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Both of them have several classes of user each of the user classes operates differently.
The content of a course is
provided by the course designer (or instructor - the terms are used interchangeably
here). Both WebCT
provide structure, interactivity, and educational tools. These tools allow
the designer to alter the look of the course by, for example, selecting
from existing (or creating custom) color schemes, choosing among button
sets, and more.
You can find a detailed comparison of the features and tools of WebCT and TopClass here.
Both WebCT and TopClass are password protected. Whether you want to go into a course or to create a course, you have to get the authorization. Unsually it is the administrator who offer the accounts to the instructors and in turn it is the teachers who authorize the students to go into the courses.
When you first access the course, WebCT will have created a default homepage which your can modify to suit your needs. It can contain, among other things, a banner image, a textual message, links to course content elements (notes and assignments, for example), and links to course tools. For the detailed way of editing the homepage, please consult WebCT tutorials.
Once you log in, the homepage will appear immediately, in which you will find all the necessary links to the courses. You can go to coursework, read or send messages, send class announcements, create and moderate discussion list, monitor the progress of your students and classes, review submissions, and most of important of all, create or edit course contents or change user preferences and other aspects of TopClass by using "Utilities". Here is the detailed information of all these tools.
You can go directly into the course content from the homepage. Once there you can add a welcome page, create single pages of content, create toolpages and add tools, etc. For more details, please consult WebCT tutorials.
All the related course tools are located in "Utilities" on the homepage. There you can find the icon "Create/Edit Course".
A WebCT path is a set of course notes (or any pages of course content such as assignments, etc) organized by the WebCT Path Editor into a hierarchy and sequence. The sequence of pages is the typical route through the notes that you would expect a student to follow.The WebCT Path Editor allows you to organize and order the sequence of content pages which make up the various sections of your course. For example, your Course Notes section may consist of 100 individual HTML pages. The Path Editor will help you to lay out the table of contents for these pages.
A sample table of contents is shown in the following figure.
From the above figure we can see that the order and sequence of a WebCT course is quite like that of a book. The advantage of it is that it fits the habitute of learning through a book and thus the students are quite used to it.
The structure of TopClass is like that of a university or an institution. Once in it the students can find many courses to choose from. For example, in a language institution, the students can choose whatever language provided to learn, as shown in the following schema.
The visual path of a TopClass course is like:
This is exactly the structure of the TopClass courses.
The layout of a course is like
WebCT is a tool built by instructors for instructors. Nearly all the elements of creating an on-line course have been thought of as shown in the features and tools it provides. Compared with TopClass it is more advanced in creating a single course. Pedagogically speaking, if I'm going to create a sophisticated course, e.g. English, I prefer to use it. The reasons are as following:
As for TopClass, it
has its own characteristics. TopClass works like a university. A course
is created, a virtual classroom is booked, and students register for the
course. This is reflected from the structure of the courses. A university
offers a list of courses for the students to choose from. Once the students
register, they have the freedom to choose from the all the courses provided.
The following is a sample course structure:
Pedagogically speaking, WebCT
is much better than TopClass in designing a single course in that it has
thought about every phase of a course.
As for TopClass, it is better for a virtual university. Once login, a student can have many choices of courses. But in my opinion it still needs to be improved. For example, when I was trying to design some courses in it, I found a navigating problem in it: After previewing a page which is being edited, one can not go back to the edit page directly. One way to go back to it again is to go to Utilities, Create/Edit course, (course) list, then choose the course being edited and then go into the page being edited. It is a little annoying, but it works in that way.
There are much more to be found in the two educational web tools. But because of time limit, I have to stop here.
Tool for Comparative Analysis
|TECFA WebCT Server
TECFA WebCT Page
Introduction to WebCT