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Comparison of the Features /Tools of
WebCT and TopClass
Learner Tools
Student Tools
Instructor Tools
Lesson Tools
Data Tools
Resource Tools
Technical Administrating Tools 
TechInfo Overview
Learner Tools    
Web Browsing    
Bookmarks WebCT keeps track, on a  per-student basis, the most recently visited page of content. When the student returns to a course WebCT can place that student back at that same position and in the same context on order to allow a quick return to learning. supported via standard web browser
Multimedia "audio" and "video" tools allow the addition of multimedia clips to any page of content. The clips can be categorized and are presented in a table by WebCT for viewing by the student. multimedia links embedded in courseware
Security Access control to all WebCT courses is guarded by username and password. WebCT recognizes the category of user by their username and presents the appropriate view. Course designers also have the ability to allow students to create their own accounts. password and username, privileges
Asynchronous Sharing
E-mail E-mail supports searching. E-mail is also integrated into student tracking and grade maintenance tools enabling lists of students with particular grade or participation characteristics to be sent group e-mail. Supported with optional additional picture file
BBS file exchange The conferencing tool is multi-fora, threaded, and searchable. Supported for assignments
Newsgroups supported Supports threaded discussions
Synchronous Sharing
Chat Chat Supported- Enables chat within same course, or outside course to any course on same server. Chat conversations can also be saved and read by instructor. not supported
Student tools
self-assessing  Self assessing Supported for quizzes - automatically marked questions associated with course content. Self testing (auto testing) supported
Progress tracking Progress tracking Supported and can optionally be released to students. Examples include student -centered (first access date, most recent accessdate, histogram showing detailed access ratios to all parts for course for this student, conferencing tool readings and contributions, etc) and content-centered (number of accesses to each page of content, average time spent on each page of content, etc.) Student & Instructor can view status of coursework, through test scores, messages in discussion/class announcement areas status: New, Read, Old but Unread).
Motivation building Students can have their own home page for the course and a student homepage generation tool is for students to build their own homepages in a webct course w/o any html knowledge. Supports customizued coursework for individual students
Study skill building Support for 
  • online note taking
  • study-guide generation of topics selected by student 
  • students can view their grades online (and performance of rest of class)
  • students can change their passwords online 
  • students can return to their most recent learning context with "resume session" tool
  • private content annotation
Students can send messages and collaborate with instructor and other students in class, view their grades online and link to external web pages for additional reference material.
Instructor Tools
Course planning Supported also the "link" tool can be used to add a URL reference to any page within or outside the WebCT course. Progress tracking is done on the number of times that link is followed. Hierarchical outlining tool for easy course planning and creation. 100% remote authoring supported.
Course managing Supported - examples include student account management, grades maintenance, statistical summary of grades for instructor and /optionally) students. Also supports manual or automatic division of students into groups, and the assigning of a presentation area and private conference forum to each group. Also a "calendar" tool for group/class scheduling. Students grouped into classes. Students participate in various public and private discussion forums, access restricted to registered class members. Additional coursework/modules can be assigned on basis of test scores.
Course customizing Course Revising - revisions done easily, online (via the web), within WebCT. Supports moving modules from course to course easily (revisions or additions are automatically updated for everyone accessing the course). Capability to easily distribute and transfer courses to other servers.
Course monitoring
  • student - centered progress tracking (first access date, most recent accessdate, histogram showing detailed access ratios to all parts for course for this student, conferencing tool readings and contributions, etc)
  • content-centered progress tracking (number of accesses to each page of content, average time spent on each page of content, etc)
  • online quizes - shows who has dome quiz, who is doing quiz who has yet to begin quiz, which quizzes have yet to be marked, and automatically enters grades into management system.
  • tools for the site administrator to show resource usage such as course numbers, course sizes, creation and modification dates, and student enrollments.
Instructors (and students) can view the progress through/status of courseware.
Lesson tools
Instructional designing templates for the construction of various kinds of standard pages such as course outlines, assignments, reading list, etc.  Course outlining tool
Presenting information Some limited support with common icons and shared functions and several forms of presenting information: 
  • via conferencing tool 
  • via single-pages of content 
  • via "paths" of content (WebCT automatically provides multi-page content with navigation mechanisms,                    tool-bars, etc) 
  • via URL 
  • on-line and linkable glossary support
  • on-line course index support 
  • homepage "message" support 
Navigation buttons allow easy movement between pages in hierarchy. Courseware can include video clips, audio streaming, Shockwave, Java and Javascript etc.
Testing Supports both practice quizes and lab quizes Supports Multi choice questions, File attachment questions, Essay Type (incl. comment box), Fill-in-the-Blanks etc.Supports test-bank for random generation. Optional self testing (auto-correction by server) and custom XML extension for custom types of test questions.
Data tools
Marking online Supported Multiple choice tests can be scored on the server. Comment box provided for essay type questions.
Managing records WebCT authenticates all users by username and password, and presents the appropriate view of the course depending on the user class. There is also an option that allows students to create their own accounts, if desired by the course designer. WebCT also allows the creation of an external "Welcome" page with can be accessed by anyone without an account on that course. Records management allows (for example) 
  • addition of students 
  • change of passwords 
  • maintenance and distribution of grades and statistics 
  • queries to show, compare and analyse subsets of students according to any search characteristic 
  • addition of arbitrary content categories to student records (for example but not limited to, section
  • number, attendance, comment, etc) much like a spreadsheet. 
Setting of user privileges, changing passwords etc. Student Registration (incl. Batch user registration option).
Analyzing and tracking  Supported with basic statistical analysis log analyser for the complete transaction log
Resource tools    
Building knowledge The group presentation areas allow students in a group to author and present web-based material to the class. These presentations can become (at the discretion of the designer) a permanent or long-lived component of the course. Also students can make public annotations associated with any page of course content using the conferencing system. The designer has the option of placing a conferece button on any page of content. When the student accesses the conference there, the assumption is that the post being made is related to that content page. The post, while also appearing in a special forum of the main         conference, remains associated with the page of content. Also, all follow-ups of that post also remain associated with that page. The intent is that new students will be able to quickly access all       questions/comments/annotations that have previously been made about that page by clicking on the conference button at the top of the page. Also, if such a post is viewed from the main homepage, the subject is a link which displays the page itself, allowing everyone to see the context that the student was in when they made the post. Files can be uploaded to Discussion Forums or added to default coursework, link to external web pages embedded in coursework for reference.
Team Building supports manual or automatic division of students into groups, and the assigning of a presentation area and private conference forum to each group.  Discussion Forums, encourages class collaboration.
Building motivation not supported Discussion Forums, encourages class collaboration.
Technical Admin Tools
Web CT
Installation tools
Server Supported with optional technical support arrangement  Support for Mac OS, Win NT, Win 95, Unix (Solaris and Linux flavors) Installation and access is all done via a Browser interface
Client not supported not supported
System tools
Authorization tools - All courses are access controlled, as is the administration interface. The administrator has tools for authorizing courses. The course designers have tools for authorizing tutors and students.  All access and admin is via web browser. All access privileges controlled by Administrator (can assign various privileges to Instructors (e.g. Edit Coursework) and Students (e.g. Change Password??)
Security tools
  • Course passwords must be reasonable (in terms of content and length) or will not be allowed. 
  • WebCT server can be installed as a regular user to minimize security concerns 
Students User names and passwords specified by Admin. Supports SSL server security.
Resource monitoring WebCT admin interface provides resource usage info such as disk usage per course, number of student accounts per course, etc.  Supports remote monitoring via web browser
Remote access tools WebCT administration (not just course design) is all web-based.  Full remote access via standard web browser.
Crash recovery tools Supports local backup of the desktop by the instructor (also for course transfer to another server)  not supported
Help desk tools
Student support tools - on-line help for conferencing system and e-mail. Rest of tools have small descriptions.  Online help available.
Instructor support tools
  • full, on-line, context sensitive help, also available as separate manual (130 pages) 
  • on-line tutorial document to get first-time users up and going. 
  • webct-users mailing list 
Full e-mail technical support. Admin and Instructor User Manuals. "TopClass Talk" user mailing list.
TechInfo Overview
Sever Platform       
Disk Space 10MB plus 2MB per course and 30-70k student   
WindowsNT 4.0 Server expected in the release of version 1 in 1998 yes
Apple Server   yes
Unix Server  yes yes
Client Platform       
Minimun Level  level2 level2
Target Level level3 level3
Start-up Cost free lite v1 free. You can download TopClass Lite from web site: 
On-going Cost 50 to 0.5 cents per student per month, (unlimited licence is $3000US/year) $750US+
Technical Support available via list server   
Limitations of package        
Number of courses      
Number of students per server   
Number of connections    $750US for 25 
Number of instructors      
Other Limitations first release in1998(on build 11) v2.0 
Extra Considerations      
Exit Considerations    Converting from proprietary format 

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