Monday, December 20, 2010

With great power comes great responsibility (or why we hate the Access tab)

There is a tab that is very useful in all content pages in ANGEL and it is the Access tab.  But we truly have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with that tab. 

Not all content items (drop box, discussion, page) has an easy way to limit students from interacting with the item.  Most of the time, we recommend you simply set a due date, grade the item within 48 hours or so and anyone who does not submit by that time gets a zero.  If a student chooses to submit an item after the due date, it is up to you whether to accept the late submission or not.

Some instructors want to close assignments after they are due and have found the Access tab thinking this is a good idea.  When an instructor chooses a Start Date and End Date, this makes the item visible and invisible to students.  You, as the instructor can ALWAYS at least see the item (the icon is lighter when it is not visible to students) but students cannot see the item at all. 
This seems like it might not be a big deal, but if a student wants to go back and review their own work or any feedback for that particular item, they CANNOT because IT IS INVISIBLE to them. 

That means, they can't find it. 

Students don't know it exists other than remembering it was there once but seems to be missing now. 

We hate the Access tab for this reason and recommend you not use it in this manner.

Well, my dad always said I should never hate anything so perhaps I just have a very strong dislike of the Access tab.  Either way, it can cause one ginormous headache.

There are still a couple of good uses for the Access tab, however.

Good use Bad use
Set a Password so students can only Access certain content if they have the correct password.  This is where passwords are set when students take Proctored exams. Start Date and End Date.  Remember, this is when items become visible and invisible and if you set the wrong kinds of items to invisible (such as an entire folder) then students cannot see ANYTHING in that folder.
Set Tracking so you can tell when students access the folder or page or other item. 
One caution about setting Tracking to Everyone:  this does increase the size of our student database of information and makes your course slightly more difficult to backup.  However, if you have an item you want to make sure students are viewing, setting tracking is a good idea.
Start and End Date.  Still a bad idea.
Team Access is a good thing if you want only one or two teams of students to be able to access an area.  This is also a way to limit who can see specific items if a student needs to make up an assignment due to some circumstance. Did I mention that Start Date and End Date are bad ideas?
Start Date ONLY can be a good idea if you want students to work along at about the same pace.  This actually keeps students from working ahead which is sometimes quite necessary. 
There have been instances when students think they can go in and do every discussion in the course and then be done with it even though that completely defeats the purpose of the discussions.  In that case you may want to use the Start Date choice so that the content is hidden until you are ready to reveal it.
End Date is hardly ever a good idea. 
Are you seeing a trend?

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