The new normal

I spent over a decade pouring my heart and soul in this site. I perfected the pages for my classes, constantly updated to new plugins, read up on WordPress changes, and generally spent lots and lots of time making the site as useable and pretty as possible. And then COVID.
UMW required that all courses be available on Canvas during the pandemic. I had held out from Canvas all this time, but honestly this was the right decision from the University. No student should be required to chase down assignments and content when the world is already so difficult.

At first when I started exploring Canvas I tried to find ways to use my site as well. I figured with all the work I put into it, and considering that it isn’t password-protected like Canvas, it was both the efficient and the more accessible thing to do.

But pretty soon it became clear that this wouldn’t work. First, it would require an enormous amount of unnecessary work for me. If there’s something the pandemic took away fast, it’s my motivation to do extra stuff that doesn’t pay off. Second, it wouldn’t actually help students at all if my class materials were spread on multiple sites. The right way to approach this would be to consolidate, simplify, and generally not try to reinvent the wheel.

Truth is, my issues with Canvas just didn’t stand up to the ‘Rona. Much as I still don’t love Canvas, it doesn’t make sense to use my website as my course hub. With my Anti-Canvas stance, I avoided thinking of the useful tools that Canvas offered. Speedgrader and the gradebook are both more convenient for students and for me. Giving exams online rather than in person means I don’t have to waste and then subsequently organize and store mounds of paper. And it means students can take the exam at 2 am in their PJs if that’s how they’re most productive.

Image of a high tech bed with extra built in features such as speakers, drawers, couch, etc.
I think this “bed” is an abomination. But if this would help you work better, I won’t judge. Much.

I am dearly hoping that we will go back to in-person teaching next fall. If I never have to deal with Zoom again, it will be too soon. But the rest of the material? The syllabus and system to had assignments in, the exams and the reference docs, it’s actually more practical on Canvas. There, I admitted it. It allows students to better keep track of what they need to do. Even though it is fugly and the interface is clunky at best. (<- that critique holds. I’m not walking that one back until I have a good reason to.)


So all this to say I probably won’t be coming back regularly to update this site anymore. I will still blog once in a while, mostly because I find it helpful to write down my musings. I will still update my syllabi once in a while too: I know people stumble on this site from all around the world, and the web analytics indicate the course stuff is useful for non UMW students and alums.

The pandemic has changed much more important things than my little website, but to me at least it will be a major symbol of how profoundly things have shifted this past year. There is no going back to the old normal, only moving forward. Let’s hope the light at the end of the tunnel is better than what came before.

Image of a tunnel with light at the end of it.