Now after four years, I’m really beginning to question the mentality behind some of McMaster’s technological upgrades that are supposedly benefiting students. New buildings that I’ll never personally get to use for course purposes are all well and good – thousands of students attend this institution, after all. No, the updates I question are the ones we all suffer equally from – though some suffer more equally than others.

WebCT, ELM, Avenue2Learn. Some of these may sound familiar. WebCT in particular may not to most current students; it’s just that old. Of the three systems, it was the most reliable and tended not to give the more technologically confounded professors a hard time. In other words, it worked the best (in the opinion of this fourth-year student) of the online classroom systems Mac has used in recent years.

Who cares, you ask? Well, I do, and I’m probably not the only one, given what students have said through social media. Without warning and without explanation, almost three years ago now, Mac dropped WebCT for the wonderfully buggy system that was known as ELM. I’m irked about the lack of explanation for no big reason – just that we the students are only paying for the damn system.

Of course, after a year of hell, they axed ELM in favour of our current wünderapp, Avenue2Learn. Hey, don’t get me wrong, it at least works compared to ELM, except for the odd time it overloads or confuses a professor. I’ll even admit A2L is quite straightforward and functions rather well. So here we are still with it after two years.

And finally McMaster announces updates for the bane of everyone’s existence, MUGSI. Certainly there was much rejoicing. And then there was the fine print. The upgrade? Purely aesthetic. No mention of upgrading the capacity or the functionality. It just looks prettier. It appears as though they didn’t even consider the lovely problems we all have in the summer, scrambling to enrol in our courses for the fall and for so many hours are met with a “max capacity, try again later” message.

My first thought after seeing the finished product was, “Well that just makes it blend in better with the rest of the school’s website.” No more bold gold and maroon with old block menus, resembling its functionality. Instead, MUGSI now hides its decrepit self behind a pleasing facade. The worst part is that in not upgrading the functionality, McMaster demonstrates its commitment to progression.

As we all know, the student email server was recently handed over to Google’s Gmail. According to an email in an old undeletable folder back in MUSS, that server was created back in 2000, as per the date of the email. It only seems reasonable to assume that MUGSI is as old, if not older. Why? Well look at MUSS, now back to old MUGSI, then over to Gmail and back to the new MUGSI. See the similarities?

Maybe certain elements of McMaster’s leviathan of an administration needs to focus more on what works, rather than just what looks good. Of course, I’ve always been more of a pragmatist, so who am I to judge?

 

  •  Aaron Grierson

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