Making It Easier

Going on the Web does not make it easier. If fact, in most cases it makes it harder. There is more to do, more to worry about, and it is not natural. Farming and herding are natural. Clicking on teeny buttons and dragging elevators up and down scroll bars are unnatural. It's just harder in both obvious and non-obvious ways. Here are a few ways of making things easier and accommodating the computer for us humans:

Formatting and Font Size
It is harder to read on the screen than it is on paper and more uncomfortable. You can make reading easier by increasing the font size in the browser. This will usually work since most of the text that you will have to read is re-sizable. Go to the preferences in the browser or to some setting for font size and increase it to about 18 or 20.

You may also make things easier by moving around and re-sizing the browser window. The basic thing is just as you will settle in to reading in a comfy chair and adjust the light, make yourself comfortable using the computer and the browser. Set up things the way you like it.

Print It to Read It
But no matter what you do short of buying a $5,000 high resolution monitor, it is about 10-30% worse reading on the screen. It is slower; it is easier to miss mistakes; it is harder to edit; it is harder to comprehend. The reason is that the eye has more work to do resolving the lines of the letters and recognizing characters with jagged pixels (75 dots per square inch). The higher the resolution like paper (300-600 dpi) the easier it is to read.

Copying and Pasting
Generally speaking if it is digital, it is copyable. Copying is faster, easier, and less error prone than retyping or rewriting. So if at all possible, copy and paste stuff. Copy notes from the on-line lectures. Copy notes from the on-line readings. Copy and paste blocks and quotes into email, written assignments, etc. By the way, your instructor does it. Do you think that he or she types all of those comments and corrections on your written answers? No, they are copied and pasted in from a stock set of comments. Check the comments that other students get on their work. This gets to the next technique for making life easier.

Re-use is a fundamental principle of efficiency in life. Generate it once and re-use it forever. We all have stock responses that we use over and over. In conversation we have stock phrases: "Have a nice day," "Fine, how are you." In interpersonal relationships we pull out old parent-child models to deal with new instructor-student or employer-employee relationships. We re-use jokes, etc. And re-use becomes even more efficient with computers: copy and paste, email attachments, stationary, templates, personal data bases.

Make Short Cuts
We unknowingly waste a lot of time doing repetitive things, laundry, cooking, calling people, etc. Some people are more efficient because they use speed dial; they cook in bulk for meals lasting a month; and they iron while talking on the telephone. In Webbie courses look for short cuts and for double tasking. Use control keys and key combos to do things faster; program repetitive tasks if possible; and don't sit there with a blank look on your face while a page is loading in your browser. Start a load of laundry; fix a pot of coffee; or play solitaire in another window. Since it takes an effort and a significant amount of time to log in to your course, plan on spending a block of time there, at least an hour and a half. Do several things while in: read an assignment, review lecture notes, get into a discussion, do an assignment, send an email, ...

One of the most useful short cuts is the bookmark in your browser. Once you spend five minutes getting to some useful page on the Web and you know you are going to want to get to it again, click "Add Bookmark" to store it in a list. Then when you want to visit that page again, click on the bookmark and there you are. If you create a lot of bookmarks, you organize them into groups, or you again spend five minutes looking through your bookmark to find the page.

But beware of book marking some pages. Some pages in Web courses are "generated on the fly" or require that you enter through the proper gateway before visiting the page. If you go to the page with a bookmark you might get different results or it might lead to an error. Generally speaking for Web courses you should only bookmark the login page.

Learn how to be efficient in the electronic environment now and you will be successful in the future. Remember, most of what you learn in school is about how to do school and how to work the system. It's not all about math, biology, and sociology. A lot of it is about the new "ology" on the block. You got it, technology!

Copyright 2000, Web Manual Group