Students used to the solid colors and simple design of the course Web pages perennially found at classes.yale.edu have found something surprising this fall.
Over 200 Yale courses are now using the new classes*v2 server this fall, as over 150 faculty members are testing this advanced iteration of the original classes server. The classes*v2 software was introduced in an earlier form last spring when approximately 20 classes tested the new learning management program. About 84 universities nationwide are currently using some form of the Sakai software, which the new program uses.
By the fall of 2007, all Yale courses will be housed on the classes*v2 server, as the old classes server will be phased out, Yale Director of Academic Media and Technology Charles Powell said.
Faculty have responded favorably to the new software, as the professors of many popular lecture classes, such as “Modern British Novel” and “Natural Hazards,” have decided to use the new server this year. In addition to the features of the old classes server, the Classes*v2 includes a schedule tool and a “drop box” to allow students to submit their documents, among other new features.
Some faculty, such as French professor Ruth Koizim, who is using the new server for her French 130 classes, said that it made sense to make the leap to the new server as a precursor of the impending campus-wide change.
“Clearly, the original classes server is not going to be around forever, and I didn’t want to be the last one to move,” she said. “If I’m a pioneer, I can help propose changes to the software.”
While some instructors said the new server was not dramatically different from the previous one, they said it is slightly more user-friendly.
English professor Pericles Lewis has posted supplemental material on the page for his “Modern British Novel” class, including electronic versions of some of the course’s texts.
Koizim noted that while the new software offers many features, she is not going to utilize all of them yet.
“I can’t say I’m using the various bells and whistles,” she said. “Things like the real-time chat and Web site connection … certainly they’re useful, but I’m not using them yet.”
While an increasing number of faculty are experimenting with the new software, faculty and students alike noted that there are still many areas which need improvement.
“It’s like any new software,” Powell said. “It’s not so much that big pieces are missing, but we’re looking to faculty and student feedback to fill in the smaller gaps.”
Because there are still a large number of courses using the old server, some students have been confused about where they can find their classes’ home pages.
“I think a lot of students are still trying to figure the whole thing out,” said geology & geophysics professor Mark Brandon, who teaches “Natural Hazards.” “They haven’t really heard anything about the new software.”
Other faculty noted minor problems with the software, such as complications posting documents. But most said they are impressed with the state of the software, which was created only 18 months ago and is already in its second version.
Generally, students seem to be fairly ambivalent about the new server.
“I never really used the old server, so it really doesn’t matter to me much what it looks like,” said Ani Katz ’08, who is enrolled in “Natural Hazards.”
Other students said that, regardless of the server, their needs are fairly straight-forward.
“I just look for the lecture notes, or the syllabus,” said Timothy Rice ’06, a student in “Modern British Novel.” “I don’t know anyone who uses the chat rooms or discussions, but I guess it’s nice that they’re there.”
Brandon jokingly likened the new server to an under appreciated eating utensil.
“It’s sort of like asking someone, ‘Do you love your fork or not?'” he said.