All posts by Tommy Titan

Finding the Student or Faculty menu in MyIWU

The MyIWU portal recently underwent some changes. The old site had tabs dedicated to student and faculty materials. The new site is greatly simplified but contains the same content, just in a different place.

For example, you might have gone to the Student Tab to find a link for an unofficial transcript within the old MyIWU portal. Today, you’ll choose the “Banner Self Service” option from the green navigation bar.

BSS link in MyIWU

You’ll find items listed that are relative to your role at Illinois Wesleyan. Some people might see a Student Menu, while others will see the Faculty Menu. A few members of the campus community might see both.

BSS menu

From there, choose the relevant sub-menu. Again, these options will depend on your role on campus. In the case of my transcript example above, you’d pick Student Records.

Student menu

Finally, you would click the Academic Transcript link:

Student records menu

MyIWU course pages can move to Moodle!

As you may have heard, the MyIWU portal will be changing this summer.  Some teachers have been using the built-in course pages in MyIWU, but those won’t be available after June 13. We are recommending a move to the Moodle course management system for course materials and communications with students. Here is a brief video overview explaining what the heck a Moodle course actually is:

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about Moodle, or if you have questions about how IT Services can help you move your course materials over to the new system.

Gmail at IWU: Last account activity

Our campus has been feeling some anxiety about password hacks and phishing attempts lately. Of course we want you to have a strong, unique password. And you should always log out of accounts when you are done working. But what should you do if you suspect your account has been compromised?

If you notice unusual email messages in your inbox or especially in your sent messages it could mean that your username and password are being used by the bad guys to send out malicious messages. I recommend using the “Last account activity” feature in Gmail to test out your suspicions:

Gmail inbox - last account activity
Click on the “Details” link to learn more about when your account is being accessed, and from where!

The details window will show you a list of recent account access. If you’ve left other browsers/apps logged in you can click a button to sign them all out. In the list below I can identify all of the activity as either my computer or my iPhone:

Gmail activity
Click the “Sign out all other web sessions” button to close out open Gmail windows on other computers. This is a great option if you’ve left a classroom computer logged in but don’t realize until later!

Of course, if you see unusual activity in this list you should change your campus password right away:

Backing Up Moodle Course Materials

Last week we posted a note describing how to export grade book data from Moodle to Excel. Today I’m going a slightly different direction – backing up any or all of the resources and activities in your Moodle course. The backup file you’ll wind up with can be restored into another course on any Moodle server. Please note that the Teacher role doesn’t have enough access to include student data in your backup file. Click on an image if you’d like to view it a bit larger:

Moodle course backup step 1
Find the “Backup” link under Course Administration.
Moodle course backup step 2
Click “Next”.
Moodle course backup step 3
Select any or all of the resources and activities in your course, then click “Next”.
Moodle course backup step 4
Click “Perform Backup”.
Moodle course backup step 5
Click “Continue”.
Moodle course backup step 6
Click “Download” to save a copy of your backup file to your computer’s hard drive.


Backing up Moodle grades

What would happen if our campus internet connection went down for a few days? Or if the Moodle server crashed? One of the scariest consequences would be the loss of student grade data. Thankfully it is very easy to export a Moodle grade book, turning it into an Excel spreadsheet. Click on an image if you’d like to view it a bit larger:

Moodle grade export step 1
From the Grader Report (the standard view for Teachers), choose the Export tab.
Moodle grade export step 2
Click the link to choose “Excel Spreadsheet”, then click Submit.
Moodle grade export step 3
Finally, click the Download button. Now you’ve got a copy of grade data that can be saved or printed!



Are We Training Our Students to be Robots?

I recently came across this excellent article by danah boyd which highlights the tensions surrounding technology in education:

From crayons to compasses, we’ve learned to incorporate all sorts of different tools into our lives and educational practices. Why, then, do computing and networked devices consistently stump us? Why do we imagine technology to be our educational savior, but also the demon undermining learning through distraction? Why are we so unable to see it as a tool whose value is most notably discovered situated in its context?

You can find more of danah’s work on her personal website.

Expanding and Contracting in Moodle’s grader report

Most teachers who use Moodle course pages are familiar with the grader report. It is the default view for teachers who click “Grades” in the administration block. There is one thing that can be a confusing, though – the expand/contract icons are a bit weird. If you see a minus sign (-) the category is expanded fully. You can see the details as well as the totals column. If you see a plus sign (+) you’ll see just the totals, with individual details hidden. Then there is a third toggle  similar to greater/less than symbols (<>). This one shows you the individual detail but hides the totals for that particular category. I’ve illustrated all three options below:



I’m not really sure why Moodle felt the need to use an expand/contract interface that adds a third toggle. It might be useful but when there is already a well understood convention that uses + and – users are going to be confused.

new leaf

So I’m trying something new. I’m archiving all mail that isn’t starred. INBOX ZERO here I come!

One silly tech note. In Gmail you can use the selector box to select “All”. But it defaults to all currently displayed messages. A tiny yellow bar comes up with an option to select ALL your conversations. However I discovered this yellow prompt does not come up if you have opted to use Priority Inbox! I had to switch to Classic Inbox temporarily to get these archived in bulk.

So yeah, I’ll let you know how it goes.

[Edit: The Inbox Zero gambit has proven to be impractical. I still periodically archive everything, maybe monthly, but on a day-to-day basis I have failed in my efforts.]