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It’s becoming an increasingly recurring event that I’m working in the library and overhear two or three panicked voices surrounding a computer opposite me, cursing the fact that they can’t submit coursework online because, shock, horror, LUVLE isn’t working. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be in their position on deadline day, but all this ever does is remind me of our dependence upon LUVLE. When (and not if) LUVLE goes down, we’re rather like a commercial airliner which has just lost an engine and all contact with air-traffic control; hundreds of people panic while fake tanned, fake smiling ISS air stewards try in vain to calm people down and kick start another server.
It’s unavoidable that a 21st century student is going to be reliant upon technology. I was at a Student-Staff Committee meeting last term where lecturers reminded us that it isn’t that long since PowerPoint slides of lectures available online were unheard of. Personally, I don’t make religious use of lectures slides, but I know enough people who do to think that it’s fantastic. Especially in subjects where there are a lot of formulae and diagrams in lectures, being able to print them off and not attempt to hurriedly copy them down is invaluable. That staff clearly see this value as well is shown by the fact that they are usually very prompt in uploading materials, despite not being obliged to.
The main impact of LUVLE’s failings, this last week and at the start of last term, has been on people trying to electronically submit coursework, which is becoming increasingly dominant. E-submission allows departments to run work through anti-plagiarism software, which is important even if a little 1984-esque. It is also supposed to be part of the University’s eco-drive, as it cuts down on printing requirements (and more importantly, printing costs). On a side note, most departments still ask for paper submissions as well as online, so there goes the eco-drive argument.
It has to be accepted that E-learning is a massive and useful part of studying, and that we’re probably heading towards a not-too-distant future where the majority of our work is done online – if we’re not there already. What LUVLE’s failings highlight then, is the disparity between our demands on it and its ability to meet them. A fly on the wall of the library close to an essay deadline surely sees that the system isn’t coping with a lot of people uploading work; if the University is going to push E-submission, LUVLE has to be good enough to allow it.
ISS might come back and say that we shouldn’t be leaving it until the last minute to submit work. Rubbish. I’m not one to leave things until the deadline, but I’m like so many others who refuse to hand my work in until the deadline, just in case I can improve it. It comes down to the simple fact that despite being redeveloped over the summer, LUVLE isn’t coping with the demands upon it. On top of this, the new interface is hard to navigate and makes it more difficult to find and submit materials.
When I worked on the value for money article for Investigations, the amount of money being spent by the University on building work and international links astounded me. £300m spent on building work since 2003 is a hell of a lot. Having looked at a lot of information and spoken to the relevant people, I’m not going to criticise this as unnecessary. Despite the inconvenience it’s caused, I’m excited by this development – but the raw figures give a good perspective on the University’s priorities. It’s great as an example because so many people have cited it: to keep the Nurse Unit open would’ve cost £165,000 a year, which is nothing compared the cost of say, the new Sports Centre. Obviously it’s not that simple, but it makes the point.
I reckon similar could be said about IT systems – surely there must be something in the budget to allow for a focused investment in something like LUVLE, to bring it up to our expectations. Maybe ISS could’ve started with a better redevelopment of LUVLE rather than buying twenty iPads for the Learning Zone.