Communications beyond the classroom
Since USF has a large growing student population there is often a need for students and faculty to access communication or information outside the classroom. This semester those needs for communication are available to the USF community with a new system of interactive communication called University Web Portal.
The system has been added to the myUSF online services, and some students and faculty are finding it an easier, updated version of WebCT. The Web Portal has services that allow USF students to view grades on recent assignments, post messages on discussion boards, sell and buy textbooks with other users and search for transportation on a car pool board.
The system was added to USF’s online service called myUSF, which allows students to utilize e-mail, calendars and an address book.
USF faculty also has the ability to post their syllabus for courses, hold live chat conferences and compute final grades rather than using manual forms.
Lynn Sullivan Taber, associate professor for the Community, College and Higher Education graduate program, used WebCT for assignments and communicating with students.
Taber had experienced some difficulty with the system and decided it was time to try something new when she was notified about the Web Portal.
Taber, who trains graduate students in the College of Education to become presidents, deans or faculty for schools began attending workshops through Academic Computing Technologies to learn the mechanics of Web Portal and so she could teach her students how to use it and integrate it into their classrooms.
Taber said the system will make it much easier to communicate with her students and keep up with her own assignments.
“There is something about it that makes it more comfortable and natural,” Taber said. “It has access to everything you can imagine.”
Alicia Balsera, associate director for Academic Computing Technologies, said Web Portal is only available to members with an official USF mail account. Balsera said the system is more secure because it is only intended for the USF community and the system will not allow you to create a password that can be easily guessed by others.
The Web Portal is built on a product called Blackboard by the company Blackboard Inc. Balsera said that Web Portal gives the same tools as WebCT, but Blackboard makes it a more scalable system and allows it to expand to a large population.
“It is like Word Perfect and Word, they each do things differently,” Balsera said.
Services such as chat rooms, discussion boards and assignments can only be accessed if the instructor chooses to use those features.
“It’s up to how the instructor wants to use it,” Balsera said.
The Web Portal also provides a community link for students in organizations to access event information and communicate with members.
Gary Hui, director for Student Government Computer Services, established links for student activities and Student Government in the community link. Hui, wanted to set up a link for SG to allow more communication with the organization’s members. Hui said Web Portal can act as a listserv because it allows users to post messages, but for security purposes the new system posts the person’s actual name so other users can identify the person.
“In a way it can replace the listserv, but it’s hard to say when,” Hui said. “This system allows flexibility and control.”