Using WebCT for Southern Faculty

The purpose of this web page is to present information to the faculty of Southern about the use of WebCT (World Wide Web Course Tools). WebCT can be used by instructors to create web-based courses which are entirely online OR it can be used to provide information and web links for student use to supplement an existing traditional course.

Many colleges and universities use WebCT as a means for delivering course materials to students. WebCT is already being used by Marshall University to deliver course materials to over 4,000 on-line students, it is also being used by West Virginia University and West Virginia State College.

WebCT is a computer program which must be installed on a college's main computer much like Banner is currently being used at Southern. (As of August 1, 1999, WebCT is NOT available at Southern, but it will be shortly and it will become the main means by which Southern faculty can create web-based/web-linked course materials for students.)

To inform Southern faculty of the benefits of WebCT, a professional development seminar was conducted at Southern by Mr. Brian Morgan, Director of the Center for Instructional Technology at Marshall University, in the spring semester of 1999. His presentation was made available to all faculty by ITV and his printed materials were distributed to faculty college-wide as a means of introducing WebCT. (If you missed Mr. Morgan's Powerpoint presentation about WebCT or if you have misplaced his excellent handout about the features of WebCT, it is available on-line as a series of 15 concise PowerPoint slides.) Go to Brian Morgan's WebCT Presentation

THE PURPOSES OF THIS WEB PAGE ARE:
I. To explain what a web-based course is and provide links to web-based course classes for viewing.
II. To explain the features of a web-based course using WebCT as the main example.
III. To provide links to sites where the features of WebCT are fully explained.
IV. To provide links to sites where faculty can view and explore programs other than WebCT which can be used to create web-based courses.

(The remainder of this page is organized around the four purposes. It is a tutorial primarily aimed at providing direction for the use of WebCT. It is not meant to be completed in one session, therefore, I suggest that you bookmark this page in order to be able to return to it.)

I. So, just what is a web-based class?

In a web-based class, teaching and learning occur outside the traditional classroom via the Internet. Instructors present their lecture materials in printed form, make assignments which frequently require students to visit various web pages associated with course topics as well as read traditional textbook materials, and create exams which are placed on the instructor's web page. Students read and study assignments, create and submit papers and reports, and take exams via computer. During the course, students and instructors communicate by e-mail, by chat sessions or by on-line conferencing. In most cases, students and instructors never meet face-to-face.

One of the best places on the web to get a feel for what web-based classes are like is at the World Lecture Hall which is maintained by the University of Texas web site. There you can view hundreds of college-level courses from across the U.S. and in other countries. At the World Lecture Hall, courses are organized by topic from A (for Accounting) to Z (for Zoology). You will find web-based courses in English, History, Nursing, Biology, Math---you name it. Take a few minutes and go to the World Lecture Hall. Pick an academic topic (perhaps your own), explore one or more web-based courses concerning that topic, but after you've explored there, DON'T FORGET TO COME BACK HERE AND CONTINUE READING THIS PAGE.

Maricopa Community College also provides links to on-line courses in most academic area. Go to Maricopa Community College. In the left margin of their page, under "Search Steps", use the pull down menu entitled "Select a Subject Area" to highlight an academic area (biology, math, history, etc.), and then click on "Search It Now" to connect to on-line courses.

II. So, what are the features of a course developed by using WebCT?

If you viewed courses from the World Lecture Hall in section I. above, you probably saw courses that were developed by faculty using a variety of different programs other than WebCT. In this section we will explore WebCT in more detail because it will be the "platform" used by Southern and other institutions in the State College System. WebCT has a variety of features important for faculty to understand.

First, in order to create a web-based class instructors do NOT need to know a programming language such as HTML (HyperText Markup Language--a computer language commonly used to create web pages.) You will need a computer with a web browser (Netscape or Explorer will do) and a basic familiarity with using the Internet (if you are reading this page, you have it!).

Secondly, you will need to be able to type in your syllabus, course plan, information you want your students to be able to read (some instructors type in their lecture notes) and test questions. Let's look at some examples:

1. Sample 1 below will give you an example of a simple course plan developed by using WebCT. This example is not complete or fully functional, but will give you a general idea of a WebCT course layout. When you connect to this example, click on each of the following icons on the page (for the time being, you do NOT need to view the other options except these four:

Homepage
Course Information
Lecture 1
Quizzes

After you view Sample 1, RETURN HERE TO CONTINUE. See Sample 1

2. Sample 2 below will take you to a more detailed, more functional web-based course. This example is of an English composition class from California State University. Unlike most WebCT classes on-line, it is NOT password protected-- that is anyone can view this class without having to pay tuition first in order to receive a password that grants a user access to seeing the course content. Go to Sample 2, explore the various topics and functions in the course (they are listed in the left-hand margin of the main page), and then RETURN HERE TO CONTINUE. See Sample 2

3. Sample 3 below demonstrates several things. First, it shows that many textbook publishers have adopted WebCT to create course layouts for their textbooks which can be modified by instructors who use the text and WebCT. Sample 3 is from Prentice-Hall and is dedicated to their textbook The Essentials of Sociology by James Henslin--the textbook used for Sociology 200 at Southern. (This is just one of many examples of textbook publishers creating WebCT sites linked to their textbooks.)

Secondly, this example provides information about the advantages and disadvantages of "distance learning"--a term which refers to web-based classes.

Thirdly, Sample 3 also demonstrates, in a simple way, how a quiz can be utilized in a web-based course. To see these features, click on Sample 3 below, then click on "Student Distance Learning Handbook" and read about the "Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning." After you have read the material, click on "Is Distance Learning For Me?" and take the built in quiz and SUBMIT your answers. View your results. AFTER YOU FINISH, RETURN HERE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.

See Sample 3

LESSONS LEARNED SO FAR(before we continue)

If you followed along so far, you have participated as a student in a "distance learning"/ "web-based course." What has happened?
1. You have used the internet to access information that I provided. We weren't in the same room or together at the same time, but my "lecture material" was presented to you in typed form.
2. You were given assignments to read in the form of "web links" which took you to other sites on the web to gain more information.
3. You took a simple quiz using the internet.
4. Assuming you were a novice concerning web-based courses and distance learning when you began reading this page, you have learned.

In an extremely simplistic way, this is the essence of "distance learning"/"web-based courses." WebCT can do much more than this simple page. To learn more about the detailed features of WebCT, read on.

III. So, where can I find more detailed information about the features of WebCT?

Source #1 is WebCT's homepage. In three succinct pagagraphs in the left-hand margin of their web page, the main features of WebCT are explained. Also, click on and read "More About WebCT" in the top right corner of their page. Explore other links on their page, BUT DON'T FORGET TO RETURN HERE TO CONTINUE. WebCT's Homepage

Sources #2 is Marshall University's WebCT homepage which provides many links to detailed information about the many features. Some of the material is technical and for the advanced user of WebCT, but there are many other non-technical topics of interest to a beginner. TAKE A LOOK AND RETURN. MU's WebCT Main Page

Source #3 is an Instructor's Guide for Using WebCT. Topics addressed include:

Quiz Development
Content Development
Using the Bulletin Board
Using WebCT Mail
Using Chat on WebCT
Using the Conferencing System
A Student's Guide for Using WebCT

RETURN HERE after you take a look at the Instructor's Guide for Using WebCT

Source #4 is a Demonstration Course created by using WebCT. Most of the features of WebCT are functional and will provide you with the feel of what a WebCT course is like from a student's point of view. Like most WebCT courses, it requires the user (in this case, you) to have a Login In Name and Password in order to gain access to the course. Therefore, to see this Demonstration Course you will first have to Create an Account by entering a Login Name and Password (I recommend that you use something familiar--perhaps the name and password you use to login on Southern's web server) and then Login using the the Name and Password you created. (Whatever you choose as your Login Name and Password, keep a record of it handy so you can use them to login again. You may need to visit the Demo Page a couple of times to fully explore the various features of WebCT.)

Step One--Create Account:
Enter your name, your chosen Login ID and your chosen Password and then click "Done" at Demonstration Course

Step Two--Login to Account:
You have created your account. Now, to gain access the Demo click on "Demonstration Course" in Step One above, fill in required information and then click "Login". You will then be granted access to the Demonstration Course. (You can return as often as you like to explore its features. Each time, however, you will be required to enter your Login ID and password, so you may want to jot them down somewhere.) On the Demonstration Course, click on each of the Icons to see the features of a WebCT course.

In summary, if you have examined the four sources above, you should have a good understanding of the features of WebCT as well as a set of resources that you can view later once you begin to actually use WebCT.

IV. So, are there programs other than WebCT that can be used to create web-based class?

WebCT is not the only program that can be used to create web-based courses, although it appears to be one of the more popular and the one most widely used in West Virginia colleges and universities. There are a number of other commercially- produced programs that have features similar to WebCT. In reviewing many of them, I found four that stood out from the crowd. Each has a web site that describes the features of the program and provides an on-line demonstration. They are:

In conclusion, I hope this page has been helpful in providing information about web-based courses and the use of WebCT. Please e-mail any comments, suggestions, questions or problems encountered in using any of the web links on this page to the address provided below.


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    by Mike Pfaffenberger
    Associate Professor
    Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College
    Williamson, West Virginia 25661

    1997 mikep@southern.wvnet.edu


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