The College has decided to move from the Blackboard online course management environment to an alternative one provided by the company WebCT.
From the assessment by Academic Computing & Client Services (ACCS) staff and the faculty members who collaborated in evaluating WebCT, it was concluded that this alternative system would solve a number of functional problems we have experienced with Blackboard, and that WebCT would provide much needed, enhanced technical support.
Over the course of the Winter break ACCS invited all faculty who had courses posted in the Blackboard environment to participate in an evaluation of WebCT. Twenty faculty members attended one of two presentations on WebCT, several worked with WebCT and college technical staff one-on-one to ascertain the functionality of the new environment for their course(s), and 17 filled out formal evaluations. The faculty were unanimously in favor of changing over to the new system.
After many weeks deliberating the pros and cons of the status quo versus the change, the decision was made to migrate all courses to WebCT. Some of the reasons include…
Integration with our online directory service for faculty and students to use the same username and password as for email, Corporate Time, etc.
- The ability to restore the content of an instructor's course from central tape backup, rather than requiring individual instructors to back up their own course(s).
- More reliable tracking of "hits" to course pages for those that wish to use this data as one input to the grading process.
- Automatically allows students to resume their session at the last page viewed, including resuming a test in midstream.
- Students can add their notes to course content, and can collect and download all their notes and course content for off line study.
- Multiple feature support for conducting on line group projects.
- A better cost structure for the College and a reputation for superior technical support.
The WebCT server will be available for faculty to start working on their courses by mid June, and will be ready for classes starting with the Fall '03 semester. The current Blackboard system will remain up through Summer '04, and can continue to be used for courses through this coming academic year. It will not be upgraded during this time, and will be removed from service in mid September '04. Faculty will have from this Summer through next Summer to adjust to the change from using Blackboard to using WebCT.
Workshops on WebCT will be offered this coming Summer. ACCS will continue to provide technical support for Blackboard courses through the 2003-2004 academic year, but will not create new courses on the Blackboard system or offer any Blackboard workshops after this semester.
Working closely with WebCT technical support, ACCS will move all current Blackboard courses to the WebCT system, and has already successfully tested this process with content from a few sample courses.
Kathy Barbieri, coordinator of instructional support services for ACCS, will be following up with all Blackboard faculty users in a few weeks with more details about the course conversion process, and any faculty should feel free to contact her with questions about any of this.
Contact: Kathy Barbieri
Contributed by Michael Taves