WebCT Puts Students and Teachers Online

Michael Konigsberg
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Since first implemented three years ago at Glendale Community College, Web Classroom Tools has attracted ever-increasing student and faculty use across the divisions, linking whole classes in interactive e-communities.

Through this software program, instructors can make available for students any and all class materials, such as class calendars, class e-mail lists, bulletin boards, chat rooms, student web pages, and grades, via the internet. Said Sue Brinkmeyer, GCC WebCT coordinator, a “community of learners” emerges from a class with WebCT.

Fewer students had Internet access when WebCT debuted. But familiarity bred greater comfort with the technology, and it is now becoming a popular forum for supplementary instruction.

According to Brinkmeyer, every student always has a “MyWebCT” page, potentially the student’s personal access to any and all class WebCT; however, it is the instructor who decides to link these pages in the virtual classroom.

It was sheer fascination that drew Instructor of Psychology Michael Dulay’s hesitant students on-line. Like other instructors with WebCT, he uses the program to integrate his students’ questions with his planning and student evaluation – posting everything from quizzes and practice tests to visual aids for his lectures.
Chris Juzwiak, adjunct English professor, said his students “responded with tremendous enthusiasm and constancy” when he introduced the web to his English 191 classes in the Fall 2000 and to 102 in Winter 2002. “They acclimated more quickly. than I did.”

His students receive tips of the day on his sites (including tips from other students), and they can post entries in an on-line journal linked to the class discussion board. He is proud that his virtual instruction includes essay prompts in the forms of photographs, film clips, and links to global, national, and local humanitarian organizations, PowerPoint slides for grammar help, and, adding a “wow” factor, streaming video of class lectures. After writing, students may respond to one another’s work through the “E-mail the Author” link; “this generates a wonderful critical dialogue among [students].” said Juzwiak.

“WebCT has revolutionized my vision of computer-assisted pedagogy,” he said, adding, “This revolution is not about glitz.” Even as he says his stimulated students thrive on such methods as teaching a composition class entirely in a computer lab where WebCT acts as a “living textbook,” Dulay responds that the information the technology transmits comes from the human teacher.

“The most important lesson regarding WebCT [is] that it is a tool.” Teachers must support their students inside and outside the classroom, according to his teaching philosophy. WebCT is there for them when he can’t be, he is glad.

But it is this teacher’s supplement, his transmitter, and his tool. He uses it as he would blackboard chalk. “It can never be the teacher.”

“I think more teachers should use it,” said student Elizabeth Guzman.

She appreciates being able to get class notes on-line, and even links to suggested sources for research papers.

WebCT may one day fall by the wayside in favor of technology that better suits instructors like Juzwiak and Dulay. And, said Dulay.
“In the absence of these tools, I still have my mind, words, and passion. And these are my true teaching tools.”

For now, WebCT will accommodate those teachers and students comfortable with and desiring instruction beyond the limits of class hours and walls.