Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Let's talk about eLogs

As you all know from Monica's message yesterday, we're having problems with eLogs. That'll be resolved soon and I'll let you know when you can get back on.

But we have a bigger issue here. As some of you know, eLogs was created in house years ago, and then significantly altered later by a second in-house person. It has developed many complexities, redundancies, errors, and problems over time, and since we lost our full-time database administrator (Kevin Salazar, who some of you knew), it has been ever harder to keep it going. We have been advertising for a replacement for Kevin but have been having little luck finding someone qualified to fill the position. At the same time, the question arises whether we want to use up a staff position for someone to keep an in-house product going if it may not even be the best tool for us to use.

So I'd like us to begin a conversation about eLogs and the possibility of eliminating it. (Please do not freak out on me, eLogs users!) I know that some of you use eLogs extensively, and many ELI staff do as well. So I need to hear from you about what specifically you use it FOR and how much you do each of those things. ELI staff will be giving me the same information. Once I have a full assessment of its uses, I can begin to effectively explore what software alternatives we could use to allow you to perform those same functions without all of us encountering all the problems and hassles we have with eLogs. Maybe that product doesn't exist, and the answer will be to stay with eLogs. But maybe we can accomplish our tasks with something better and eliminate a lot of headaches.

So please post a comment--what do you use eLogs for and how much? And if anyone has experiences at other colleges or in the private sector with software you think might be useful for these tasks, please post that as well!

13 comments:

mary gregory said...

I only use eLogs for keeping instructor notes on students.

Turtlerun said...

From Cindy Miller:

I used to use elogs to back up my grades. That became too cumbersome when it became necessary to click through several windows to enter each grade. Now I also only use them for instructor notes.

Jim Gale said...

I use elogs extensively.
I use them to keep track of every single grade for every assignment. I used them for instructor notes about student communications.
I use them to create mailing envelopes for returning exam grade reports.
I use them to see who has participated, submitted, qualified for "W"s and "I"'s.

I find they work very well.
I allow the student to acces the elog to view their progress.
I would greatly miss them.

Arnie Bradford said...

eLogs may have had its uses years ago, and still may for non-Blackboard courses. But I maintain my own paper gradebook for grades, and enter them in the Blackboard gradebook so that students can see them. I communicate with students in Blackboard or by email from Blackboard. I keep notes on students in my paper file folder. I check my students' registration status on PeopleSoft. eLogs is a level of redundancy I can't afford the time for, especially with its clumsy, unintegrated login process and less than seamless operation. Its unique function seems to be maintaining the attendance protocols now required by the state political process. I would be glad not to have eLogs around to worry about. It seems to be a once-useful program whose day is past.

Laura S. said...

My primary use of e-logs is to retrieve and PRINT contact information for my ELI students: addresses, phone numbers, student ID, gender and age info, etc. I find this information helpful and I use the printed page to make written notes about issues related to each specific student. I keep these pages in a notebook and, with the Blackboard grade book for the student on the other side of the page, this becomes my primary point of quick at-hand access to refresh my memory of student progress and issues and at hand info to contact the student should I need to. I'm not sure where else I could get this information on each student in the condensed format as found on the e-logs.

I also use the e-logs to note attendence status per ELI directives and to take a look at the student's past ELI history as a head's up as to what I might expect: are they experienced with many semesters of ELI courses under their belts or are they an ELI "newbie"? Have they a history of success in past ELI courses or numerous problems (lots of W's, F's, D's or DRPs)? Again, I don't know where else I might find information on a student's ELI history. For attendance tracking, it seems that this is something Blackboard can handle.

I also use the e-logs search feature for locating information on a student's ELI history based on entering their last name. This is especially helpful when dealing with a student from a past semester who I may not recall very well in terms of which semester/course/section they were in.

What I do NOT trust the e-logs for is current enrollment status. For that, I always go directly to the official class roster at PeopleSoft. For the same reason, I also use PeopleSoft or the Blackboard course site to grab multiple e-mail addresses when needed for mass mailing reminders. Because the e-logs include the names of withdrawn and dropped students, I have found the mass mailing feature from e-logs to be overkill. It is easier to be selective with who I want to contact by using the PeopleSoft roster (even though I have to change the commas to sem-colons and then copy and past the bcc list into my mail - rather than mailing directly from PeopleSoft - is that EVER going to be fixed!?!).

I VERY rarely use "instructor notes" - perhaps only to note when a student is repeating the course.

I no longer use e-logs to record grades as I use the Blackboard grade book for this.

I can appreciate the e-logs as being MOST valuable for courses that are NOT on Blackboard but I believe that the VCCS move is to have ALL courses in Blackboard so those who still use the e-logs should be encouraged to shift over to using similar features in Blackboard (grade book, tracking attendance, etc.)

What I would miss without the e-logs is access to student contact info and ELI history.

betty king said...

I use elogs extensively. This is where I keep all grades and notes on contact and experience with students. Students access elogs to view their grades. I agree with Cindy that the old elogs were better than the current version, but the current is better than none.

Without elogs I would be lost. My course has so many assignments, both graded and ungraded, that Blackboard is unsuitable for grade storage. It requires far too much scrolling from side to side, dates of submission are not in plain view (and I have requirements about dates), and has nowhere to keep notes.

elogs are invaluable. Please keep them.

Don Gregory said...

I use eLogs, as Mary does, primarily for keeping official records of notes on students. Unlike our original eLogs, the current version limits the length of "instructor notes." Usually this is not a problem, but sometimes there is need to keep an official record of rather lengthy correspondence regarding such issues as withdrawals for mitigating circumstances, requests for incompletes, etc. Any new version of the logs should make it possible to keep whatever correspondence might be needed for the official record. The college, as well as the individual faculty member, should have official records of these things, and right now the only "full" record of many of these transactions for my students is in my e-mail. If I should hop a freight out of town, where would we be when a problem arises?

One more thought: I recently bought a combination DVD/VCR recorder/player. Instead of the massive sets of cables, plugs, duct tape, whatever, that I formerly used to make my equipment work together, I can now press "dub," and the machine takes care of everything seamlessly. Wouldn't it be nice if eLogs, Blackboard, and PeopleSoft worked that way? Maybe their successor(s) will…

Anonymous said...

With all of the other tools now available I only use eLOGS to monitor the Sign In procedure.

Diane Thompson said...

I use elogs for writing extensive notes about student work, requests, problems, etc. These dated and signed notes constitute my record when a student presents a problem.
I use elogs to note the specifics of each student assignment so that I can tell what it is about, whether it has been redone, what sorts of problems it has, etc.
I use elogs for checking students' past ELI courses and performance, for transferring grades from one enrollment to the next, for the initial sign-in requirement and for student email addresses and other contact information.
At a distance, all I have of students after grading their work is the elog record, so that record is invaluable to me. Diane Thompson

Don Goral said...

I use the eLOG to keep track of all ELI grades. For my quizzes, I note the date each quiz is sent, when it is due, when it is submitted. I also give my students access to the eLOG.

It has improved somewhat over the years, but it has always been less than ideal. As others have noted, the space limitations make it difficult to save all relevant messages for students with lengthy correspondence. The time lag for updates from PeopleSoft make it unreliable in that respect.

I have never used the Blackboard gradebook, so I cannot compare the two tools for record keeping. From what I have heard about the Blackboard gradebook, it seems to have its own share of bugs.

Prior to the introduction of the eLOG, I composed an Access database. It was very convenient for daily use, but I had to waste a lot of time updating it from PeopleSoft, and I had to enter my enrollment data manually, entry by entry. Previously, there were so many bugs in Blackboard that I was happy to rely on my own database and my own website.

If the eLOG were eliminated, I would consider making my own Access database again. It would be nice if there were some efficient way to download class roster information into Access. I have not looked into this recently. When there is an eLOG problem, I become nervous about losing all my grades, and it is frustrating to be temporarily delayed in my work. I realize that this solution might not appeal to many others.

Mike F said...

As an adjunct with only one ELI class, I have found no real need to use elogs. Blackboard has enough features.

Nancy McTaggart said...

I think it would be very helpful to have logs outside of BB if they were reliable and easy to use. I used to use them all of the time until I found that they weren't being updated regularly.

I think its helpful to have archived records that we -- or ELI -- can more easily retrieve than we can the BB ones.

When we were using Bob's logs, they actually made it much easier to keep track of what students were doing: which sessions they were in, when theyd posted their last assignments, and notes, of course.

Laurie Albert said...

I use ELogs extensively. All of my grades are posted in ELogs. I don't use the BlackBoard grade book because it is not only cumbersome to use it is difficult to have the student submit and grade assignments from there. It requires too many clicks and scrolls to get the job done. With the high volume of students I have it would significantly increase my workload to use Blackboard.

I post all grades to the Elogs, student have access to view Elogs, I use the instructor notes to keep important correspondance and notes, the ELI Course Specialists use the notes section to let me know when exams have been mailed or any other important correspondance they have had with a student, I do the initial attendance check through the Elogs, I can easily check start dates, end dates, etc..., Elogs lets me know when a grade is due.

It would be a significant loss to me if we can't use ELogs anymore. It is the way I maintain all of my grades and student activity in all of my courses.