I’ve almost finished the Web Media unit at Curtin and it’s been an interesting ride. Just like with NET102, I was part of the ‘guinea pig’ group for WEB207 and it showed. Things which should have been simple weren’t, and things that I expected to be difficult were less so. As usual, Tama set up the boards to be as efficient as possible and this is always a good thing. But there were numerous things that defined this unit as being less than exemplary.
Firstly, the big beef on the private discussion boards was the numbering system used for the assignments. Why is the first assignment last and the second assignment the first to get back? To complete assignment three, you had to almost entirely finish assignment four and in all of these, whenever we students would discuss assignments, we found ourselves confused as to which piece of assessment we were discussing. This shouldn’t be an issue, especially if it had been divided so Part One of Assignment Four was simply called Assignment One, and part two (which was last) was called Assignment Five. It’s not rocket science, people!
Another issue was with the number of assessments. Many seem to feel they would have preferred the assessments to be worth more points but to only have three. I’ve done units like VIS15 that have 8 assessments and I’ve done ones with 3 and I tend to agree. 8 assessments really worked well for VIS15 because it was small chunks over and over again. 3 assessments means you can divvy up your options and if you don’t do well on one piece, you can normally make it up later. 4 assignments really just meant we were all scrambling for time. Especially as these assignments were particularly heavy on the reading.
Which leads to the next problem. Due to the ‘guinea pig’ feeling to the unit, we were only told about the first module of information. We were given readings to do pertinent to those subjects. That’s fine. But later, we were given the second module and it was required to go BACK over those readings and re-read them in order to answer questions of the second module. If I had known in week 2, that there would be two assignments requiring info from those readings, I would have read them (and subsequently highlighted them with my trusty Stabilo) in completely different ways, enabling me to have better time management to fulfill the requirements for the assignments.
My last gripe with this unit, is more personal. I really didn’t like the way we were marked. There was a distinct feeling that if your surname was in the beginning of the pile, you would be awarded better marks than if your surname was at the end of the marking pile. As if the marker was really just getting sick and tired of reading the same thing in and out and just became grumpier throughout. I’m sure they weren’t, but that is how it feels. The marking rubrics were also impossibly harsh – make one tiny misstep and you are punished severely. Let me give you an example. In one of my assignments I had 17 references yet under Media Sources and Copyright I received a Pass. Despite having plenty of sources and a good mention of copyright, I received a pass, (I presume) because I did not have a specific sentence outlining my copyright intentions. Despite me having a paragraph explaining my stance on the copyright of various parts of the assignment, because I did not have a specific sentence claiming the final outcome, I received a pass. Another student had 6 references, and another had 4 references. Both of these students received a distinction on the marking rubric in the same section because they did have a specific sentence outlining their copyright intentions. So no matter how much I did well in media sources and in finding adequate and clever sources, it was all for nought because my assignment was missing a vital phrase. All of these assignments were marked by the same person.
This does not seem fair to me. I could be wrong. I’m not a marker. But I am a Distinction and High Distinction student and to be barely making a Credit is a massive downgrade for me. In fact, when I read my results, I actually did a double-take just like they do in cartoons. In all of my life, with all of the study I have done, I have never received marks like I have received in this unit. And that is very scary. It’s even possible that I may fail this unit and wow, wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books. It’s very hard to stay motivated when the marking rubric is so inflexible.
The marking rubric for the ‘creative’ piece will be interesting. Will we be punished for not being as creative as others, or for using web 2.0 technologies instead of creating it all from scratch? Will there be bonus points if you have created a movie (which the majority of students have done) or will people like me gain points for not following the herd?
One thing about it… if I fail this subject, when I return to this unit, I certainly won’t be as nice. It’s one thing to shove digitisation and convergence down our throats for subject after subject, but to do it again and again for this unit was just plain frustrating. I have had 5 other students ask me, “What am I meant to be learning in this unit?” and I’ve had to reply each time, “I’ve no idea.” It’s such a shame when this unit had so much potential to really teach us ways to engage in web media and yet most of us seem lost and confused about what the fuss was all about.
I begin new units (two of them) in just over a week. It’s always sad to say goodbye to some students and move on to a new bunch. Luckily, I’m taking a few of them with me. And no doubt we will continue to debate Mashable’s latest article and Tama’s last podcast and whether Smashing Mag really has it worked out or not… but hopefully, we’ll be learning AND loving it!