UNT upgrading to WebCT Vista!
By Jennie Vautrin,
Center for Distributed Learning Instructional Consultant,
Center for Distributed Learning
Associate Director and Dr. Maurice
Leatherbury, Executive Director of Information Technology and
As the University of North
Texas’ population increases, the management systems that support our
university must match that growth. Our online course management system,
WebCT, is one such system: it serves more than 15,000 different students
each long semester, and it is being upgraded to the latest version of
the company’s software, “Vista.” We’re upgrading to Vista because the
new version offers greater flexibility and usability to faculty who
design, manage, and teach online courses as well as to students who take
online courses. In addition, it provides better reliability and
expandability than earlier versions of WebCT. Some of the many Vista
upgrades are described below.
Content sharing: You can now share content between your own multiple sections or courses,
or with other faculty members and colleges. You no longer have to
download and upload similar files into individual courses because you
can access files from a centralized file management system. For
example, you can access course templates that contain a set of
pre-designed teaching and learning tools. Or you can create a template
for a large multi-section course and automatically share content
across the sections of courses. In addition, you can still maintain a
specified level of security for your own content.
Selective release options:
The enhanced selective release options allow you to
dynamically direct students' progression through course content based
on multiple pre-defined criteria. For example, you can set the options
to specify that all students who receive passing grades on an
assignment will move on to the next course concept, while all students
who receive failing grades will automatically be directed to remedial
Efficient design access: You can now add specific components, such as assignments,
discussion topics, self-tests, or multi-media clips directly to the
table of contents, organizer pages, or content pages. Instructors will
no longer have to include complicated instructions directing students
to a particular tool – students will be able to simply proceed through
lessons completing assignments and tasks as they go. In addition, you
can use the embedded HTML editor which saves you time as you avoid
using a separate editor outside of the WebCT system.
Integrated teaching tools: The learning tools within Vista work in conjunction with
each other. For example, you can now add a dated assignment to the
course syllabus, and Vista will automatically add the assignment to
the central course calendar.
Extensive management and research capabilities:
You can now more
closely track activity within multiple sections of courses,
departments, programs of study, or colleges through a centralized
management access point. You can monitor and analyze factors such as
student usage patterns, individual and class performance on tests and
quizzes, or how students navigate through online materials. You can
also access cross-sectional student performance data.
- Efficient Learning Process:
Because instructors can now present course materials in a streamlined
layout, selectively releasing components independently from “parent”
components, students will meet required learning objectives according
to the instructor’s preference. A student’s individual learning mode
is enhanced with this capability.
Centralized access point:
Students can now
access information for multiple courses from a centralized access
point. They can view calendar and email information for multiple
courses from one login page. Students can also view and communicate
with faculty members or other students that are logged into the course
with a tool called “Who’s Online.” In addition, they can receive
university-wide announcements when logged into Vista.
upgrades for Everyone
You now have a
global view of your email within all courses.
You can now
access your calendar entries for all courses from one access
(formerly Content Modules)
You can now add
additional types of components to the Table of Contents in a
Learning Module, including specific discussion areas and topics,
chat rooms, assignments, and assessments.
You can now
create and modify single content pages using an embedded HTML
students now have a personal My Files folder for uploading,
creating, organizing or maintaining their own files.
You can share
selected content or templates within your own separate courses or
with other instructors for use in their courses.
Instructors now have the
option of controlling the flow of participation during a chat
session by granting permission to one user at a time with the new
hand raising tool.
the Vista Upgrade
We have already installed the
Vista software and hardware needed to support it and are ironing out a
few problems with getting it running on the rather complex environment
that is designed to provide failover if a single machine breaks. By
the time the full implementation is operating, we’ll have three Sun
Microcomputer servers running one “layer” of the Vista software and
two additional, larger Sun servers supporting the back-end Oracle
call for pilot training of faculty and testing of the Vista
implementation this Fall (2003), with “production” training and
conversion of courses in Spring and Summer 2004. We hope to have all
current WebCT courses (and new courses) running on Vista by the end of
calendar year 2004, at which time we’ll decommission our current WebCT
server and rely solely on Vista.
WebCT and/or Vista can be directed to the Center for Distributed
Learning, extension 2708, or by e-mailing
Robin Bartoletti ,
or Jenny Jopling.