turnout and so on. The treatment of Ruth Kelly at the hands of baying journos this week is only the most recent in a long line of similar, shallow but dangerous ventures masquerading as investigative journalism.

January 2006

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