Introduction

In this lecture I will be talking about where we were and where we are going with WebCT and all the trials and tribulations along the way. I look forward to and welcome your questions and comments during our time together.

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History

Lewis & Clark received a Title III Grant to pilot an online learning environment for students. Since our classes are grant funded certain elements, calendar, weekly lecture notes, quizzes, etc., must be incorporated into each online and web-enhanced course offered by L&C. Online and web-enhanced classes have slightly different requirements. When I first started working with WebCT we were using version 2.2. We had started looking at upgrading WebCT as our version was slowly becoming less and less supported for updates and hot fixes. Primarily WebCT was patching problems that we discovered because there were much newer versions of WebCT in which problems we were experiencing had been resolved.

Over this past summer we upgraded to version 3.6. At the same time we also migrated to a new server. While an upgrade took a great deal of work, the migration also added a new dimension of problems and issues for us. I will discuss those issues in the “What I have learned” section.

When we started using WebCT in the first year of the grant, students and designers were allowed to add students to the global database. As we grew and began expanding we realized that this procedure actually started posing problems for us. For instance: we originally purchased a limited use license. Because students and faculty could add students to the global database, we found ourselves with duplicate accounts and over the limited use license. Again, I will expand on this issue in the “What I have learned” section.

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WebCT Tools

Let's begin by taking a look at the various WebCT tools.

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What I Have Learned

The following represent some lessons learned through the use of WebCT

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Take A Tour of WebCT Classes

You are Welcome to take a tour of two courses specially created for this course. These courses were created using the current, original course developed by our faculty. In order to protect our students, we have deleted actual student material. Both of these classes are offered as online classes. One is more graphically involved while the other is simple in design.

View Course as a designer:
You have the ability to access a course as a designer. You will need to access the course with the user ID and password below. Please note: Ids and passwords are case-sensitive and must be entered exactly as shown.

WebCT ID: 3Student20
Password: student20

Click on the link below to access the course.

View Course as a student:
Again, you have the ability to access a course as a student. You will need to access the course with the user ID and password below. Please note: Ids and passwords are case-sensitive and must be entered exactly as shown.

WebCT ID: 3Student20
Password: student20

Click on the link below to access the course.

Log Onto WebCT

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Advice to Others

“WebCT Commandments”

  1. Always do your “homework”. (Research as much as possible when doing anything with WebCT. Never assume that you have found all the information because there will surely be someone else that has a ;missing’ piece.)
  2. Always configure your browser correctly and use the “recommended” version. (Again, version 3.6 is far more browser and cache dependent. Configuring your browser can help to prevent problems within the course.)
  3. As a designer, always provide clear instructions to your students when creating assignments. (Remember that if you are teaching an online class, you don’t usually see your students. Communicating with them and clearly defining expectations and giving more detailed instructions about assignments will alleviate student confusion. Students who feel like they have their instructor’s “ear” tend to continue with the course.)
  4. Always remember when you or your students experience technical problems, that traditional classes have problems too, online class problems are just different. (Students and faculty can get discouraged when they can’t access the internet due to ISP problems or downtime with the server. Reassuring students that you understand this and make adjustments as necessary to due dates and such. I have found that reminding students that traditional classes have problems too often helps reduce student frustration as well.)
  5. Always check your email, discussion board and grade assignments. (If there is one thing I hear quite often from students is that they are having a problem and have “emailed their instructor but have not heard back from them.” As an instructor you are often pulled in many different directions, but it is vital to the success of your online students to communicate with them at least daily and respond to their needs. )
  6. Always backup your courses. (Our server is backed up nightly as part of the campus back up. Back ups are maintained on a weekly basis and rotated. In this way we can ensure that we have access to at least 7 days worth of backups.)
  7. Always communicate technical problems with the technical staff. (WebCT can be “glitchy” and if you see something that seems out of the ordinary, it is important to document the problem/issue. Don’t assume that the technical staff already knows about the issue.)
  8. Always have a good time with your students. (Online teaching is fun! Taking a class online is fun! Have fun with your course and your students.)

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Summary

In summary, for all the ranting and raving I have done about WebCT I have found the software to be easy to learn. Sometimes the logic for creating tools or things in WebCT can seem rather illogical at times, but the potential and capabilities for growth and expansion of your class is limited only by your imagination and creativity. If you are “creatively challenged” (as I often am) WebCT had built in tools to help build your class so that it looks like you are creative.

I welcome your questions and comments. Take some time to “play” in WebCT – touring classes provided. I will post discussion questions within the ION Class – Student Mode. If you are interested in participating, please “stop by”.

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