Headmaster's Report #12: Anniversary Edition
Hola mis amigos and welcome to my one year anniversary report! Yes, on May 8th, 2016 Sarin and Mav thought it’d be a good idea to turn the keys of the Shadow Academy over to me. I’m happy to report that a year in I haven’t managed to break it (too much and for too long). I’ve got some exciting new/revamped courses to announce and I want to give a rundown of what I set out to accomplish a year ago and what we’ve actually done, so let’s dive right in.
I’ve kept my new and amazing Praetor, Laren, pretty busy the last few days. I’m happy to report he’s settling into his position quite well and has coded up three new courses that will be live as soon as this report gets published:
Sith Order Core: This course has been revamped to make it align with nu canon, both in the SW canon and as best we can with current DB canon.
Advanced Warfare: This is a brand-new course that will take the place of the outdated courses for the Dark Sage: Warfare. It provides a nice overview of, as you can guess, warfare in the DB.
Runon Studies: This course has also been revamped by the VOICE and his staff to make it much more useful for those unfamiliar with runons. I’d strongly encourage everyone interested in ROs, whether they’ve taken the previous course or not, to look over it before the GJW this summer. Additionally, I’m excited that this is the first of what will end up being a total revamp of the Writing Department. Look for more courses along this vein over the next few months.
The roll out of course tags and prereqs seem to have gone fairly smoothly - or at least I haven’t heard much in the way of complaint about it. This is obviously still a work in progress, so Laren, James, and I will continue tweaking it as necessary. If you see any issues, feel free to report them using the error form or directly to Laren and I via TG or email. Our next step will take a bit of work before it can go live, but I’m really excited to begin it!
Bubba instituted a policy as Headmaster that his Magistrates were serve fixed six-month terms. I kept this policy because I wanted to see for myself its efficacy. After discussing it with Laren, we’ve felt that it’s not the best policy for us in the Shadow Academy and thus will be discontinuing it, effective immediately.
Mirus/Mateus has also asked to step down due to real life time constraints. I want to thank him for his second stint in the service of the SA. He’s a real bang-up guy and I’ve enjoyed the many times I’ve gotten to work with him.
To replace him, I’ve tapped someone that is no stranger to working in the SA: Bentre. He’s served quite ably as a Professor in the SA before, and I’m certain he’ll do an excellent job.
One Year Report Card
In my application for Headmaster over a year ago, I listed out a few things that I wanted to bring to the Shadow Academy. In the interests of transparency, I wanted to discuss how we’ve done on implementing those.
Implement “student choice” as much as possible into the SA - This is a currently in vogue educational theory that says students should have as much choice in how they learn as possible. This is still very much a work in progress for us but I think we’re doing a good job of moving away from rote regurgitation in some of our exams to more useful products where we can.
Different learning methods in the SA - One of the bedrocks of educational theory is that not all learners learn the same way. Some people are visual learners, some are oral learners, etc. The SA generally only has one method of instruction: text based. That has not changed in the year that I’ve been HM, but there is planning underway to make some new types of courses that will utilize other methods. Stay tuned on that one.
Revamp and reorganize the SA so that courses are more easily accessible - This is one we’ve made some strong progress on. It’s not done, but we’re about halfway there.
Make the exams less reliant on copy/pasting and put more emphasis on product or authentic learning - This is an area I feel, as previously mentioned, we’re doing a pretty good job of slowly implementing.
Make a more structured path using prerequisites - Done!
Work with the Consuls to make the SA a more inviting place for older members - I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the Consuls as HM, but this is an area I need to do more of.
Ask the HM!
I had a LOT of excellent questions for this month’s #AsktheHM, and here are some of them:
Levi Zetta asks: “Can we have more tactical exams” and elaborated “Like combat tactics, or stuff like the real nitty gritty of specific military powers since past?”
- I responded on TG that I liked this area, and then this kind of led into another question we’ll cover below.
Atra asks: “1) Say a member entered corrections into the handy dandy submission form y'all provide. Is this form still in use? When would they expect an implementation? Is it part of the ongoing review?
2) If a member had an idea for a course, what is the best means of presentation? Should they try their hand at a rough outline and provide it to you and your Praetor?
3) If I wanted to be your favourite, what bribes would you accept?”
I'll be honest and say I'm woefully behind on the submission form. It's still active (Ood just implemented some behind-the-scenes changes to update it) and I'm going to work on it this weekend though.
Rough outlines are best outlines. The more we can see of the idea fleshed out, the easier it is for us to implement it if we choose.
I'm a drunk, so…
Katcona asks: “ As a nooblet I have no idea what these things are, but have heard about these like, military strategy things peeps do during the GJW? I think it'd be useful to have a course on that, since it seems to confuse people.”
- Sorry Kat, didn't respond directly to you. I'm actually talking with some people right now about how to best implement that, but I think we can definitely include some information on Battle Plans (BPs) into the SA somewhere to help people.
Beef asks: “ There are always people who excel at the "solitary grind" of the SA, but don't necessarily transition... "well" to the change of being an active Clan member. Do you see any ways to adapt the SA to a smoother transition?”
- My favorite current SA courses are the ACC ones, because rather than require you to just regurgitate information they have you actually make a product similar to what you would in the "real" club. I'd like to see much more of that in the rest of the SA.
Beef followed up: “Would you maybe try implementing "team courses" or Telegram chat... (lacking a better term) "oral boards" for the SA?”
- That's something I'd be open to exploring if they fit with the course content, absolutely
Xantros asked: “How do you view practical usefulness of current leadership SA courses?”
- You did a bang-up job of creating those courses and they're full of useful information. With that said, I think this might be an area we can make some alterations to do as Beef suggested and make them much more indicative of what they'd actually be doing in the real club.
Qor Palpatine asked: “For the members who seem to struggle here and cannot find the confidence in themselves to better themselves, can you provide inspiring words for them?”
All of us started at the bottom and worked our way up the ladder. This place is a real family, you just have to find your niche. Never feel like you can't reach out to anyone - from your BTL to any DCer, including myself or even the GM - if you ever need anything. Most importantly: this is an online SW club. Have fun. :) Tra’an Reith asked a lightning round of questions: “What’s the most exciting thing coming to the Shadow Academy?” “What needs the most work in the Shadow Academy?” and “Where do you need the most help?”
My answers, in order: I'm excited for the full revamp of the design. We've begun implementing it in parts, and I'm hoping to have it done over the summer.; There are likely 100k words across all of our courses. We need help finding errors, typos, etc. :); My glass of milk is empty and my laundry isn’t done, so…
Qor Palpatine asked: “who is the top 5 most exam takers since you started your appointment?”
- Alright, so this includes retakes (people taking an exam to get higher scores), but:
- Ka Tarvitz, with 147 exams
- Magik, with 124 exams
- Ashael Blackstar, with 105 exams
- Kadrol Hauen, with 95 exams
- Levi Zetta, with 94 exams
Qor Palpatine also asked: “alot of these courses are committed to memory and begin to be useful at a later date, with the ACC exams out of the consideration. In your words, could you tell us the difference between exam knowledge and wisdom?”
- To me, knowledge is what you need to pass the test immediately. Wisdom is what you'll actually use after you've taken the exam in the greater DB
Shadow Academy Staff are currently engaged in the following projects:
SW History Department Rewrite - Laren: Because of the evil Darth Mickey, my beloved Galactic History courses aren't fully canon anymore. The courses are being pared down (almost in half) and will be added to the Legends Department. Lexic has put some solid work into completed this project but has asked to step down from it. Laren has stepped up and is working swiftly through this. Estimated completion: end of May
DJB History I & II Update/Rewrite - Alishu: Alishu has completed first drafts of both courses and they've been sent to the DC for approval. The DC has a lot on its plate right now, but I think we'll see some movement on this soon to get these courses released for all to enjoy. Estimated completion: TBD
Operation Remodel - SA Staff: In an effort to streamline the organization of the Shadow Academy and make it easier to initially get to information and then to find similar information, the SA will see a fairly extensive reorganization. The first phase of this is done, and the graphical elements will begin shortly. Estimated completion: end of 6/2017
Operation Prereq - SA Staff: In order to make a more focused new member experience, different options are going to be explored to create prerequisite courses before other courses open up to a member. Done!
Operation Remodel (Degrees) - SA Staff: The reorganization, as well as the addition/removal of various courses, has left some of our degrees a bit outdated. Working with the rest of the DC as applicable, we’re going to take a thorough look at these and make changes where necessary. Estimated completion: 5/2017
- There are a couple of things in the earliest planning stages, but aren’t quite ready for prime time. Stay tuned for more.
Top Exam Takers
|Name||# of Exams||# of ACs|
|Runner TuQ’uan Varick||58||22|
|Neophyte Erik Cato||50||42|
|Savant Alara Deathbane||40||88|
|Privateer Pollus Paratus||29||60|
|Battlemaster Shimura Keibatsu||28||65|
Note: these numbers cover the period from 4/11/17 to 5/14/17.
The Shadow Academy covers tens if not hundreds of thousands of words, and those words were written by imperfect humans (GASP!). We try our best to catch and fix any and all errors before we release courses, but we're not always successful. Because of that, we will always need your help. If you spot an error, please report it to the SA Staff using this simple form; if it's a major enough error, or you spot enough, you'll be rewarded. At the very least, you'll get the thanks of a grateful HM... that's gotta count for something, right?
In Darkness -
Headmaster of the Shadow Academy