Things which make me go hmm…

Ok, this may be a bit of a rant, but I have experienced a number of situations in the past few months which really make me wonder. Some time ago (2011), I posted a set of notes on how to email your professor. [Note: although that rant was over 2 years ago, the only thing which has changed is that I can now set my out of office assistant and the message will be viewed off campus.] This is a continuation of those thoughts.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, it is important to include a subject line in the email message with your class. Not only am I teaching multiple classes, but several students are in more than one class. I can not divine which class is involved if someone simply asks me to explain why lab 4 was unsatisfactory. I need more details. Otherwise, we go round and round until I finally glean which class is the one in question. This wastes your time and my time. Please – include a meaningful subject (with class identifier).

Next, please check your work on the student server we use for classes. Make certain all links work. Make certain you have updated your initial index.html page (the one at the root – public_html folder) to point to all your classes. If you link to something, make certain the link actually works. Make certain all images or other objects load properly. Check in multiple browsers. If possible, check on a different computer [or tablet or smartphone] other than where you developed your work (in case something is cached). And, don’t submit your work in Moodle for grading until you are certain all is working properly on the server.

If you follow the above practices, it will save both of us a fair amount of time (and we all seem to have less and less of that these days).

Permit me to shift gears a bit and discuss professionalism (it relates to time also). Do your best work on every assignment. Keep in mind that you may well be asked to submit a portfolio of your work to a potential employer. Every assignment I review should be the best you can do at that time. I see a number which are not. These appear to be thrown together at the last minute (just before the assignment is due). Everyone has at least 10 days from the posting of the assignment until it is due – don’t wait until the last minute. Again, when an employer asks to review your work, you will likely be pointing to these examples. You may not have time to develop something new and will point to your projects and lab assignments. Is this the message you want to send to potential employers?

If you don’t understand an assignment, ask me (or post something in the discussion forum). Don’t ask me if the solution you provide is what I am looking for. I don’t know. I want you to fully understand the problem and solve it to the best of your ability. Creativity counts. In the business world, you will be asked to solve problems that no one knows what the solution is. That is what you are being paid to figure out. It is a good practice to ask specific questions. It is a good practice to confirm that you fully understand the problems. It is not good practice to do the minimum to get a grade of satisfactory.  In fact, I am thinking of changing my grading scale for lab assignments in the future. Instead of satisfactory or not, I am thinking of the scale – WOW that is amazing (full credit – 10 points or so), meh – really, that is the best you can do (some credit – 5 points or so), and you have got to be kidding me (1 point at best). Now, review some of your recent work and see where it falls on the new scale. Keep in mind, these are example you may well show potential employers (I think I have said that enough now).

Some time ago, we discussed the software craftsmanship manifesto at a Web Professionals and Adobe User Group meeting. Thanks Jonathan Worent for bringing this up. For those who aren’t familiar with the manifesto, I encourage you to read it and take it to heart. These items apply to work you submit as assignments. The work should be professional in nature and should demonstrate a steady improvement from one assignment to the next.

By the way, if you are a student reading this post and are not actively participating in these Web Professionals and Adobe User Group meetings – why not? This is a great way to network with practicing professionals and to learn about technologies we simply don’t have time to cover in class.

This brings me to my last subject – do more than is expected of you. If you are not actively involved in the SkillsUSA web design contest or are not a member of the above mentioned user group, why not? Do you think jobs are that easy to find once you graduate? What are you doing to differentiate yourself from others? One of the best ways is to actively participate in activities such as those I have mentioned. You will learn more and will be able to tell potential employers you are not content to just take classes (and pass with a high grade).

Ok, I feel better now. As always, I am curious in your comments and thoughts. I realize many students do their best work and my above comments don’t apply. I also realize we all fall a bit behind the curve at times. All I ask is we keep trying to improve with each day. That is what learning is all about.

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