Feeling old

29 May

I have been a student (at a university, as opposed to a school or language class or whatever) three times in my life.

First, when I did my undergraduate degree (and started a Masters which I failed to complete).

Second, when I did a Graduate Certificate in Software Development when the Bigster was 3. I got 6 of the 8 subjects for the Grad Dip finished but then I got pregnant with Otto and I was way too sick to contemplate study.

And now, when I am starting my journey towards a Masters in Internet Studies. (Or just doing a subject to see how I like it. No pressure or anything.)

And I’m having a “how times have changed” moment.

When I were a lass B.O. (Before Otto) Right now, this week
Education was free. At least when I was in first year. You paid up-front for each subject. You pay up-front for each subject but the government lends you the money to do it.
Staff could apply for email accounts, if they could demonstrate cause. Students had email accounts too, based on their student number. Students get a firstname.lastname email address automatically.
If you missed a lecture, you borrowed someone else’s notes. If you missed a lecture, you borrowed someone else’s notes. What is this “miss a lecture” of which you speak? Lectures are recorded – you watch them when you like. Actually, lectures WERE recorded – this class is taught from February’s recordings.
Classes (mine, anyway) were during the day. You went to them on campus. Classes (mine, anyway) were during the evening, 5-9pm. You went to them on campus. What is this “class” of which you speak? Discussion takes place in the online forums. Oh, and in the Learning Management System.
Mature Age students (anyone over 25) were horrible! I mean, they were very nice – but they always did all the reading. And everyone else’s reading, too. I was a Mature Age Student. And yeah. Always did the reading. And participated in dicussions. OMG! I would have hated me! I make no commitments here
You could usually find your friends in the Grill Room in the union building You could occasionally find your friends in the online discussion forums that no-one really used. But never on campus, except when there were classes. Campus is interstate. I may never go there. But there’s a Twitter hashtag for the course, and a Facebook group to join.
I could knock up an essay in an hour or three. We were doing programming. Essays? What were they? 001011100 I can whip up an x-page strategy document for you if you like? But I am a wee bit anxious about the 1500 word essay requirement.
“Slides” were, well, slides. If you were lucky, there was an overhead projector. “Slides” were powerpoint presentations. If you were lucky, you got a lecturer who didn’t just read them out to you for 2 hours. Powerpoint again, I think. Now with added YouTube!
Most assignments were hand-written. I had my very own computer and a dot-matrix printer. And access to a laser printer because I was staff. I got bonus marks on one assignment because I used Helvetica instead of Times Roman. True story. I still have a soft spot for Helvetica (only back then, we just called it Swiss). They were, of course, submitted in hard copy. Most assignments were submitted online. Assignments don’t just have a due date, they have a due time as well. (And presumably a timezone of their very own). They are submitted online, of course. And some of them get uploaded to YouTube.
At the start of the semester, lecturers told you where their office was. At the start of the semester, lecturers told you their email address. At the start of the semester, staff tell you their Twitter username. And their phone number. And their email address. And other stuff about their lives.
I did most of my assignments at the last minute, in the middle of the night. I did most of my assignments in plenty of time. Except the ones I did at the last minute, in the middle of the night. Middle of the night? Most productive time of the day, I say! And with the Uni in another timezone, it’s really 2 hours earlier.
I studied German Sociolinguistics. You could study computer programming as part of a science degree. I studied Software Development. You could study XML and Javascript and HTML as part of a parallel Internet Development course. I am studying Internet Studies. Of which there are undergraduate and postgraduate courses. And Departments.

TWENTY YEARS since I finished that first period of study. That feels like a lot of change in a little time – some clearly technology-driven, some a change in the style of the interactions. Which may be technology-influenced, especially in a course that embraces social media, but isn’t just about computing power and Internets and cables and stuff.

Sure, I knew this intellectually. Gosh Golly Goodness, I would mutter to myself, those young varmints are using The Twitter to talk about their schooling, as I rocked in a swing chair on my porch and spat tobacco. (*Note: Like so much I write, this may not be 100% true).

But it’s different now that I am doing it.


Posted by on May 29, 2012 in study


14 responses to “Feeling old

  1. Duncan

    May 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I believe I commenced undergraduate studies at the same time (and possibly the same institution of learning) and I got a student email address that had a username of only 3 letters!
    But I was hanging out with wannabe Computer Scientists and Electrical Engineers.

    • Melissa

      May 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      I eventually – in 4th year – got an email address that I chose, on an old server that was turned over to a group of students to run. But yeah – in the Arts faculty, you had to justify why you would need an email address. Which was difficult because no-one ever used them, so “communicate with the faculty” was not an option.

  2. Mike Siggins (@msiggins)

    May 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    We are but numbers on email here. MS586!

    • Melissa

      May 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Clearly my institution is a progressive one. Or one that trusts its students only far enough to assume they can spell their own names.

  3. Richard Dewsbery

    May 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    When meeting with them informally, don’t start chatting to other students about TV programmes you remember from your childhood. The blank looks (or these days, the online “WTF” responses to a forum post), will make you feel even older.

    • Melissa

      May 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Unless said programs are I dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, M*A*S*H and Gilligan’s Island. I think they have been showing continuously (or close to it) on Australian TV for something like 30 years!
      But yeah – I suspect many classmates will not share my glee that “getting something from reserve in the library” involves a click and maybe a login – rather than the queues, and the checking to see whether anyone else had one of the two or three photocopies – and library opening hours! And OMG no iPods! 🙂
      I really am that cantankerous old woman I threatened to become! When I were a lass …

  4. yewenyi

    May 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Kirsten won on the time zone bit, the uni is in Perth so midnight in summer means 3AM, an extra three hours to complete the assignment.

    I remember our assignments used to be due at the end of a lecture. So one lecture we all barrelled out of the back of the lecture and down the fire stairs to get to the post box (a modified locker) to put in our (hand written) assignments before the lecturer took the much slower and longer route using the very slow lift.

    • Melissa

      May 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Ditto on Perth – it’s 2 hours at the moment but that is still the difference between being at work and at home.

      LOL at the assignments submissions. Did you assign one person to distract the lecturer, just in case?

  5. yewenyi

    May 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Actually, not I think of it, as I ran down the stairs I hurt my ankle. Adrenalin kept me going until I got back to the lecture theater and then I fainted. Everyone thought I had died. But luckily I came around before they sent me to the morgue.

    • Melissa

      May 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      OMG! I can just see it: “At least he got his assignment in before he died”

      Sorry to mock your pain. I’m assuming your ankle has since recovered 🙂

      • yewenyi

        May 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm

        Actually my ankle was not badly hurt in the end. It was that I feinted, which I do not normally do. In fact I cannot remember doing it any other time.

  6. Jonathan O'Donnell

    May 31, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    But I am a wee bit anxious about the 1500 word essay requirement.

    I don’t see why, given that this post is just shy of 900 words. Just write your assignments as two long posts (with added comment goodness from your personal learning network).

    Gosh Golly Goodness, I would mutter to myself, those young varmints are using The Twitter to talk about their schooling…

    Just before you get too excited about making wild generalisations about Twitter, have a read of this post by Rellypops:

    Observations of young adults: Welcome to the Twitterverse, Narelle Lemon, Chat with Rellypops, 27 March 2012.

    Of the 149 students I’m introducing Twitter to for professional engagement 9 had a Twitter account…

    • Melissa

      May 31, 2012 at 10:40 pm

      Oh I agree, not much Twitter amongst the students (I think maybe 25% of the group have identified themself as having a Twitter account. I would easily be one of the noisiest, and at least one has said she doesn’t really use it).

      This matches some (work) research I have been doing with (tertiary) International students: all bar maybe 2 have Facebook (of 20+ that I did 1:1 usability testing with and 60 or more who attended focus groups) but very few have Twitter and even fewer say that they use it. My observations of the Bigster and her friends suggest the same.

      But the staff have and use Twitter, and have a hashtag for each subject.

      Meanwhile, the student-created Facebook group is getting reasonably regular use by just under half of the students.

      It’s worth noting that I am currently doing an undergraduate class so the student group may be younger (?) and less engaged with these media professionally. I wonder whether the takeup will be different when I transfer to postgrad classes – my suspicion is that middle-aged farts working in this area already may be more likely to use Twitter (and, possibly, more likely to be anxious about privacy – another gross generalisation).

    • Melissa

      May 31, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      Re the essay – I know! I’m writing a 5,000 word report tonight. And probably something for my blog. And I drew an awesome diagram about cheese this afternoon. Oh, and finished another report.

      It’s simply the word “essay” and all that that implies – including the rigor of complying to a (possibly as-yet unfamiliar) footnoting and reference style – the minutiae and petty bureaucracies of academia. There’s a different type of rigor than for the work I usually do, which is based strongly on what users say and do (as opposed to on what other experts say and do).

      The YouTube assignment will be far more challenging to me personally.


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