Thursday, June 30, 2011

Midway through an 8 week course: Overcoming Obstacles

It is the fourth week of my 8-week course, and it definitely feels like the halfway point. Because the reading and assignments are usually due twice each week, the class has the ‘feel’ of a traditional class that meets two times a week. There is a natural rhythm that I am starting to get used to. Next week will be the midterm, and I am ready for it. The workload is definitely similar to what I would expect if I were taking two full semester classes at the same time, but it is refreshing to not have to split my attention between two classes. Instead, I can focus on just this class.

Unfortunately, to make matters more stressful, my car just broke down. Because of this, I need to find a reliable way to get to work and create an emergency plan for taking my mid-term next week. I've identified three potential options that might help with the exam. First, I could look into arranging for a proctor closer to home. Second, I could look into using Proctor U to take the exam at home. Finally, I could find an alternate way to get to the NOVA testing center I usually use.

Looking over the first option, arranging for a proctor, I quickly conclude that I am not eligible. I don’t live outside the NOVA area and I don’t have a disability that makes it difficult for me to get around. But, even if I was eligible, I see that it can take up to ten days to process the proctor paperwork; my test is due in fewer than ten days, so this option is not ideal for an emergency situation that occurs with short notice.

ProctorU just requires that you set an appointment at least a day in advance, so it is much more convenient in a situation where time is short. My blackboard course site says the exams for my course can be taken through ProctorU. At $7.50 per test, this option is less expensive than paying the cost of public transportation to and from the NOVA testing center. Finally, my computer meets the specifications required, and I have a web camera and microphone already –If I want to go that route, all I have to do is make the appointment.

The last option to look at is finding alternate ways of getting to one of NOVA’s testing centers. While doing this same kind of search for ways to commute to work, I came across the Metro Trip Planner tool on the DC Metro’s website. This is a really useful website that includes bus routes from Fairfax County, D.C., and Maryland, the Metro Rail system, and the Virginia Railway Express (train) system. There is also an app I can download on my iPhone that will tell me when the next bus will come to my current bus stop.

I was able to find a bus route near my work that can get me to the closest campus by 5:50, which will allow me to arrive at the testing center by 6:00 p.m. Since this would be the latest time I could arrive at a testing center and be allowed to start an ELI exam, it would work, but I might feel rushed. I am deliberately not looking for weekend routes to take the test this Saturday, because I know the testing centers will be closed for the 4th of July this weekend.

I’m not sure yet which of these final two methods I’ll use, but if you are interested, I’ll be happy to let you know next week! In the mean time, have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend.

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