Tools Faculty Will Actually Use

Most faculty members, even those reluctant to adopt new technology, understand the benefit of making administrative and academic information readily available to students, although the benefits to faculty are less evident. However, since Plymouth State University better integrated our WebCT application with our administrative system, faculty are experiencing the benefits for themselves and are making more and better use of WebCT learning tools as a result: 67 percent of our 1,200 courses have been hit at least once in WebCT by faculty compared to 350 before the implementation. To put it another way: if a faculty member was using WebCT for one class, that faculty member is now using it for all his or her classes.

At many institutions, there is little to no integration between an administrative system, like SCT Banner, and a learning management system, like WebCT. This lack of integration requires faculty to perform duplicate administrative tasks in both systems. To address this issue, we implemented the SCT Luminis Data Integration for e-Learning solution. This solution provides real-time, standards-based data integration between learning management systems and SunGard SCT administrative systems. The integration simplifies administrative tasks for faculty and reduces data entry redundancies. Now, faculty can access both systems and all the tools they need with a single sign-on through our myPlymouth portal.

Equally important, the integration solution automatically creates a course template in WebCT for every course created in SCT Banner. Before, faculty had to ask me to create a course template for them in WebCT and I could not respond promptly to every request. Now I simply create the backups for each course and restores previous course backups. These backups restore for faculty any customizations they have already made to the materials in WebCT, including discussions, surveys, and text.

The reduction in clerical work and the automatic creation of templates for courses has greatly increased faculty usage of the WebCT tools. I recently did an informal survey of faculty members by email about their use of WebCT since the implementation of the SCT Luminis solution. Many responded that they have increased their usage of the WebCT tools, and others said they had begun using the system for the first time, including one person who used WebCT in all his courses for the first time in fall 2004.

One faculty member responded, "Though I had made some attempts to use WebCT prior to its being automatically installed, I couldn’t seem to put all the pieces together. Being able to immediately access the many WebCT features has opened the door for me. Now I am a confirmed WebCT user … I am excited about learning to use more of the tools, and to further integrate them into my courses."

Another user wrote, "If there hadn't been an automatically created section for my First Year Seminar, I'm not sure that I would have chosen to use it. I probably would have created a Web page as I've always done. For my other classes, I see that WebCT brings together all of a student's classes into one place and that's a good thing for students. "

Yet another faculty member added that WebCT is now his primary communications tool with students. Others noted that having the templates automatically presented to them has given them incentive to begin using the WebCT system —"forcing faculty to surf the wave of the future!"

For those who were already users of the WebCT system, the SCT Luminis Data Integration for e-Learning solution has made it easier for them to expand their use of the learning tools, including the content module, discussions, grade book, and calendar.

The integration also provides faculty with accurate and current course information. For example, information processed by SCT Banner during course registration is passed automatically and directly to academic calendars and class rosters in a faculty member's WebCT account. As rosters are changed or assistants are added to a course in one system, the information is automatically updated and synchronized in the other system. As a result, faculty can walk into their first class of the semester knowing that the time and location of the class, the students who have enrolled to take it, and any grading options they have elected are up-to-date. With real-time data exchange continuing throughout the ensuing drop-add process, they are freed from administrivia and can concentrate on making more and better use of the WebCT teaching and learning tools.

Overall, the enhanced integration has led to increased usage of learning tools by our faculty and freed up IT resources. It also is helping us to leverage the investments we have already made in our existing systems and is helping faculty focus on their core purposes of teaching and learning.

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