WebCT Tools

Below is a list of various WebCT components with descriptions and lessons learned through our experiences with the tools. When you are finished, you can return to the guest lecture.

Calendar

Calendar allows students, teaching assistants, and instructors to exchange information about class events quickly and effectively.

Depending on the calendar settings chosen, both instructors and students can post public calendar entries (visible to everyone in the course) or private ones (visible only to the author). Entries can be written in simple text or HTML. Calendar entries may include links to course content or to external websites, notification of assignment due dates, changes to instructor office hours, or any other scheduling information you wish to record.

This tool in a required element in our WebCT courses whether they are full online or web-enhanced classes. Version 3.6.x includes a global calendar for students. When a student is in multiple classes he/she can quickly look at what is due for each class.

As I mentioned earlier, we performed both a migration and an upgrade. Due to both we experienced some problems within the calendar feature. If a designer included information in the Details section of the calendar students and faculty were unable to view the detail section. This was reported as a “bug” within the software.

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Course Materials

Faculty post lecture notes and information about the course. WebCT actually comes with what is called Content Manager, which allows designers to quickly develop his/her course. Content is usually listed in an outline format. For more detailed information about the Content Manager, please read the section called Content Assistant and Syllabus Tool below.

In designing our courses we have found that the Content layout tends to be difficult for students and faculty to manage. We have laid out many of our classes in a “module” format. We create Organizer Pages that house groups of information. For instance, if a psychology instructor may decide to create an Organizer Page that houses information all about the Psychology of Sleep or an English instructor may choose to organize his/her class by chapters covered in the text book (i.e. Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.). The lay out of a course will be dependent on the method of instruction that the teacher uses in a traditional class.

When you take a tour of the WebCT courses, you can get a better idea about this method of instruction.

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Quizzes

This Evaluation Tool in WebCT is one of the most debated on campus. In a traditional class, testing is one of the biggest ways that a teacher can determine a student’s knowledge and comprehension of course material. Generally a large portion of a student’s grade is dependent on successful completion of exams and quizzes. However, in an online class testing and quiz evaluation becomes debatable. How do you know that the person who is taking the quiz is the student?

At L&C we have adopted the policy that the quiz grade should be a small portion of a student’s grade while participation in the course through discussions, homework and such is more heavily weighted. We also require that online students taken written exams (mid-terms and finals) at one of our Community Education Centers. Most faculty do not give online mid-term and final exams (unless they are proctored online exams).

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E-mail

E-mail provides a location for students to communicate with their instructor and fellow students in a private way. While this tool is slightly antiquated in comparison to other email software of today, it still provides an avenue to communicate. We find that some faculty still prefer to use their campus email for email communication with students since they are notified when email is received with the campus system whereas they are not notified when they have new email in their course.

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Discussion Board

One of the biggest changes in version 3.6 was in the Discussion Board tool. The basic functionality of the tool is the same as with the older versions, but how to do things is different. We found that in 2.2 faculty created Forums but in 3.6, you create Topics. What is a Topic? On the most fundamental level, a topic is one piece of information. An instructor can create a topic that they would like students to address such as their thoughts on the future of online teaching or to read a particular article, story, etc. and post their thoughts.

Topics in WebCT can be public or private. One instructor may post a question and want students to post their thoughts on the question and then make comments about what other students have posted. Another instructor may want to create small groups of students who discuss a particular topic and then present their findings to the remainder of the class. These small groups may be private groups with only the group members while the general discussion may be a public topic where all students share their findings. Some of our instructors create a private topic for each student and only that student and the instructor are the member. This topic can then be used for students to post their homework or discuss “private” things with the instructor.

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Grades

The My Grades tool is the area that students are interested in most. They can quickly find out how they performed on quizzes or homework assignments as well as find out their standing in the course. The gradebook in WebCT is tied to the Quiz tool and Assignment tool. When quizzes or assignments are created a column in the gradebook is automatically created awaiting grades.

In version 2.2, instructors used to be able to access their gradebook by using the My Grades tool, but in version 3.x they have to access their gradebook through the Manage Course link on the Navigation bar. This posed a problem in the beginning for faculty.

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Chat

Chat allows you, and your students and teaching assistants to have real-time conversations. There are four general-purpose chat rooms and one general forum for the course. There is also a general chat room for all courses, which is a room shared by everybody from all courses on the same server. Conversations in the four general-purpose rooms are recorded. You are the only person in the course who can see the records.

Chat is a feature that only a few of our instructor currently use, but is a great tool for communicating with students.

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Content Assistant and Syllabus Tool

Accessible from the Navigation Bar or the Designer Map, Content Assistant allows you to incorporate resources from the e-Learning Hub into your course quickly and easily.

Syllabus allows you to create a customized syllabus for your course. It contains sections for:

  • course information
  • instructor information
  • course goals
  • policies
  • textbooks
  • course requirements
  • lesson

You can also add custom sections.

If you have created a syllabus in text or HTML, you can import it and use it instead of the pre-defined Syllabus sections.

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Assignments

You and your students can use Assignments only after you have added the tool to your course. Depending on how you structure your course, you may want to have Assignments linked on the Homepage or you may want to group them with quizzes and self tests on an Assessment organizer page.

Assignments allows you to create and distribute course assignments to your students, and download, evaluate, and assign a grade to the completed work. First, add the assignment to the course by Adding an Assignment, then use Assignment Settings to enter the instructions about the assignment, assign a maximum grade to inform the students of the assignment's value, and set the time and dates for which you want the assignment to be available. You can also attach assignment-related files such as photographs, a spreadsheet you want the student to modify, or articles to which you want students to respond. Students can then view the assignment instructions, submit their completed work, and view their grade after you have graded their assignment.

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File Manager

Manage Files is the central storage area for all the files that make up your WebCT course. This storage area is located on a remote server, which is a networked computer running the WebCT server software. This server may be located on the network at your institution or on your Internet Service Provider's network; it may be geographically distant or in the building next door. It is important to remember, however, that you and your students interact with this remote computer whenever you access a WebCT course. The software you use to access WebCT courses on your personal computer is your Netscape or Internet Explorer browser.

A WebCT course consists of files (including HTML, text, and graphic files) that are used by the various tools within WebCT. You will typically prepare files for your course on your personal computer. You must then transfer these files from your computer to Manage Files, which resides on the WebCT remote server. Once the files are moved to Manage Files, they can be hyperlinked to various areas in your course.

The method of transferring files to WebCT differs from that used by the Windows and Macintosh operating systems. You cannot "drag and drop" files and folders to WebCT. You must move files from your computer to WebCT by uploading them. See Uploading Files for instructions on uploading.

In addition, files in a WebCT course are organized and stored in folders. You can view the files within a folder by clicking on its title.

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