Midnight Pub

Education during Covid

~pseudoriemann

The majority of lecturers are trying very hard to adjust to new forms of teaching and it is often as difficult for them as it is for the students. But some approaches are better than others, and in one subject I had to put in considerable effort just to get the material into a digestible format.

Some professors decided to hold the lectures digitally not via live video conferencing, or prerecorded videos, but by adding audio commentary to their Microsoft Powerpoint slides. Not only can I not open them on Linux because Libreoffice completely scrambles all the elements on each page (and I refuse to touch Microsofts cloud stuff), it seems that even if you use the actual Powerpoint software you can't make it so that the next slide shows automatically after an audio track has ended. So you need to wait in silence for a few seconds to make sure the professor finished speaking before manually going to the next slide.

Maybe I'm being unnecessarily picky here but I can't study like this. So what I did was write a script that extracts the audio tracks from the .ppt files, checks what slide they appear on and in which order by reading the XML (not all slides have audio, and some have multiple tracks) and stitches it together with images from the pdf files of the presentations we were thankfully also provided with (otherwise there would have been no way around Powerpoint for me) to create videos using ffmpeg. This project took a lot of trial and error and I would rather have used that time to study the material, but oh well. I shared the results with my fellow students of course, so even if it took much longer than I would have liked I call it a success if it saved time and energy for enough other people.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. Since that project is done I need other ways to procrastinate so I'm posting about it here.

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~eaterofsheep wrote:

Libreoffice completely scrambles all the elements on each page

Oh yes, I know your pain well! I was doing an online German test - it was under strict time conditions, only had 10 or 15 minutes. To my horror, I downloaded the file and well, Libreoffice scrambled everything. The text made references to pictures that had been accidentally covered up by text boxes, things were all a bit out of order, had to rearrange and reinterpret half of it on top of doing the test itself. There were lines I was supposed to write on, but writing on those lines caused everything else to shift out of place again. I don't think I did myself justice on the test, but I comfortably passed the module - all's well that ends well.

~edisondotme wrote (thread):

This reminds me of the convoluted stuff Jewish people do to avoid "working" on Shabbat. Except in this case instead of work, it's zealous dedication to FLOSS ha

~kyle wrote (thread):

Reading this post makes me very happy: it reminds me of my university times. The challenges were different, but the spirit is just the same: software freedom.

I could go on talking about what hacks we had to bypass in order to avoid undesirable software, but perhaps it would be boring.

What I will tell is that:

1. You're *not* wasting your time, as you're working for your freedom.

2. Even if freedom wasn't important, you're still not wasting your time: working around stupid limitations is what gives you experience, and there's always demand for it.

3. The battle is never over. I know a dude who wrote a whole bunch of scripts to convert microsoft-outlook-365-whatever-the-f*ck to text. And he did that during working hours, because it allows him to be more efficient.

With that I'm not saying that procrastination is good, but creativity and working around microsoft shit is the true mark of the hacker.

~fish-fingerer wrote (thread):

I sympathise. I'm a lecturer, and it's awful for us too. We increasingly don't get a choice how we upload our lectures. My university forces us to do it all via Teams. We aren't allowed to host our own sites and make our slides and notes available for all. It is incredibly short sighted and drives me mad; but we have been *told*.

Even when you do try and lecture... its just a wall of camera off webcams and you have no idea if you're even connected to the students or they're listening or if they've switched off. At least in the old days you could see if everyones eyes were on their laptops instead of the talk. Now it's just ... awful.

Share the tools you write! I've never met a lecturer who didn't enjoy circumventing stupid bureaucratic rules... and if we can help share tools with our students to help them get the material in a way that works for them that's a win for us. We think our subjects are cool... we want to share our love for them with you... anything that helps us do it is a win!

~nargran wrote (thread):

I feel you there. I had so many issues with Microshit Teams in GNU+Linux (in the browser of course, I wouldn't give superuser privileges to a M$ installer). Some professors were understanding, but most weren't at all and went with the "it works in my machine" logic. I ended up installing an ubuntu based distro with Chrome on an USB drive so I could use it without installing Chrome. A very sad and frustrating state of affairs.

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