Web-based classrooms a big hit

21 October 2002
INFORMATION and Communication Technology Services (ICTS) are reviewing an updated version of WebCT (short for “Web Course Teaching”), a software program that has been adding a whole list of interactive features to web-based teaching at UCT over the past two years.

ICTS first trialled WebCT in 2000, with the Centre for Higher Education Development and the School of Construction Economics and Management, among others, serving as test subjects. The Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Economics have been among the more recent users to see just how much the program can do.

Health Sciences uses WebCT in its new curriculum to support the Becoming a Professional/Becoming a Health Professional course, and to support Problem-Based Learning in the MBChB curriculum, explains Ken Masters, IT Education Officer at ICTS. In addition, Kim Palmer has set up an on-line Helpdesk in WebCT to assist the Health Science's undergraduate students. The facility relies primarily on FAQs and bulletin boards.

In turn, Samson Muradzikwa and Professor Don Ross of the School of Economics have been putting WebCT to use on Applied International Trade Bargaining, a third-year course that they, along with James Hodge, adapted in July into a short executive programme for 47 trade negotiators from 12 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, who will represent their respective nations at major multilateral negotiations over the next few years.

Simulating actual World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, the delegates—and the third-year students—have to represent a country other than their own during the course. They are required to learn as much of this country as they can, using links provided on the WebCT site.

During their 10-day stay at UCT, the SADC delegates used the facility for online negotiations in assigned chatrooms, among other things. And on their course, students also avail themselves of the busy bulletin boards, and are even required to set up a website—using another of the WebCT features—where they must showcase their familiarity with their designated country.

According to ICTS' Manager of Computer Assisted Learning Support, André le Roux, the software has much to offer those at UCT who wish to add an extra dimension to their teaching. “It's not suited for everybody and for every course, but it really is an exciting way to enhance teaching and it really is quite easy to use.”

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