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CitySpace Obituary: Peter Kogan

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Peter Kogan, Work-based Learning Advisor, School of Informatics

I’d never used a VLE before I joined City in 2004, so CitySpace was my first…VLE. I thought it was amazing in many ways, but mainly in that its accessibility and usability were infinitely superior to the SPIN (spreadsheet + Post-It Note) systems I had used in previous jobs. So my memories of CitySpace are formed mainly by a combination of the initial awe I had at its capabilities and its overall usefulness, more than the intermittent frustrations it offered. I got used to the Tuesday morning “”maintenance period” when the hamsters on the treadmill changed shifts. And the now-and-again-ish freezing of  screen and loss of data. None of us is perfect.

In my opinion, CitySpace has played an enormous role in the practices and experience of students and staff in the School of Informatics. We will be using it until the last moment for our placement students who are finishing this summer. We have successfully used the gradebook as a database for these students and their work-based learning, as well as for placement assignments. Much of the current IT talent out there owes a thank you to CitySpace. And the ability to share some fields with students while hiding others is a function that Moodle hasn’t yet quite offered us – I’m sure it will. So CitySpace, thanks for the memories and for helping us do our work better.

CitySpace Obituary: Einav Avni

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Einav Avni , Experience Architect and former City student.

Cityspace was going to be an amazing tool – one where you could find content and sources, leave comments and questions for tutors and peers, submit coursework and see marks. In reality, materials were not so easy to actually see / download and peers and tutors were hardly ever there. My biggest ever nightmare was submitting my work nearly 2 weeks early only to be told by the system I was 3 days late… Luckily Steve G was there to save the day (and tell my tutor I wasn’t late). Glad to see it go though –  it was already very dated in 2004!

CitySpace Obituary: Olivia Fox

Olivia Fox is a Learning Development Consultant in the LDC:

“Aaah CitySpace – so many memories! I started working in E-Learning Services as a Support Officer in 2005 and a large part of my role was in supporting staff and students through the CitySpace Helpdesk. I was kept busy trying to resolve staff and student queries, setting up staff accounts and creating new modules. On the Helpdesk I used to get so many panicked queries around browser configuration when students were submitting their assignments online.

 

I was also responsible for updating the Teaching and Learning Online module which was available for all staff to support the effective use of CitySpace. I was happily updating the module with lots of PowerPoints and handouts from the ELS Breakfast sessions when my line manager Anise noticed that I’d not been using the File Manager to organise my resources into folders and had created a long unmanageable list of resources. I got a stern talking to about the importance of using the file manager. I think there may even have been a raised voice. But this has stood me well as I have been able to easily export my content from CitySpace. I have used these wise words (without the raised voice) from Anise when introducing staff to the CitySpace file manager. So thanks Anise J”

 

CitySpace Obituary: Julie Attenborough

Julie Attenborough, Head of the Educational Development Unit, School of Community and Health Sciences

Though much maligned over the years I retain a strange fondness for CitySpace. A bit like a first encounter (clunky, unsatisfying)it gave us a taste of what might be possible if only…. The slowness of the system in the University’s far flung outposts, the wrath and frustration of students and colleagues and the number of clicks of the mouse necessary to do the simplest task enabled us to really think about what we were doing in a virtual world where ‘hide’ meant ‘show’ and vice versa. Prohibition of the use of the back and forward buttons is so ingrained that some of us have needed encouragement to embrace them again. In the words of our School’s Learning Consultant from LDC; “you’re never more than 15 clicks away with CitySpace”. Farewell and thanks for all the clicks….

CitySpace Obituary: Neal Sumner

Here are Neal’s CitySpace memories:

CitySpace obituary

9.59 on January 5th 2004 and the clocks are ticking loudly in the 4 Drysdale computer labs where 250 silent students are sitting expectantly at their terminals waiting for their Informatics examination to begin. As the second hand moves towards the vertical, hundreds of pairs of eyes are staring at the screens waiting for the multiple choice quiz to appear. Tick… Tick… Tick…. 10.00, sixty seconds drip by… 10.01 comes and goes

Invigilators and students are getting fidgety, where is the quiz????

All had been set up back in December when, with customary thoroughness, my friend and colleague Steve Gallagher (who returned to New Zealand for the Christmas holiday) had collated the questions, set up the quiz, tested the processes to destruction and had me sign in blood that I would be there to provide the technology support on the day and that nothing could possibly go wrong in this, the first high stakes assessment using CitySpace for the department of Computing.

10.03 and still the screens are blank. What can possibly be wrong? We had looked at every eventuality but why wasn’t the quiz appearing?? Many more minutes of this and we would have to abandon the exam and faith in the CitySpace system would evaporate with it. The tension was tangible.

Of course in the end the resolution was blindingly obvious but it took three minutes of brain racing synapse stretching panic to finally identify the problem and, with a few clicks all became clear and the students started their exam at 10.05.

It was that marvellous selective release tool we all loved so much in CitySpace…. it had been set up for the right time, the right day of the month but hey, what’s this? It was set to be released in 2003!

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CitySpace Obituary: Anise

Here are my CitySpace memories.

I joined the E Learning Unit in June 2003 alongside Gilly Reeder, Matt Eanor, Neal Sumner and Susannah Quinsee.  My interest in e-learning stemmed from my previous experience at City University as a student.

When we arrived we had no desks or computers.  Susannah had managed to get hold of some pens and paper.  I spent a lot of that summer using my computer in my bedroom at home learning how to use WebCT Vista (later named City Online Learning and then CitySpace) and sitting on a bench in the sunshine in Northampton Square getting to know my new colleagues and role.  Stressfully, the staff I first trained to use the system were those that had taught me a year or two previously.  (That’s me in the blue top training staff in August 2003).  We setup everything from scratch – the office, a helpdesk, inductions, training, module registration, enrolments, processes, relationships.

An ELU staff development session in a computer lab

Early on we overshot our modest targets and by January 2004 we had our first showcase of teaching and learning using WebCT Vista at City attended by VLE pioneers from across the institution.  In the early days, the system did seem to crash regularly and I remember visitations from distressed academics dealing with disruption and angry students.

VLE use seems standard now but it was relatively new then.  I remember asking students at induction if they had ever used a VLE and no-one putting their hands-up.  I also remember a member of staff asking me what the difference between Google and WebCT was.

During those early years I was knee deep in module registration forms and enrolment lists but they were positive, exciting times.  We knew all the system users personally and knew what was going on in their modules.  Some staff had used a VLE or their own websites but this system with institutional support meant that less techy academics could transform the learning experience for their students.  Yes, it seems clunky and ugly now but at the time it was cutting edge and provided a whole new world of functionality.

 

CitySpace Obituary

On 1st September 2011, CitySpace will be switched off after 8 years of service to the university. The E-Learning Unit (ELU) was established with five staff members in 2003 to support the implementation of this VLE. WebCT Vista had a stint under the title City Online Learning before becoming CitySpace.   To celebrate this occasion, the LDC are collecting memories from staff and students, current and past, to create a CitySpace obituary.  Share your memories at:  https://www.survey.bris.ac.uk/city/cityspaceobit/

Here are some of the first memories:

Student from School of Informatics:

First tool that I used when I started my MSc in 2009, and fairly intuitive to use, but rather clunky. Did find useful as I had not used anything similar to this since I graduated in 1991! Enjoyed the on line messaging especially when studying late.

Dr William Lyons, staff member from School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences:

As I say farewell to an old friend who provided equal measure of convience and fustration *wipes a tear from ones eye*, I find myself updating my lecture material!!!

Staff member from School of Arts:

cityspace – the betamax of VLEs

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