ITS likes new system; faculty and students have mixed feelings
WebCT got a face lift as the semester began and times are changing with new technology. When CU students and faculty returned from winter break, they were met with an upgraded course management system called CU Learn.
The goal of the upgrade to CU Learn is to provide a more stable and reliable system where faculty and students can communicate more easily outside of class. It will also provide a more manageable and functional system that is easier to navigate and will have better tools for quizzes and online supplements to courses.
“Faculty in general liked WebCT, but felt there were functional disadvantages. We feel this has closed those gaps,” said Ken Schuetz, director of Information Technology Services at CU.
ITS directors decided about a year ago to upgrade WebCT.
“Students should expect about every three years there will be changes to (the) system,” Schuetz said. “We are constantly watching the course management industry to see what is new out there. Nothing is really static in these systems.”
ITS decided to test out any pitfalls CU Learn might have before it was launched to the entire campus. During the fall 2006 semester they had a handfull of faculty members become test pilots for the upgrade.
One of those faculty members was R L Widmann, chair of the faculty council and English professor. “As I used the system in the fall, I could tell people what was working well and what wasn’t. I could draw attention to problems before they were encountered with all faculty,” Widmann said.
Widmann uses CU Learn, especially its chat room features, so her students can hold classroom discussions inside and outside of class.
“I cannot only have a large general chat room, but also any number of smaller chat rooms,” Widmann said.
She also expressed her appreciation because CU Learn allows her to stay connected with her students and enables her to hold class online if needed, like during inclement weather.
Some faculty members have yet to make the switch over to the new system.
“I had just gotten the hang of WebCT and its recent changes, and the university decided to change it,” said Karen Eblen, English instructor and graduate student, in an e-mail response.
Eblen said that her students have been skeptical of WebCT in the past because it is not always reliable, which has made her skeptical of switching to CU Learn.
“Also, the information that was e-mailed to instructors that had used WebCT implied that CU Learn was difficult to learn,” Eblen said.
ITS did hold workshops for faculty to participate in to learn how to navigate CU Learn.
“Before this launched we had several sessions and invited faculty to come to training sessions… About one quarter of faculty came,” said Schuetz. “Things seem to be going smoothly, but it is not clear yet as to the disadvantages in CU Learn.”
Certain students did not welcome CU Learn with open arms. They encountered problems when first trying to access the new system and expressed frustration.
“My professor e-mailed me before school started and asked us to go over the syllabus in CU Learn and (said) also there was a reading for us to do, prior to class,” said Anna Marincovich, a junior geography major. “I couldn’t get to the reading, but I could get to the syllabus.”
“The first day of school when I clicked on a file for a class, it didn’t work,” said Lori Ash, a senior sociology and international affairs major. Ash did not know how to navigate through CU Learn at first and found it to be very frustrating.
“The first week of school is busy and that was one more thing to learn,” Ash said.
Ash explained how some of her professors had to set aside lecture time to talk about CU Learn and how to use it. She found this to be a waste of valuable learning time.
ITS said that this is an ongoing experiment, and they hope all of the kinks will be worked out within a few weeks.
ITS want all students and faculty to know that if they encounter any problems with CU Learn or any other CU systems to please contact their department at 303-735-HELP.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Elizabeth Stortroen at email@example.com.