Carson’s Commentary: Freshmen, don’t blame your professors for HuskyCT struggles

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Hello, freshmen. I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Carson Swick and I am a fifth-semester UConn student studying journalism and political science. Since August 2020, I’ve been the author of “Carson’s Commentary,” which gives me a nice platform to cover mainly politics, but occasionally finance and on-campus happenings as well.

Back in January, I covered one such on-campus happening, dealing with a certain website that UConn upperclassmen have grown to know and love. This certain website is now represented by an orange-and-green icon in my Google Chrome bookmarks bar, because apparently I’ve unknowingly transferred to the University of Miami Hurricanes since I last updated my computer.

Of course, this website is HuskyCT, the learning management system (LMS) that UConn uses to handle professor-student communication and the submission of most class assignments.

As most of you incoming freshmen likely spent your final year-and-some of high school learning virtually, using an LMS is probably more familiar to you than when I enrolled in (pre-pandemic) 2019. Sure enough, entire classes were conducted via HuskyCT during the last academic year, elevating the LMS’ importance to previously unseen levels.

The merits of this less traditional learning method can be debated another day. But the fact remains that HuskyCT will remain a vital part of all UConn students’ experience this fall. 

“Okay,” you professional high school Zoomers may be wondering, “so what’s the big deal?”

My last article on HuskyCT was critical of its most glaring flaw: the fact that courses do not become accessible until the first day of classes listed on UConn’s academic calendar. (This semester, that day is Monday, Aug. 30.) As I write this piece two weeks before that date, I am able to visit HuskyCT and see the list of courses I’ve enrolled in.

“But contrary to popular belief, a group of professors conspiring to confuse the poor students not old enough to drink is not to blame for this issue.”

But when I try to click on any of said courses, I am met with the dreaded message, “You can’t access the course right now. Your instructor will allow access when the course is ready. Please try again later.”

In plain English: “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”

All jokes aside, the fact that I am unable to view any of my syllabi — which each contain a list of required textbooks and scores of important dates — is maddening. But contrary to popular belief, a group of professors conspiring to confuse the poor students not old enough to drink is not to blame for this issue.

There are plenty of professors like UConn Journalism’s Christine Woodside, who kindly reached out to me after my first HuskyCT column was published earlier this year.

“As a journalism professor, I do my best to post the syllabus and a video announcement early,” Woodside wrote to me in a Feb. 1 email. “There’s no reason this can’t become the norm for all UConn courses.”

I have not taken a course with Woodside, but plenty of my other instructors have gone out of their way to make course materials accessible ahead of time. This burden, though, should not fall on professors — especially those who teach freshmen during their first-ever semester. They are bound to take some time adjusting to college life, and their transition should be made as simple as possible in this uncertain world with the delta variant lingering in the air.

“In terms of the huskyct crisis, an end to both the early-semester scrambling and the scapegoating of professors is dependent upon action from this university.”

Two years ago, I thought I had come to UConn well-prepared by planning to check my classes and buy textbooks on Saturday morning of move-in weekend. Upon logging into HuskyCT, I was disappointed to realize that this would have to wait until Monday, when I would be more concerned with finding my lecture halls and getting to a good seat on time.

The ensuing organizational battle I fought with myself as the semester picked up lasted well into September, and my grades suffered a bit in the process. I say this not to scare my audience of incoming freshmen, but in the hope that you will share my grievances in a few short weeks.

In terms of the HuskyCT crisis, an end to both the early-semester scrambling and the scapegoating of professors is dependent upon action from this university. UConn should hold professors to the standard of uploading their syllabi and other information to HuskyCT by a certain date, and then promptly make everything accessible to the students exactly one week before classes begin.

Doing so would reduce back-to-school anxiety for everyone and quell the move-in weekend lines at the UConn Bookstore. But most of all, it would allow a smooth transition for freshmen who haven’t received a true education since our world went to hell 17 months ago.

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