I’m not referring here to the infamous ‘missing link’. The platform used by my university for online teaching is mostly text based with some pictures and photographs (and the occasional video) inserted. The problem is copyright, an issue being fought out in public, the courts, parliament (which medievalists will know is a court) and in government established commissions. In my own writing I have set myself the task of never using anyone else’s visual work unless they are very close friends or family. Even copying from Wikimedia or Wikipedia is dangerous because one can never be certain that those sites have cleared copyright.
This causes an ongoing problem because links go dead, and more and more often, the original site re-organizes and changes the URL for the particular page referenced. In one of my courses, the URL is spelled out, but in others it lives behind the scenes. You click a word such as ‘click’ and it takes you to the page. If it is broken I don’t know the original URL so I can check to see if the address has changed or if the site is entirely gone. The department that handles this work has cut back in the past year or two and no longer will fix things, except within a narrow window prior to the next course offering. They won’t allow me access to the HTML to fix things myself. One semester I was given access accidentally and did a whole lot of ‘fixin’. I was very careful only to replace or add in a bit of text or improve an awkward sentence, as I am not trained. With Webmonkey at my side, I was able to repair minor problems without waiting for the techies. In those days, they would do this during term, but no longer. And Webmonkey itself is gone – the URL takes you to Wired Magazine now.
So, what to do? What indeed? I am thinking I will create a special Prezi for broken and repaired links and post that in the announcements area of the course site, so students can find the good URL. Then I can use that list to send to the techies before the next time the course is offered. I already use Prezi to circumvent them for other items I wanted added immediately, but which were so large that the financial folks at the university would want me to jump through hoops of blazing cash to pay for the changes. I pay about $80 Canadian a year for an educational license for Prezi. I decided NUTS to the university bureaucrats and went around them.
My next problem is how to make the site ready for a deaf student. So far I’ve had no blind students, though there is text to speech software that most have for Windows machines and Macs have it built in. But how about sound to text software? That is for the next blog post.
Maybe one day AI will solve all this, but probably long after I am gone.