WebCT Tools & Features

This section introduces tools and features of WebCT that can be used to assist both the student in the act of communicating and learning, and the instructor in act of providing and maintaining an educational environment. For a complete description of each tool, please see the on-line help. This page covers the tools and features used by the students.

Student Tools

Unless otherwise noted, tools can be made available by the course designer directly from either the main homepage, a tool page, or from any (or every) page of content.

Course Conferencing System (aka Bulletin Board). This allows communication among all course participants (instructor, markers and students). WebCT keeps track of which articles are read by each student and, by default, initially presents only unread articles. The conferencing system can be searched (new and old articles) for content, sender, date of sending, and more. Articles can have embedded URLs which are made clickable by WebCT. The conferencing system can have any number of fora. Pages of content automatically have a dedicated forum so that questions about a page are easily found later for reference. When a message is posted directly from a content page, the reader can click on the message subject to present that page in a separate window.

Electronic Mail. An electronic mail facility can be added to a course allowing one-to-one message transfer among course participants. Like the Bulletin-Board, messages can be searched for based on the sender, content and the date of sending.

Chat Tool. WebCT also provides a chat tool for real-time communication among course participants. The student's view shows the chat rooms, their names, and a list of course participants in each room. The list of users in each chat area is available. Most of the chat rooms are exclusive to students in that course, but there is also one general chat room that allows communication among students in any course on the same WebCT server. Finally, four of the chat rooms are logged in case the instructor wishes to peruse the exchanges taking place there.

Whiteboard Tool. The WebCT Whiteboard allows for real-time communication among course participants using a graphical paint interface. A user draws on his whiteboard and all other users see what he has drawn. The instructor is given the power to allow the saving and loading of whiteboards. Future enhancements include the ability to create multiple whiteboards per course, restrict whiteboards to certain users and make specific functions on the whiteboard usable only by those permitted by the instructor.

Student Self Evaluation. Multiple-choice questions can supplement any page of notes. If there are any such questions associated with a page, WebCT generates a button on the button bar for that page to make them accessible. Clicking on that button presents the questions. Student responses are automatically marked correct or incorrect by WebCT. An explanation can accompany each answer saying why the chosen answer was correct or incorrect, and perhaps supplying hints or extra information.

Searchable Image Archive. The course-author can upload images to be included in the course. WebCT provides a page that allows the association of annotations and free text with each image. Students can search for images based on these. Search results are presented in the form of a page containing thumbnail-sized versions of the matching images (the thumbnail versions are generated automatically by WebCT). Clicking on any of the thumbnails presents the corresponding full image. Image databases can be private to a course, or can be shared by any number of WebCT courses running on the same server.

Searchable and Linkable Glossary. A searchable glossary of terms can be created by the course-author, and links from the notes to the glossary entries are added automatically by WebCT (under the control of the designer). Thus the glossary can be reached by the student in one of two ways: Clicking on a highlighted word or term in the notes displays the glossary entry for that word or term. Clicking on the glossary button in the button bar produces a page that allows display of portions of the glossary, and arbitrary searches of the glossary.

Student Presentation Areas. WebCT allows the designer to designate icons which serve as the document homepage link for student-generated web pages. The designer can give authoring privileges to a single student, a group of students, or to the entire class. Students with authoring privileges can upload pre-prepared web pages to their area for view by all course participants. This tool is useful for displaying course projects, student work, student newsletters and more.

Timed On-Line Quizzes. Quizzes can be written by the designer and delivered on-line on a predetermined day. A clock on the quiz page counts down the number of minutes assigned to the quiz once the student has begun. Once completed and marked, the grade assigned is, along with comments, made available to the student.

External References. This tool allows the placement of a button on the button-bar of a content page which is linked to an external reference. There are several built-in types of external reference including textbook references, paper references, and URLs. Depending on the type of reference, fields such as page number and image (for, perhaps an image of the textbook cover) are available.

Automatic Indexing and Searching. This tool allows the automatic creation of an index of course content and terms. The designer can add index entries to point to pages of content. Index entries are ordered alphabetically. Each entry can be annotated by the designer to indicate some special attribute (for example, an annotation "definition of" might be added to a reference for a term for the page on which that term was defined).

If the student does not find the term they are looking for in the index, they can enter their own term. The course content can be searched to a selectable depth, with the results shown as a series of links that can be perused.

Page Annotation. The designer can add a button to any page of notes which, when clicked by a student, allows that student to make personal annotations for that page of notes. The annotations created are private to that student and persist as long as the student has an account for that course. This might be used by a student to remind himself or herself about some insight or clarification gained.

Learning Goals. The designer can associate learning goals with any page of course content. If such a goal is associated, a target icon appears on the button-bar of that page.When pressed, the learning goals are presented.

Grade Tool. Each student can view his or her own marks as entered by the designer. The student also has access to minimum, maximum and average marks for each course component (at the discretion of the instructor). Students also have on-line access to the comments and grades for each on-line quiz written and marked.

Study-Guide Generation Tool. WebCT's compile tool presents a listing of all course content, and allows the student to select content of interest for presentation as a single web-page. This facilitates easy printing of course content, and can be used by students to create customized study guides for review, for example, before an exam.

Session Resumption Tool. On entering a WebCT course, students have the option of clicking on the resume-session tool. This places them in the same location in the course where they left off last time they were using that course. This restores context for the student and allows learning to resume as quickly as possible.

Student Homepage Tool. Each student can create a homepage for view by others in the same course. The student is provided with an authoring interface much like that of the designer's homepage design interface. Students can add images, text and links to their homepage without knowing any HTML at all. The homepage can be called up from a number of locations including the homepage listing, e-mail, the conferencing system, student management and student progress tracking.

Calendar Tool. A calendar (like a daily planner) can be made available by the course designer. Entries (including information, a start and end time, and a URL) can be made. The designer can make public entries (for all course participants to view) and both the designer and students can make private entries (entries only visible to the one that made the entry). Also, the designer can tell WebCT whether students are allowed to make public entries in the calendar.

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