by Roger Kenner, WebCT Administrator,
As we read the debate over the future of the Web in university education
and marvel at the latest innovations, a significant portion of the faculty
of Concordia University are quietly adopting, and in ever-increasing numbers,
various Web-based support tools for their courses.
The latest user statistics from Concordias WebCT server, for example,
just one of such tools available to instructors, shows a marked increase
in usage. The winter semester started off in its first week with numbers
equal to the highest usage attained in fall 2001, and have since climbed
to even greater heights.
Based on the student activations of their WebCT course accounts, it would
appear that instructors of roughly 400 current-term Concordia courses
have chosen to use the tools of WebCT in some fashion. These numbers are
spread across all faculties and include some courses from nearly all departments.
For many instructors using WebCT means posting course notes, or perhaps
Powerpoint lectures, on-line in a closed environment where only their
students have access to them. Posting on the Web used to mean converting
documents to HTML, but an ever-greater number of instructors are now posting
materials in their original formats, for nearly all students have access
to the common software tools of today.
Some instructors, especially in disciplines involving complex equations
and diagrams, have taken to scanning their handwritten notes directly
into Adobe Acrobats PDF format. The latest statistics show that
roughly 6.5 gigabytes of data are being downloaded from WebCT each week.
Quite a number of instructors have discovered the communication tools
of WebCT, including the class bulletin board, which can be used to extend
class discussion throughout the entire week. Others use the bulletin board
as a tool for posting and receiving assignments, often making use of the
attachment tool. Still others use the private workgroup
feature to give groups of students an on-line, all-week-long location
to work together on course projects.
The group calendar is a popular and easy-to use tool which many instructors
have made use of. Another very popular feature of WebCT is the on-line
class grade book. Besides providing faculty with an up-to-date class list,
it serves as a tool for distributing interim grades to students in a private,
secure manner. Even class statistics on a particular assignment can be
A smaller number of instructors have explored the more involved features
of WebCT, such as electronic on-line quizzes and electronic assignment
Statistics show that about 3,500 people are actively using WebCT so far
this term. There are roughly 6,000 log-ins to our WebCT server each week,
which translates into about 860 a day. Discounting the midnight-to-6 a.m.
crowd (actually fairly numerous), these numbers translate into a fresh
WebCT log-in every minute and a quarter.
Concordia is not alone in adopting WebCT in Montreal. The third meeting
of local WebCT users, held at McGill in November, showed that all universities
in Quebec have adopted WebCT and have quite healthy track records with
A survey taken prior to the conference indicated programs involving from
50 to 500, with weekly student access ranging from 100 to 5,000. The next
such local meeting of WebCT administrators is scheduled for Université
Laval in April.
Having a common interface with all Quebec universities, and most Canadian
universities, has proven to be a bonus for a number of new professors,
who have arrived with their WebCT course backup in hand, ready to install