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WebCT (Course Tools) or Blackboard Learning System[1], now owned by Blackboard, is an online proprietary virtual learning environment system that is sold to colleges and other institutions and used in many campuses for e-learning. To their WebCT courses, instructors can add such tools as discussion boards, mail systems and live chat, along with content including documents and web pages. The latest versions of this software are now called Webcourses.


[edit] Background

WebCT was originally developed at the University of British Columbia by a faculty member in computer science, Murray Goldberg. Goldberg is also the creator of Silicon Chalk (sold to Wimba[2] (website)) and Brainify (website) an academic social bookmarking and networking site. In 1995 Goldberg began looking at the application of web-based systems to education.[3] His research showed that student satisfaction and academic performance could be improved through the use of a web-based educational resource, or web-based course tools (from which the name WebCT is derived). In order to continue his research he decided to build a system to ease the creation of web-based learning environments. This led to the first version of WebCT in early 1996, first presented at the 5th international World Wide Web conference in Paris during the spring of 1996. In 1997 Goldberg created a company, WebCT Educational Technologies Corporation, a spinoff company of UBC.[3] Goldberg grew the company until 1999, at which point it served approximately 2-3 million students in 30 countries. In mid-1999, WebCT was acquired by ULT (Universal Learning Technology),[3][4] a Boston-based company headed by Carol Vallone. Ms. Vallone continued to grow the company to the point where its product was used by over 10 million students in 80 countries.[3] Goldberg resigned from his position of Canadian president of WebCT in 2002. In February 2006, WebCT was acquired by rival Blackboard Inc.[5] As part of the acquisition terms with Blackboard, the WebCT name will be phased out in favor of the Blackboard brand.

[edit] Textbooks and publishing

The software was used in electronic publishing. In order to use a textbook or other learning tool published in the WebCT format, some publishers require the student to purchase a password at the bookstore or to obtain it online. The software permitted integration of material prepared locally with material purchased from publishers.

[edit] Similar platforms

[edit] Criticisms

While WebCT has been criticized as being difficult to use, this criticism partly reflected the flexibility of the system. Where other systems present a single way of organizing or adding course material, WebCT offered several options with more of the structure left to the individual instructor. The "Vista" version of the product represented an attempt to derive a more even balance between flexibility and ease of use, and while it has been successful in some ways, it still suffers from being more flexible but less easy to use than some of its competitors.

Some WebCT criticisms which were apparent include problems using it in multiple tabs or browser windows, heavy reliance on Java for its user experience [6], usage of too many browser framesets[citation needed], issues with some features requiring pop-up blockers to be turned-off and problems using standard browser navigation tools (i.e. the Back and Forward commands).

WebCT, like most of its competitors, had a long history of failing to meet guidelines for accessibility; these include, but are not limited to, the following studies:

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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