Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Why not WebCT?

The next iteration of my FREDA module will make use of a course blog. No WebCT. Well, some WebCT: I will need to use it as a repository for some of the seminar reading, as it cannot be put on publicly available sites, but that will pretty much be all I'm going to use it for. Why?

There are several reasons why I believe WebCT is not all that great for teaching. First, it's slow and clunky. Having moved it to a hosted environment rather than self-hosting it at Bham might have improved things a little, but it is still slow and clunky, that's inherent in the way it is implemented. Too Web 1.0. Doing anything in it takes ages, for example putting a link on. Creating the link wasn't too bad, but I wanted it in the top-left corner, and by default it started bottom-right. So I had to click on the properties/move/up about five times, having to scroll the screen each time. And all just for one link!

The second argument, which came to me today while responding to a comment on an earlier post, is actually far more important, as it deals with inherent motivation. Sure, we can make our students use WebCT because it is the only way they can get access to certain materials. But will they enjoy doing it? No. If I curse and swear while using it, then the students will not scream with pleasure either. That means, no points for motivation. It's a drudge, not an enjoyable experience.

However, blogs and other Web 2.0 stuff is interesting. It's part of modern life, and students will see that it is a useful skill. It is inherently useful to be able to find your way round this stuff, and many students are already used to it. That, I believe, is instrumental for participation. If they have a positive attitude and are interested, then they are much more likely to do things. At least that's the theory. I'll keep you all posted on how it goes next term!

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