eBiolabs goes live at 2 pm on Monday the 5th October 2009. That's when 80+ first year Biochemists, Physiologists, Chemists, Anatomists and the like arrive in the teaching labs for their first ever biochemistry practical. It’s also the first day of term. The First Years' will have spent the previous week - “Fresher’s Week” - on campus getting registered, handing over cheques, making friends, signing up for clubs and, if previous years are anything to go by, a fair few of them will be getting horribly, horribly drunk. As a friend of mine (who I think must have a military background) said, by the time they turn up for class at the beginning of Week One they don’t know if they need a shower, shave or to go visit the toilet and relieve their bowels. Amen.
The point of this is that we are expecting the poor dears to have spent time preparing for their first practical before they arrive. Which means they will have to do it sometime during an already crowded Fresher’s Week. We think we have this covered and have identified a timeslot that will allow us to introduce the eBiolabs system and get them started but it’s definitely a worry. Especially as we won’t find out who is on the course until fairly late in Fresher’s Week. Fortunately there might be a solution. Even prospective students get allocated a University ID and get sent an info pack sometime in August/Sept. This means we might be able to get them registered onto the eBiolabs system well in advance and get them interacting with the content even before Fresher’s Week. We could even use the system to deliver other types of information / let them ask questions / social networking stuff in advance of the start of the course. My experience of social networking is that students want it to be just that - social not professional - and that institutionally-imposed systems tend not to be authentic (oops - word du jour alert) and eBiolabs is not intended to be a distance-learning solution but in this case it might be a good way of bringing them together and forging some kind of community before they arrive.