02 June 2003
In Monday Paper Vol22 #4, a fortnightly column was started which focused on the use of WebCT across UCT's campus. The column served as a response to the increasing interest and use of this learning and teaching tool and showed sample cases of academics that had used the tool successfully within their curriculums.

While one of the briefs of the Monday Paper is to serve as a publicity magazine to the wider community outside of UCT, this column offered useful information to UCT's academics and went one step further by starting a debate between Prof Martin Hall (#8) and Mr Ken Masters (#10) on the usefulness of such teaching tools. Monday Paper was in this case used as a medium for debate and it was hoped that for the first time this newspaper could actually be more than just a marketing tool and honestly serve as "our" newspaper!

Sadly, however, this useful and informative debate was stopped without explanation. The following brief message was sent to all subscribers of the cbe-l(Computer Based Education) discussion list on campus:

"The Monday Paper has informed Computer-Assisted Learning Support (CALS) that, as a result of instructions received, the Monday Paper will no longer be running the series of articles "WebCT@UCT". The series is to be terminated with immediate effect."

Monday Paper Vol 22 #13, in sharp contrast to the above message, carries what it describes as "the final of the WebCT articles", thus giving readers the impression that the column has come to an end rather than being terminated without explanation.

My questions to the Editor of Monday Paper are as follows:
  • Why was this column stopped?
  • Who instructs the Monday Paper on what is to be published or not?
The academics of UCT were recently challenged in a meeting between the Academics' Association, Professor Martin Hall and Ms Gerda Kruger to use the Monday Paper as a medium of critical debate and we were assured that all communication received would be considered for publication. I am looking forward to the publication of this letter and a response from the Editor.

Dr Ulrike Rivett
Deputy Chair Academics' Association

Response from Andrea Weiss, Head Media and Information:

The decision to discontinue the WebCT column has absolutely nothing to do with the particular merits or demerits of the software in question, or because of any edicts from management, but is, rather, based on sound journalistic practice.

As the new head of media and information, and the person responsible for content in the Monday Paper, one of my first questions, after starting here in early April, was why "advertorial" on WebCT was being published in the news pages of the Monday Paper when there was such a heavy demand for space in our publication. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, "advertorial" is editorial pitched as news, but which is usually heavily biased in favour of a particular product.

As a UCT publication, our challenge is to balance the demands of a large community with the equally important task of producing an interesting newspaper that will showcase the intellectual activity of this institution, both internally and externally.

WebCT had four columns in the Monday Paper, including the final column that was published after some pressure from the affected parties. I would respectfully suggest that this is ample space to publicise what is, after all, a commercial product, even if the University has invested money in it.

For those who wish to know more about WebCT, there is a website which runs much the same information as we have already had in the Monday Paper, including case studies of successful users of the product (see www.webct.com)

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