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USF plans to cut WebCT

WebCT, an online course management system used by USF faculty and staff, will be canceled at the end of the spring semester because of additional operating costs.

In addition to a license increase, Academic Computing Technologies will eliminate the program because of a lack of users.

“The license cost increased from $500 to $5,000 this past year,” said Alicia Balsera, associate director for Academic Computing Technologies. “For the coming academic year, it would have increased from $5,000 to $35,000 in software costs alone.”

Balsera said she did not know how many faculty members and students use WebCT, but most faculty members choose to use Blackboard, which is WebCT’s top competitor.

“The best analogy (for WebCT and Blackboard) is Microsoft Word versus Word Perfect,” Balsera said. “Both are word processors offering similar functionality, but they do it differently.”

WebCT allows students to view grades on recent assignments and post messages on discussion boards. Faculty has the ability to post grades and syllabi for courses, as well as hold live chat conferences with students.

According to the ACT Web site, a recommendation to discontinue WebCT was ratified by the Council of Deans. Support for the conversion of WebCT to the Blackboard platform will be available through the Virtual Instructional Team for the Advancement of Learning, a support system for faculty and staff who use the Internet for some of their coursework.

Darlene DeMarie, associate professor in the College of Education, said she has used

WebCT in courses she taught and now is being trained to use Blackboard to continue the webcoursework for her classes.

“I just received training for WebCT two summers ago and had invested a great deal of effort into putting things online,” DeMarie said. “I have to start all over with Blackboard.”

DeMarie said by allowing her students to take practice exams on WebCT, she has seen their grades improve.

“My students’ learning has been greatly enhanced by having the WebCT site,” DeMarie said.