As you might have inferred by glancing at my headline, I will be taking a break from politics this week to address a very important issue within the University of Connecticut community.
Anyone except the freshest of freshmen knows that UConn uses a learning management system (LMS) called HuskyCT to manage both the instructions for, and the submission of, class assignments. An offshoot of a larger LMS called Blackboard, HuskyCT’s role has grown substantially since the onset of mass virtual instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Compared to other LMSs I have used, HuskyCT is fairly easy to navigate. But there remains one massive inconsistency that keeps me from loving it completely: Most courses remain locked or inaccessible on HuskyCT until the first day of a new semester.
Transitioning into a new semester is quite a task in and of itself. It should be a joyous time to turn over a new leaf and start off right, but having no access to syllabi, textbooks, or tedious introduction assignments only causes a massive headache for students.
The most frustrating thing about HuskyCT’s inaccessibility is that there is no good reason for it. I understand that the university does not want students to scramble into what I like to call “sylly switching” — glancing over the syllabus of a course, becoming panicked by its difficulty, then swapping it for a less stressful course. I do acknowledge the obvious enrollment issues that could arise from giving students too much of a head start on viewing their courses.
But opening HuskyCT earlier by even a day or two would have undeniable benefits for students and professors alike. Most importantly, it would eliminate students’ need to spend hours sorting through during basic course information when they have actual classes to attend. Because of all the Zoom lectures I had last week, it took me well into this week to feel as though I had everything situated moving forward.
Textbooks are yet another issue. Most students wait on buying textbooks until they see the specified readings on an individual syllabus as opposed to relying on the materials posted by the UConn Bookstore. This is not only because they want to avoid making an unnecessary purchase, but also because some students struggle to come up with enough cash to buy textbooks in the first place.
When these students buy textbooks early and later find out they were not required, they lose valuable spending money. And if they wait to receive the syllabus before scrambling for books, shipped textbooks can take an entire week or two to arrive. Giving all students early access to information about their courses is important, but it is especially helpful for those with financial difficulties.
Lastly, I cannot imagine that professors appreciate these struggles either. I have had a few great professors who went out of their way to open HuskyCT classrooms before Day One, but this responsibility should ultimately not lie with them. 1000-level professors are notoriously mocked for replying to simple logistical questions with something along the lines of, “I don’t know. Check your syllabus!” To them I say, “We’re trying. Join us in this fight!”
Making coursework accessible on HuskyCT is a simple, yet long overdue tweak that must come from the highest levels of UConn’s administration. If they are serious about improving students’ experience and the quality of education, they should act before I am frustrated by this same issue again in August.