WebCT creates split opinions on campus

By Jillian Smith
December 8, 2006

WebCT Vista is causing a debate on campus among faculty and staff. Information and Technology and Resources personnel and faculty believe that WebCT Vista, a learning management system, is a useful teaching tool. However, students disagree.

WebCT Vista is a “system that enables educators to disseminate content and online resource links to students, enable interaction between learners and their colleagues as well as their professors, enable group work and collaboration take place online and assess student performance through online mechanisms,” Dr. John McIntyre, director of IRT, said. WebCT Vista is powered by Drexel University’s service and hosts many other colleges besides Cabrini.

Professors rely on it to post students’ grades and upcoming assignments. Students then can check their grades at any point of the semester and submit assignments.

“Having used Vista for a full academic year now, most of the faculty members are taking advantage of this robust system in meaningful and valuable ways for themselves and their students,” McIntyre said.

“Our department has more than 200 majors using WebCT all the time,” Dr. Jerome Zurek, professor of English and communication, said.

“From my perspective, WebCT is an extraordinary teaching tool and I run all of my courses through it,” Dr. Seth Frechie, associate professor of English and communication, said. “More importantly, it provides a readily available opportunity for student interaction outside of class.”

However, this great teaching tool does not come without technical difficulties.

“It crashes once or twice a week,” said Dr. Raymond Robb, assistant professor of mathematics. Robb posts his review sheets and answer keys on WebCT, “and when students can’t access the answer keys, they get very upset.” Robb further explained that it takes away from class time the following class because students don’t have the answer keys to answer any questions they may have had on the homework.

Junior secondary education major Michael Pio said that he wouldn’t know what it’s like when it is working because it’s always down. “It’s the most redonkulous thing in the friggin’ world.”

Junior elementary education major Alyssa Kuhn said, “They should have a class teaching it, or it should be apart of College Success freshman year.”

“There is no plan to change Vista in the future,” McIntyre said. However, since Cabrini will not be switching to a more manageable, user-friendly learning management system, McIntyre said that there are ways that students and faculty can learn the system. “We strive to provide multi-dimensional support and training in a variety of forms.”

A few examples, in addition to the in-house resources, ITR has monthly boot camps that last all day and also conduct modularized two-hour sessions on how to properly use WebCT Vista. They also offer training for small faculty groups, provide phone support and provide email-based help.

Most of the training is available to faculty; however some are available for students as well. “Moreover, our student support area is expanding and becoming more multi-dimensional as well,” McIntyre said.

Although junior mathematics major Rob DeVasto has not used WebCT this year, he said, “When I did use it was slow and its pages expire quickly. Either fix it, or get rid of it.”

Jillian Smith

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