Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Last week, I toodled on down to Montrose for a couple of days, to teach workshops to new online faculty at that campus. Friday morning, I toodle back to my office and find a note taped to my door.

"Blogget: Meet with (insert student name and phone number) ASAP on Friday before noon. He's taking online classes starting Tuesday. Needs help and instructions."


The first thing that gets me is that this isn't what I do. I develop online instruction and teach the faculty how to teach online. I don't do student orientations. The computer lab people do that. If the student has a disability, then the Ed Access department does that. I also built an online student tutorial that's very thorough, for just this purpose.

Second, this just puts me in a bad spot to explain this and have to bounce people to the right person to help them. If others would just figure out what the right process is in the first place, I wouldn't look like I'm being difficult.

So, I sat and stewed about this for about 30 minutes. I get to work early, but no one I can call about this is there untile 8:00 AM.

The receptionist in my office suite saved me the trouble.

"Did you get my note?" she asked, when she came in to work.

"Yes," I said, trying to not sound peeved. "What's the story? Because student orientations aren't handled by me."

"I know," she said. Her expression told me something weird was going on. "This guy showed up yesterday with his mother, looking for you. Someone gave them your name specifically as the person to show him his online classes, one-on-one, and walk him through everything."

I just gaped. If I did that for every student who signed up for an online class....well, we have about 2,000 of those. How would my day go? Besides, other people are trained to do that. I have to sweat the faculty, which is a handful, lemmetellya.

"Who did that?"

"I don't know," she continued. "But this was weird, Blogget. They were demanding to see you and just you, right then. I told them you were in Montrose. I told them other places to get help. I told them about the tutorial. It just flew by them, and they were getting mad that I didn't have the answer they wanted."

She went on to describe their demeanor. The mother did all the talking. She kept telling him to "listen to her," but neither was listening. He was getting belligerent, and Mom was in a frenzy of wanting to order people about, but mad that it wasn't working. And she was mad I wasn't in my chair, when she wanted me there.

I was glad for the heads-up. I checked my online course system to see what courses he was taking. Funny thing, I didn't show him in anything at all. I saw two old online courses, but nothing new. But if he's taken them before, why does he need instructions now?

I checked my voicemail and had three messages from the guy's mother. She called after leaving here. But she'd been told I was out of town. What was she hoping to do by calling repeatedly? And why can't this fella speak for himself?

My phone rang. Guess who?

Man, it was like talking to a megaphone. First thing in the morning, and she was already in a frenzy. I heard the whole thing all over again, but couldn't get a word in. I did learn that he's on the waiting list for all of these courses. The Student Services office is "getting him into the classes." Good luck to them.

Finally, she ended with something to the effect of, "...and he goes to work at noon, so you better work with him this morning."

I was able to explain (in my calmest voice) what I do and how I fit on campus. I explained the other services available. I started to explain the tutorial, but she said:

"He's not a visual person, so that won't work."

Ok. WOW. Then why is he taking online courses? Yikes.

She didn't want to hear anything other than, "bring him to my office and I'll show him every click to make."

"Here's the problem," I explained. "I don't know how each of his courses will run. The instructor has total control over what tools they use and how they structure the course. I think the better option would be for me to contact these instructors and ask them to contact him, once he appears in their roster. They can explain what's expected and required in their class, so he has a better idea of it how it'll all run."

She agreed with that. We're a smaller college, so instructors don't mind making this kind of contact with a student. And it got this woman off the phone.

Oh! And why was she calling me and not her son? He was still asleep.

Something was so weird about the situation. I could feel it.

Oh, and I found out the VP of Student Services gave them my name and sent them to see me. Nice. He should know better.

I emailed the instructors, explained the situation, and asked them to contact him. I did manage to get the son's phone number from the mother, so that would help. Maybe.

On a hunch, I called the Ed Access people, to see if there was more scoop on what's happening with this fella. A disability or some such? If so and he was registered with them, they could help a lot. I had to leave a voicemail.

In the meantime, one of the instructors replied to my email. He said: "I've had two years of trouble with this guy. I told the Student Services VP that I'm very, very hesitant to work with this guy again."

Oh. Yikes.

Ed Access called me back. "Yeah, we know who this is. Remember that email we got last term that said something like, 'If you see this person on campus, call the police. Don't approach him. Call the police.'? It's that guy. They are readmitting him to the college, but only if he takes all online classes."

Can you hear that thud-thud-thud? It's my heart. The VP recommended an obviously dangerous person come to my private office, isolated at the end of the hall behind the noisy server room, to meet with me one-on-one.

Blogget is soooo not happy. Neither is Ranger. He's a little protective, you see.

I talked to my boss, too. He wasn't happy, either. Actually, he found it really disturbing.

I checked the online tutorial. The guy is working through it. He posted a discussion message, saying he picked online courses because the college required it. And because he wanted more time to play with his cat.

Oh boy.

Classes started yesterday. I get a call from Student Services. They asked if this guy's courses require him to sign in at 1:30 each day. He said he can't because he works. We checked it out. None of our courses require that. He made it up. Trouble brewing already.

It's going to be a long semester.


Walker said...

Fun fun fun
Its why I don't work.
Ok its not why but let me remember one of the reasons i don't work

Angella Lister said...

okay, you get the crazy workplace of the day trump card. next week, it might be my turn!

glad you weren't there when they showed up the day before!

Poindexter said...

uh, creepy!

Blogget Jones said...

I agree with you all! This is why I'd rather telecommute. I work with online classes and online faculty. Why not??

My boss doesn't see it that way. Hmphf.

I'm really put out that the VP sent that guy to this office. Our receptionist could have been alone with this one, too. Gives me the whillies.


Lady in red said...

it sounds as though this guy's mother could well be part of the problem.

Its lucky that you didn't meet him one to one


Blogget Jones said...

Lady, you are so right. Whatever his issue is, she's part of it, either by nature or nurture!

Soooo glad I wasn't in the office that day!