Friday, 19 October 2007

Back to school

Today was the first proper day of my MA course and although I am fired up with the possibilities of new learning, I was annoyed by some tiny but significant failures of planning and delivery of the learning. Some things, like losing the key to the binocular locker on the Titanic, can have unforseen consequences. I see there's a gulf between the academic and the real world (sorry; that's "applied practise" in academic jargon).

My first lecture in the campus's new theatre today was really just more orientation. The live walkthrough the library's website was abandoned because the network in the lecture theatre appears to be 2400 baud and the server is offsite. I couldn't hear a word of the lecture anyway over the sound of a grinder cutting pipes on the building site next door where they are finishing the lobby to the library (sorry, that's "Learning Resource Centre"). I have learned a bit about controlling sound from the practical experience of film sets. You can do a lot with a few old blankets. If the workmen had put some under the cutting bench and some over the connecting door, that should knock off 60 db or so. But someone thought a sheet of plywood over the door to the corridor would do the job. Fine; for demonstration of a resonator.

Today 45 of us were given the book list for the first module and told to read pages XXX to XXX by Friday. But the library only has one copy of each of the books in stock to begin with and someone had checked them out so no one could copy them.

The one extract we were given was copied on pink paper. It has low contrast, is impossible to read unless the lighting is 100% optimum and you cannot mark it with a highlighter. Half the text runs into the gutter so I'm missing 10% of the words. It's doing my head in to fill in the blanks.

I did manage to track down the student - on another course - who had checked out the books to ask to borrow them to make a copy. I knew the copy machine in the library takes swipe cards only. Said swipe card can only be charged up with pound coins, which I knew, and yet there is nowhere in the library to get these coins or charge with a card if you only have paper money. I gave the books back and bought them on Amazon as I won't be going back there till next week.

When you both work full-time and study part-time, your time becomes the most precious commodity. Anything that wastes time or energy is especially punishing. I just hope it gets easier from here.

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