Caught between a rock and a hard drive

Well, it's been five days now since the university network crashed and burned and we have all been left e-mail-less (is that a word? It is now...) This means that in effect I have been cut off from all those around the world I usually communicate to using this illustrious technology.

Some of my colleagues are cock-a-hoop that they have been 'set free', even temporarily, liberated from the shackles of the monster we all know as 'e-mail'. "Hooray!" I hear them shout - "no more spam!" Personally, I'm a little uneasy about it. Not the spam - sending unwanted bulk e-mails should be punishable by a whole day of listening to Barry Manilow. No, I'm more worried about the backlog. How many e-mails are stacking up unanswered? Will my students and colleagues think I am deliberately ignoring them? What if there is something important waiting for my response?

I got to thinking - we are all so very dependent on e-mail as our prime communication method now, that when we are deprived of it for any reason, holiday, sickness, hands tied behind our backs due to a bank robbery, temporary blindness due to a surfeit of falling down water over the festive season.... we are actually disabled in some way.

For students relying on e-mail and other electronic delivery of content and communication, it is exactly like that - it is as if they are struck suddenly blind and deaf. It is most disconcerting if this is the only way they can access their learning.

Bring back our books! shout the techno-luddites. (Books have never left us, guys, so stop the moaning). Students have a right to complain when networks fall over and e-mail fails. For our e-learners, perhaps we now need to explore a multitude of alternative delivery methods. The belt and braces approach that blended learning can accommodate.

We have the technology - we now need the techniques.

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