Thursday, April 25, 2013

Useful Genetics is now a real course!

We went live yesterday, a week before our first lectures will be available.  Students are viewing the introductory videos, taking the surveys and self-test,a nd posting on the discussion forum.

Only a few minor bugs:
  • Some students couldn't download the Open Genetics textbook.  We thought this might be because the ualberta server was struggling (though there wouldn't have been that many students) so we put a copy on the Coursera server and the problem went away.
  • Students found an error that had snuck into the grading of one of the self-test questions.
  • Students report that the audio volume is too low on the introductory videos.  We can adjust this for future videos.
It's quite exciting to have real students at last, but I really need to get the next videos prepared and recorded, and the TA and I need to get more quizzes done.

The TA and I spent yesterday morning trying to make a little stop-motion animation of DNA replication, in honour of DNA Day (today).  We'd announced in our introductory email that we were going to do this, and I had the excellent iStopMotion program.  We only got 5 seconds of replication recorded (moving everything around was very fussy and time-consuming), and the animation was pretty rough, but it looked OK and we were going to frame it with cute title and 'The End' animations.  But the recording file that was saved didn't include the images we'd recorded! 

I spent a couple of hours searching for another version of it, sending emails to the TA, troubleshooting the problem by recording different clips and saving them to different places.  This revealed that all files that I saved to a folder in my Dropbox had this problem, but a file saved to another location was fine.  More time invested in composing an email to iStopMotion.  But they responded very promptly, sending me a file that they say will solve the problem.  Here's hoping - we could make a much better recording if we did have to redo the whole thing, but we really can't spare the time.

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