Many Students Register Surprise Over Internet Requirements

Mark Zabala

More and more teachers are integrating WebCT technology into their courses. Unfortunately, problems arise when students sign up for courses without knowing that WebCT use is mandatory.

WebCT, which stands for Web Course Tools, is a technology used to integrate the classroom experience with the Internet. Students may take quizzes online, access class lecture notes, read the syllabus, interact with students and the teacher through online message boards, and follow links to get more information on a subject discussed in class.

Ten of 31 students dropped Sue Brinkmeyer’s English 101 class after the first three days this semester when they found WebCT to be mandatory.

“Students loved it when it was all optional,” said Brinkmeyer, who had received many positive comments about WebCT last semester. “That did not lead me to conclude that there was a problem with WebCT, but rather that we needed to let students know in advance about the technology they would be required to use so that they could make a reasonable choice for themselves.”

One of her students specifically told her that WebCT was the sole reason for dropping the class.

“She said she didn’t like clicking so much,” said Brinkmeyer.

“It’s very hard sometimes because you can’t always get access,” said David Mendoza, a student in Brinkmeyer’s world mythology class. “There are people who don’t have access at home.”

“It’s ludicrous to assume that students have the financial stability to even have a computer,” said Dexter Corales, another student of Brinkmeyer’s.

Many teachers who had previously made WebCT optional, but now require it, expected few students to experience difficulties. After all, they said, by paying a $10 technology fee, students have access to several hundred computers on campus.

Additionally, there are a number of free Internet service providers available.

For novices, a tutor, Alexandre Hamond, is available in the Learning Center for 10 hours each week.

Many teachers also try to help their students with WebCT in class and by answering questions regarding the program.

“I just think that some students aren’t willing to take advantage of the solutions we have for them,” said Brinkmeyer. “I think the one big failing is that we didn’t let them know in advance.”

The Academic Senate voted this month to clearly specify in the college catalog which classes require technology including WebCT so students can decide whether or not to take them before registering.

A Technology Skill Level Task Force will decide on the format in the catalog. At present, they expect that technology-dependent classes will bear a symbol and a number next to the course name.

Hamond, the WebCT tutor, is available in the Learning Center every Monday and Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m., Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m.