Introduction and How To Get Started

WebCT is a tool that facilitates the creation of sophisticated World Wide Web-based educational environments. It does this in three ways:

  1. It provides an interface allowing the design of the presentation of the course (color schemes, page layout, etc).
  2. It provides a set of educational tools to facilitate learning, communication and collaboration.
  3. It provides a set of administrative tools to assist the instructor in the process of management and continuous improvement of the course.

  • WebCT can be used to create entire on-line courses, or to simply publish materials that supplement existing courses.

  • WebCT requires minimal technical expertise on the part of the developer of the course, and on the part of the student.

  • WebCT is entirely web-based. There is no software to install (other than a web browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer) on the computers used by the students or instructors.

    What Does a WebCT "Course" Look Like?

    The content of a course is provided by the course designer or instructor. WebCT allows the designer to alter the look of the course by, for example, selecting from existing (or creating custom) color schemes, choosing between formal and informal button sets, incorporating custom or WebCT built-in banners, and more.

    Main Course Homepage and Tool Pages

    A course developed using WebCT is organized around one main homepage. This homepage is the entry point for the course (the first page that students see after having logged on to the course) and can contain, among other things, a banner image, a textual message, a message of the day, links to course content elements (notes and assignments, for example), and links to course tools. It can also contain links to supplementary homepages (called toolpages) for the course.

    Example Homepage

    Toolpages can contain all the same elements as the main homepage, with the difference being that the toolpages are only accessible from the main homepage or another toolpage. Examples of tools include a conferencing system, timed quiz delivery, on-line marking, grade storage and distribution, e-mail between course participants, searchable image archives, student self-evaluation, student presentation areas (both individual and group), student annotation facility, student progress tracking, course glossary and index, and more.

    Example Toolpage

    Course Content

    A course can have any number of course content elements. A course content element can be:

    The WebCT Course Designer Interface

    The view provided to a course designer is the same as is presented to a student. The only difference is that an extra frame is provided at the bottom of the screen (the designer frame). This frame contains buttons that provide the designer with options to change (design) that which appears in the frame(s) above. Thus the designer can see exactly what is seen by the student as he or she designs the course. At all times, no matter what options are shown, the designer frame contains an image of Dr. CT. Clicking on Dr. CT provides context-sensitive help to the designer explaining the use and functionality of the current set of buttons shown.

    The designer menu (in the designer frame) is a hierarchical one. The main menu (shown below) shows a set of buttons, each of which is the root of a tree of update options or administrator tools.

    For example, the Customize Homepage button, when pressed, provides a set of options which allow the displayed homepage to be altered. The resulting menu is shown below.

    Path Editor

    Another example of the WebCT designer interface is the path editor. The path editor allows the placement of content pages on a WebCT path, and allows the reordering, indentation, and un-indentation of those pages. Below is an example view of a path-editing session.

    Example of Path Editing

    File Manager

    Course content is uploaded to the WebCT server and maintained using the WebCT file manager. WebCT provides a set of built-in images that can be used in any course. Included are some page backgrounds, clip-art, icons and more. The designer can create directories, move files and directories into other directories, delete files, upload files, etc. The file manager also allows the designer to edit html or text files, and provides a previewer for image, audio and video files. Shown below is a view of the WebCT file manager.

    WebCT File Manager


    Administrative Tools

    All access to WebCT courses is controlled by username and password. The course designer maintains student accounts. Class lists can be entered one student at a time, or can be uploaded as a whole. Student grades are entered automatically for marked quizzes and can be entered manually for outside activities. Weightings can be assigned to each activity, allowing WebCT to automatically generate final grades (which can be viewed on-line by students).

    The grade database provides several reporting options. The default view is that a table is presented with one student per row. Each column contains student information such as the student identification, grades, comments, etc. The columns are defined by the course designer. An example is shown below

    Example of Student Management - General Listing


    Links

    WebCT Home Page

    Conclusion

    Now let's take a look at a sample WebCT class