The recent publicity given to Web-CT has led to questions about whether Web-CT is the only course management software that we at UCT should or can use to support teaching and learning. This letter is written to clarify the current situation regarding the use of online learning environments at UCT.
The possibilities of networked computers to support teaching and learning in the curriculum are increasingly being explored at UCT. Over the past couple of years we have seen a marked increase in the use of online learning environments. This is one of the contributing factors which has led to work currently being undertaken towards a coherent institutional educational technology policy framework.
There has been some confusion regarding the institutional view on the use of online learning environments, with concerns that there might be a single, required, instructional approach. However, there is agreement that the determinant of the use of online learning environments must primarily be educational. This means that specific learning and teaching situations should drive the selection of appropriate technology. At present the most widely used technology solutions are:
Propriety, commercial course management systems. UCT has a licence for Web-CT until 2005, and the GSB has a licence for Blackboard.
Web sites on servers created using commonly available web editors. The most widely used is FrontPage, available with the UCT licence for the Microsoft Office suite.
Local or open source applications to develop learning environments. A range of tools are presently in use and include the open source environment developed by the Multimedia Education Group in CHED.
UCT is committed to developing a common framework based on open standards in order to support a range of educational solutions. Applications that conform to the framework's open standards enables interoperability between applications. Thus in-house developed applications can coexist with commercially available systems and applications that are made available by the open source movement. Such a framework allows UCT to exploit the strengths of a range of applications. There is no requirement for the sole use of a specific, commercial application.
Academic staff developing on-line learning environments will be mindful of the need to meet the normal requirements of curriculum development, including appropriate course design, assessment systems and quality controls. Advice in this respect can be obtained from Faculty Office Managers, from the Curriculum Working Group, from the Centre for Higher Education Development and from the Multimedia Education Group (CHED). Staff will also need to ensure that commercial applications are appropriately licensed and supported, and that the local and open-source applications can be safely used on UCT's network. Advice in this respect can be obtained from Information and Communication Technology Services.
Martin Hall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Prags Naicker, Information and Communication Technology Services
Laura Czerniewicz, Centre for Higher Education Development