Feb 282005
Authors: Lindsay Reiter

As technology has become more advanced, the Internet has become a vital part of nearly everyone's day, especially students and professors who use it to communicate about classes and assignments.

WebCT is one of the most widely used forms of communication between professors and students.

"WebCT is an online means to deliver a class via the Internet. Videos can be posted and it is also used for Continuing Education because classes can be taken all over the world," said Diane Noren, central computing manager for the help desk at Academic Computing and Networking Services.

WebCT has only been available campus-wide since 1998.

"Before 1998 it was only used in the College of Veterinary Medicine for about a year or so," said Thomas G. Maher, director of Instructional Services. "A campus-wide committee examined about five or six different products before choosing WebCT."

It was important for the university to adopt a standard program for the benefit of both students and professors, Maher said.

"The faculty has had faith in it because it was adopted as a campus standard," Maher said. "They spend the time to learn it and are not as reluctant to invest time in setting it up because it has become more established."

Until WebCT was available for professors to use in conjunction with teaching classes, some integrated the Internet into their classes in other ways.

"Professors had regular open Web sites, which was the most used method other than WebCT or individual applications," Maher said.

WebCT is still relatively new, and while the number of classes posted on WebCT continues to grow with each semester, there are still professors who opt not to use it.

Jeff Collett, professor and acting department head for the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, has been teaching at CSU for 11 years. He has watched the use of the Internet evolve and become more integrated in the classroom.

"One thing that's changed is we can pull up data in real-time rather than having to bring in less-current information on transparencies," Collett said.

Although Collett has found the Internet to be beneficial in research, he does not use WebCT in his classes.

"I haven't found it to be necessary because I teach smaller graduate classes," Collett said.

Other professors do not use WebCT simply because of the extra work it requires.

"I don't use WebCT because I just don't have the time. It takes quite a lot of time to set up even a supplemental site and I would not be compensated for the additional work," said Kelly Cockburn, an instructor in the English department. " I am planning on setting up a site over the summer."

Students have found that many professors use WebCT to make class information more convenient to access.

"It's a good tool and it makes it easier for everyone. Professors can post their syllabus on WebCT and have students print off their own copy rather than making like 500 copies and trying to hand them out during class," said Rachel Befort, a freshman equine sciences major.

Sophomore Richelle Price, a psychology major, would prefer it if all of her classes were on WebCT.

"One of my professors who doesn't use it doesn't always announce when a paper is due more than once, so unless you're in class when he assigns it you miss out," Price said.

Regardless of whether a professor uses WebCT, nearly all communicate with students through e-mail.

"Right now I rely on students to e-mail me and I am always happy to correspond with students over the Internet," Cockburn said.

Collett, too, would prefer to e-mail students directly rather than using WebCT.

"While the Internet is important I don't see it as a replacement for other more conventional teaching methods. I think it is important for students to write things down. It helps reinforce the material," Collett said.

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