|General Information||Software Descriptions||Software Comparisons|
|Committee Members||Meetings||Final Report *|
Fern Brody, Jeff Cepull, John Clochesy, Marian Dougan, Doris Hayashikawa, Doug Hobson, Rudy Maceyko, Richard Oravetz, Carol Washburn
- The results of this venture will be reported to the cooperative consortium consisting of CIDDE, ULS and CIS. The purpose of the committee is to develop recommendations for conferencing packages or a system for faculty to use both on campus and/or at a distance.
- It was concluded that any recommendations for systems or packages should include the following functions:
- It must have both synchronous and asynchronous capabilities.
- With asynchronous conferencing, users should be able to thread the discussions.
- It should have the ability to import and/or display text, graphics, and/or video.
- There should be moderator functions for determining the parameters of what participants can or cannot do.
- Conferencing should be 100% online.
- It should be easily integrated with other course materials or on-line documents.
In addition to the desired functions, the following criteria should be considered when evaluating conferencing options:
- Can access be restricted to the University community?
- Are there secure protocol and authentication procedures?
- Is the package platform independent?
- Is the end-user interface web based?
- Does it have a low learning curve?
- Does it offer administration of privilege?
- Can the package or system be housed at the University?
- What resources are required to maintain the system?
- What type of performance and reliability support is available?
- Is copyright addressed?
- What type of access is available (i.e. 24x7)
- What is the extensibility of the package or system?
- Is the technology transparent to faculty and students?
At the next meeting, it was decided that the following members would investigate various packages and present these options to the committee:
Doug Hobson; Web Crossing
Jeff Cepull; Collabra and NiceNet
John Clochesy; Front Page
Rich Oravetz; First Class
Carol Washburn; NetForum
A website (http://www.pitt.edu/~washburn/ccs.htm.) has been initiated listing some of the contact information for the vendors. This site will also house meeting notes, a comparative analysis of software packages (currently in development by the Centre for Curriculum, Technology and Transfer, British Columbia), and other pertinent information. Joyce Walsh ( x4-7356, e-mail: email@example.com) will be maintaining this site.
The next meeting will take place in early to mid-September and will be at a location with an activated port for demonstration purposes.
Marian Dougan, Fern Brody, Jeff Cepull, Doris Hayashikawa, Rick Henker, Richard Oravetz, Carol Washburn, Tom Waters
- It was decided that some of the criteria needed modification or additional criteria added. These changes are reflected in the comparison chart located at the website.
- Several packages were reviewed. In addition to the notes indicated on the comparison chart, the following comments or observations were noted:
Netscape Navigator Communicator Pro (Jeff Cepull):
While this package has definite advantages for students simply because it is part of the Navigator package, Jeff found it requires a fairly large learning curve as well as high end requirements from the users standpoint. We were unable to decide how much maintenance would be needed in addition to how synchronous the program actually functions. The interface is user friendly but the downloading time is considerable.
NiceNet (Jeff Cepull):
Nicenet's primary problem is that it resides at Northwestern University. Several faculty are using this package since it incorporates course management tools along with asynchronous conferencing. The package allows for threaded discussions as well as link sharing, document posting etc. NiceNet was developed using ColdFusion by volunteers, and runs on an NT server. The extensibility of the product was questioned since upgrades of the NT may affect the performance of NiceNet. Currently, NiceNet is in development so that it can be downloaded onto an institution's server.
NetForum (Carol Washburn):
NetForum can be downloaded for a fee of $50 per user. It provides asynchronous conferencing with in interface that requires some learning. Security issues are questionable.
FirstClass (Rich Oravetz):
First Class is very popular among educational institutions. There is a server fee of $495 as well as a client fee ranging from $35-$79 once the number of clients reaches five or more. This software runs on an NT and Mac and is being developed for UNIX. One large drawback of the software is that it is limited to 250 simultaneous log-ins. One advantage noted is that it can incorporate databases - a feature not noted in other software.
The group agreed that this committee may develop more than one recommendation based on the goal of the faculty member. Since most of the faculty want course tools in addition to conferencing, it would be advantageous to evaluate packages that fulfill both of these functions. Two course tools: WebCT and TopClass offer these capabilities. At the next meeting, Rich will evaluate TopClass and Jeff Cepull will present WebCT. Interaction - currently in use by the School of Pharmacy ,will be presented by Tom Waters.
Once these other packages are evaluated, we will choose the options with the most promise and recommend obtaining and loading those options on a trial basis for demonstration purposes on a CIS server. In addition, we will scrutinize the packages more closely to determine exactly the resources needed from the University in order to obtain and maintain the package. We will also more closely scrutinize the features of the software to determine the benefits to both the faculty member and the student.
Next meeting October 3, 1997, 1:00-3:00. CIDDE.
Fern Brody, Jeff Cepull, Marian Dougan, Doris Hayashikawa, Rick Henker, John Martin, Richard Oravetz, Keith Popendeiker, Mike Sherman, Carol Washburn, Tom Waters
- Doris Hayashikawa distributed literature that she had gathered on Cyberprof and Mallard. CyberProf is currently in a beta testing stage, and is being developed by through Physics Department at the University of Illinois. Cyberprof is an intelligent computer interface designed and utilized to better present course material. It has the ability to extract and manipulate high quality information from large data sets. Cyberprof consists of a grading system, a problem set editor, conferencing, a gradebook, a lecture note editor and a CyberProf network TA. One unique characteristic of Cyberprof is that it has the ability to include equations n the lecture notes.
Mallard is an integrated software system from the Sloan Center for asynchronous Learning Environments, and is also in beta testing. Mallard provides the organization for course material presentation, quizzing and some student management. It offers an asynchronous learning environment and has been reported to be useful in both large and small enrollment classes.
It was agreed that while the features presented in these packages emphasize the need for conferencing integrated with course materials, the fact that they are in a beta stage at this point in time precludes downloading onto a Cis server.
- ShareCarolina is a program that offers software with the source code to non-profit academic institutions for different services (asynchronous discussion, list processing, quizzes, etc.). It needs a Unix system, and the services are not integrated into a cohesive unit.
- Tom Waters demonstrated the services that he has put together for the School of Pharmacy using Interaction, Filemaker Pro, and Lasso. He discussed some of the problems and needs of faculty that developed from his efforts. Three of these issues that evolved from the discussion; the printability of materials, the need to use specific image file formats,
- specfic file formats
- interfacing with databases,
- and the potential of interfacing with the ISIS database, will be added to the conferencing selection criteria.
- Jeff Cepull demonstrated WebCt. This package provides both asynchronous and synchronous conferencing. It also organizes course materials, offers online tracking, quizzes and grade maintenance distribution, etc. Throughout the demonstration, the largest drawback cited was that the interface is not as intuitive as it could be. It was indicated that Duquesne University now uses WebCt in addition to First Class. This software was developed in British Columbia, and is available without charge until student accounts are added. The rate for licensing this package is currently: 50 users - $250/yr. 51,000 users - $2700/year. Marion Dougan will look into downloading WebCt onto a CIS server for further evaluation.
- Rich Oravetz is still in the process of obtaining a demonstration of TopClass and FirstClass. He will present these at the next meeting on October 24, from 1:00-3:00 in the Cidde Conference Room.
- Mike Sherman, Rich Oravetz, and Tom Waters volunteered to test any of the chosen packages with actual classes and groups of students.
Meeting Notes Monday, October 24, 1997
Fern Brody, Marian Dougan, Kathy Ferraro, Doris Hayashikawa, Carl Kuzmich, John Martin, Richard Oravetz, Stephanie Rago, Mike Sherman, Carol Washburn
- New members were introduced: Stephanie Rago (CIS) and Kathy Ferraro (representing Jane Feuer from English) have both contacted TopClass and were interested in the potential of the software for use in their own departments. Anne Kelleher, the representative from TopClass informed Kathy and Stephanie of this committee. Stephanie indicated that the faculty she teaches frequently request course development software. Carl Kuzmich recently joined CIDDE. He has had previous experience with conferencing and was assigned to evaluate both FirstClass and TopClass.
- Rich Oravetz and Carl Kuzmich demonstrated the FirstClass software so that we could see both the client and administrator side online. FirstClass offers News, Chat, Threaded discussions, etc. It can work with multiple servers. There is a client side to the software (FirstClass Intranet Client software). Rich reported that the faculty at Duquesne use both FirstClass and WebCt. Faculty communicate with students and distribute course materials such as syllabi and lecture notes as attachments that students can print. Communication can take place between individuals or with the group. The next version of FirstClass will be web based. The options for faculty were seen as particularly advantageous. Administrators can assign students to log in only at specific times if desired. Students can log into accounts on the server - they can also access the software from a DOS command line. More specific information about FirstClass is on file for review in the CIDDE office.
- The second software demonstrated was TopClass. TopClass is a course development, web based software from Ireland. It offers threaded asynchronous discussion, and has the option for faculty to deliver quizzes. Carl experimented with some of the quizzes and found them to be cumbersome because you need knowledge of html. Constructing the quizzes requires multiple forms. Carl has agreed to be a beta tester for future upgrades. This company is very eager to work with a university in future development of the software. Future upgrades due out in November include making the html subliminal, adding t/f quiz options in addition to a mechanism for grading and interactive responses. TopClass also works with Authorware.
- The value of both course development tools such as TopClass or WebCt and a communication package such as FirstClass were discussed. Rich Oravetz suggested that faculty could benefit from the availability of both packages based on his review in addition to the experience of the Duquesne faculty. He stressed that those faculty teaching graduate courses within the Education Department have requested software with functions similar to FirstClass due to the ease of distribution of communication and materials.
- Stephanie Rago reported that from her experience, faculty benefit from becoming familiar with one software package, and that alternating between two packages is difficult for faculty to learn.
- Originally, this committee was assigned the task of selecting a conferencing package. After reviewing the courseware development tools that also offer some type of conferencing, it was determined that this type of software would fulfill the needs of most faculty, particularly since the features available in these packages are the most frequently requested by the faculty. However, a communication tool such as FirstClass may be the preferred software for some instructors. In order to simplify the comparison process, it was determined that similar packages would be evaluated at this time.
- Marion Dougan and John Martin have agreed to install WebCt and TopClass on a CIS server within the next week. These installations will serve as a preliminary test of the software. Any costs will be referred to the consortium, with an initial trial of up to 150 users. Mike Sherman, Rich Oravetz, Stephanie Rago and Carl Kuzmich either have students that can be subjects to test the packages, or they know of others that are eager to serve in this capacity. Marion will inform the group once the installation is complete along with any necessary instructions for users. It was agreed that after this preliminary review, the software should be used throughout an entire course. The Business School was suggested as one possibility due to their compressed class terms.
We will meet again on November 21 from 1:00-3:00 at the CIDDE conference room to discuss the performance of the two packages during the initial evaluation period.
Fern Brody, Jeff Cepull, Marion Dougan, Kathleen Ferraro, Doris Hayashikawa, John Martin, Richard Oravetz, Keith Popendeiker, Carol Washburn, Tom Waters
- CIS will be acquiring licenses for both TopClass and WebCt limited to 400 users for each software package. The software will be available from January through April for instructors and students, however the period that this committee will be evaluating the software will result with recommendations by March 30. The following assignments with instructors have tentatively been made with Keith Popendeiker from CIS, who will function in the role of the administrator.
WebCtTopClass Top Class Rich Oravetz (Inf Sci) Jane Feuer (English) Doug Hobson (Rehab.Eng) Gary Stiller - Tom Waters (Pharmacy) Reggie Frye - Tom Waters (Pharmacy) Nursing instructor*tentative Mike Sherman* tentative (Education)
- It was agreed that the following activities should occur by the dates targeted:
December 19 - Faculty should become familiar with the software package and begin putting materials online.
January 16 - Students should have completed an orientation activity and any problems reported and logged
March 13 - Students should have used most of the features of the software
March 13 - Evaluations will occur from three perspectives: student, faculty and administration
March 30 - Report and recommendations generated
- CIS recommended that network authentication accounts not be used; rather Keith will create Ids for faculty. The faculty member will be responsible for distributing IDs to students.
- Rich Oravetz volunteered to do training on each of the software packages with Carl Kuzmich. Carl had previously demonstrated TopClass. In order to do this training, Rich requested administrator privilege. It was recommended that problems encountered by students be first referred to the instructor, then to either Rich or Carl and finally to Keith. The rationale for this line of referral was intended to refer any instructional problems to the faculty first.
- Kathy Ferraro agreed to work with Carol Washburn in developing an evaluation for the students and faculty members.
- Tom Waters volunteered to use software from the School of Pharmacy for logging any problems comments about the software. It was determined that a discussion area would be established specifically for the members of this group and associated faculty on TopClass as a log for issues, reactions, or general comments that might arise.
- Questions arose about the Buckley amendment and it's impact on those students for these classes. Carol Washburn will look into these and post the response on the discussion page.
- Carol Washburn volunteered to meet with any instructor who is interested in talking about instructional strategies related to online materials. Call for an appointment.
- Next meeting will be held on January 23 from 1:00-3:00 at CIDDE.
The following decisions were made in procedures after the meeting:
- CIS, ULS, and CIDDE will share the initial cost of the software for the trial period.
- Any problems with the software should be first referred to the CIS helpline rather than to the instructor or CIDDE. CIS has the mechanism to log all of these responses and this procedure will also result in an estimation of some the administrative time required, as well as the type of problems that will be encountered.
- Demo classes will be established with both Webct and TopClass to better enable Rich and Carl are to help faculty if needed for training purposes. While TopClass allows 'team' teachers, WebCt is not configured to permit this administrative option.
Carol Washburn, Marion Dougan, Doris Hayashikawa, Rich Oravetz, Nick Laudato, Keith Popendeiker, Doug Hobson, Bruce Hutchison, Irina Livezeanu
- Three people have reported using WebCt in their classes: Nick Laudato, Rich Oravetz and Irina Livezeanu. Kathleen Ferraro had indicated prior to the meeting that she would be assisting Jane Feurer to put her course online using TopClass that weekend. The status of the pharmacy classes was unknown, and Carol Washburn said that she would follow-up with Tom Waters.
- Nick Laudato demonstrated how he is using WebCt with his course. Nick did not use the Quickstart and encountered a few problems putting the materials online, however he indicated that one of the most irritating problems was the inability to log into Pitt in the evening hours. Other problems reported were difficulties trying to get a file in a chat space, and building a file from student accounts. He also needed 6 chat rooms to service the number of groups in his class. Overall Nick likes using the features of the software, particularly the student presentation features and recommended automating a process that pulls in the syllabus, sets up student identification numbers, etc.
- Irina Livezeanu has agreed to use the software with her history class, and Rich has been assisting her, demonstrating the software to her class. She recommended that a training program be offered to guide faculty through the process of putting their courses online, or that faculty be offered release time to do so. Everyone agreed that the lead-time given to faculty for using the software should be long enough so that they can develop materials and devise online strategies in addition to learning how to pull these materials into the software. Carol Washburn reported that the University will be experimenting with a 'Summer Institute' in May with an emphasis on technology and active learning, and that faculty from Arts and Sciences have indicated that they would be interested in addressing this issue during that time.
- Doug Hobson suggested using students for assistance with online course development.
- Rich Oravetz noted that versions of Internet Explorer are not consistent with the Chat or Discussion areas on WebCt. He also did not like the fact that you must exit the browser completely since there is no logout button. Rich also reported that access is impossible during the evening hours. There were two days when students were unable to connect to the software. His impression was that students liked using the software. Rich also liked the student data feature.
- One question that needs to be addressed is whether Quickstart can be used with partially completed courses. It was decided that a backup of a faculty member's general course structure be centrally archived by either CIS of the faculty member, so that courses can be used again in the future.
- Due to the fact that Jane Feurer's course may be the only course using TopClass, the question is now not whether TopClass or WebCt is a better product for faculty, but rather is WebCt workable and usuable for the faculty to use given the demand for this type of software. Ninety-one students are using WebCt. It was also noted that TopClass doesn't offer a chat feature, a characteristic being used by the Information Science students. It was recommended that in a report to the CIDDE-CIS-ULS consortium, a general suggestion be made for a placeholder amount. A decision for a specific software recommendation should not be made until the end of term in April, so that we can get the maximum evaluation information. This will also give pharmacy and others more time to implement TopClass if necessary. It was also recommended and discussed that an evaluation be ongoing for this type of courseware.
It was pointed out that without the actual experience of putting these courses online, we wouldn't have known the right questions to ask.
- Carol Washburn presented a draft and received recommendations of the faculty evaluation form, to be distributed to faculty using the software at the March 13. Doris Hayashikawa volunteered to prepare a student evaluation form. It was decided that the student version should be much shorter than the faculty evaluation, eliciting basic information with space allotted for open-ended responses.
- The agenda for the next meeting will include a software update, approval of the student evaluation, discussion of an outline for the report and the faculty evaluation results.
Next meeting: Friday March 13 from 1:00-3:00, CIDDE conference room.
Addendum: Tom Waters reported that pharmacy has not been able to put course materials online to date. Barbara Seels from the Instruction and Learning Program has agreed to use TopClass with her students as a means of evaluation.
Carol Washburn, Marion Dougan, Rich Oravetz, Keith Popendeiker, Doug Hobson, Carl Kuzmich, Nick Laudato
Progress reports on the use of WebCt and TopClass
Distribution of the Faculty evaluation survey
Review and approval of the student survey
Method of distribution for the student survey
Initial outline of the draft for the report
Delegation of tasks for preparing the report
- Ahmad M Hajizainuddin, a graduate student in Instruction and Learning demonstrated and discussed his experience using TopClass activities with Barbara Seels for an Instructional Design Class. Overall, both his and Dr. Seels responses were not favorable with some of the problems cited as follows:
- Overall, the documentation provided for instructors was not nearly adequate.
- You must manually go back and perform edits on files, and html is required.
- Even though there are two instructors for a course, one instructor of a team does not have access to a listing of students instructors.
- When files are uploaded, there are a lot of html errors that need to be fixed.
- Students complained about the navigation bars at the bottom and the necessity of scrolling in order to get to the navigation devices.
- The quiz creation component was extremely cumbersome.
- When uploading a page, the results are one long text file that then needs edited.
- It was difficult trying to determine how to re-order test items.
- In the discussion area, it is not possible to refresh in order to update a page, since chat is not available.
- There is no way to differentiate between an exercise and a 'test.' This was felt to be important due to the anxiety factor associated with 'tests', and the instructor wanted exercises.
- The documentation tells you what to do but not how to create it.
- Students used the browser back button rather that the navigation back button and this created confusion. (A similar problem was cited with WebCt).
- When students clicked on the back button they logged out and had to re-enter the program, thereby becoming frustrated.
Nick Laudato recommended that other course management tools be examined in addition to TopClass and WebCt; specifically Nicenet, the Learning Space (Lotus) and CourseInfo (Cornell). He also recommended that the group develop criteria for evaluation. The criterion developed previously by this committee was shown briefly in addition to some of the ongoing comparative studies occurring in the United States and Canada.
Nick indicated that he met with administrators from CIS and that CIS has agreed to support Learning Space for the Katz School of Business. Some of this support includes a 24x7 help desk. CIS is also going to evaluate the appropriateness of Learning Space as a tool for the rest of the University. The interface of CourseInfo was also cited as being very appealing. CourseInfo is reported to be used at Cornell (developed by Cornell) and Yale Universities. Carl Kuzmich has already negotiated with CourseInfo to have a trial package loaded on a server in the CIDDE Instructional Computing Services and it was indicated that faculty can try out this software. Carl will forward access information for Course Info and Learning Space.
Nick stated that he did not feel ready to recommend one package (WebCt) based on the fact that the evaluation has been inadequate, since he and Rich Oravetz are the only faculty who have used WebCt extensively for a class. Carol Washburn recalled that at the last meeting and also previous meetings, the decision of the committee was not to recommend one software in the context of a comparison because of the limited number of faculty using the software. Rather, the intention was to state whether WebCt or TopClass was usable based on our own experiences as well as the experience of other institutions. This response was generated due to the following concerns:
-Marion Dougan reported that CIS needs some indication of a budget figure by April to include with the fiscal requests for the upcoming year.
-The overwhelming feedback obtained by faculty is the necessity for lead-time to develop materials and become familiar with the packages. This fact was echoed by Doug Hobson who reminded the committee that many faculty leave for the summer and that awareness of a package be available and advertised before the end of term in April.
-Recommendations need to be made and software implemented for Summer Institute, which will occur for faculty sometime in May. (The dates have not been set).
In addition, it has always been the contention that further evaluations should occur due to the changing market and software development along these lines. One recommendation in the past has been to recommend that a subcommittee be charged with overseeing an ongoing evaluation of these services.
Nick Laudato stated confidence in that CIDDE's Instructional Computing could provide a reasonable evaluation of the other packages discussed within the timespan of the next two weeks.
Concern was expressed that in order to evaluate another package at this time with the understanding that it be in place for faculty before the end of term, would not be feasible given the time constraints. In addition, any evaluations proposed should be done so using CIS's servers.
Jeff Cepull suggested that a few packages be offered with support for faculty, and that ultimately the faculty will decide which package they prefer.
Nick Laudato will look into having the issue of the conferencing package placed on the agenda of the next Snwig meeting. Several committee members could not attend this meeting. One faculty member from FAS, Irina Livezeanu had started using WebCt for her class but lost a GSA and then became ill. She forwarded an e-mail recommending that WebCt be adopted with appropriate training and support. She also stressed that faculty have access to the necessary hardware and software (i.e. UNA computer, html editors, etc.) in order to facilitate putting courses online.
Tom Waters also could not attend the meeting but forwarded an e-mail, stating that several problems arose which is why the School of Pharmacy could not follow through and evaluate the software as planned. Most of the faculty need more pre-planning time (they had approximately two weeks). The faculty did not take the time to become familiar with the software let alone preplan their materials, and they tried to do things at the last moment and consequently ended up frustrated. In addition, a prior method for delivering online course materials was continued by one faculty member. Students resented the fact that they are expected to 'learn' more than one system. The School of Pharmacy has been switching over to the UPMC server which in itself has resulted in delays and other problems.
The following decisions were made based on the discussions that occurred:
- Rich Oravetz will review the student software evaluation form and have recommendations to Carol Washburn by Wednesday. Hard copies with the revisions incorporated will be distributed by Thursday.
- Carl Kuzmich will forward instructions for accessing the CourseInfo and LearningSpace software to committee members.
- Marion Dougan will let Nick Laudato know of a decision and progress in putting CourseInfo on a CIS server.
- Nick Laudato and Rich Oravetz will have their students use CourseInfo and complete the evaluation forms for both CourseInfo and WebCt by Friday March 27. Doug Hobson and any other faculty members wanting to evaluate these tools should do so by March 27 also.
- On March 27, a demonstration and verbal discussion will occur regarding these packages.
- The following Friday (April 3), a written comparison using the evaluation forms developed as well as the initial selection criteria will be presented.
- Any recommendations for the outline for the report will be forwarded to Carol Washburn prior to the next meeting.
- Rich Oravetz and Carol Washburn will distribute the report by April 17 .
March 27 from 1-3pm in the CIDDE conference room.
Carol Washburn, Barbara Seels, Nick Laudato, Carl Kuzmich, Tom Waters, Rich Oravetz, Doris Hayashikawa, Keith Popendeiker, Kathleen Ferarro
- Barbara Seels reported the results of her comparison of the three candidates being considered: TopClass, WebCt and CourseInfo. She submitted a table of strengths and weaknesses, and remarked that all of the packages lacked adequate documentation. However, CourseInfo was viewed as slightly easier to use, and the fact that it didn't give as many options in presentation, etc. was seen as favorable for most faculty at the University.
- Nick Laudato has completed evaluations from his students, and Rich Oravetz indicated that he will complete evaluations also. Based on the information received, it was concluded that SNWIG be informed that there are two viable candidates, CourseInfo and WebCt, and that technical evaluations occur of CourseInfo. CourseInfo should be installed on a University evaluation server. The results of this evaluation would confirm a recommendation for one product or the other, in conjunction with the assessment of other student and faculty evaluations.
- Nick Laudato indicated that the provost's office has been apprised of the committee's work, and the necessity for a decision because of the Summer Institute.
- Rich Oravetz stated that he would contact CourseInfo and receive a firm price for the University, investigating whether there is room for negotiation.
- It was recommended that training occur on various levels for faculty, both from an instructional standpoint as well as a operational perspective. It was again emphasized that faculty need time for planning to put their courses online. Doris Hayashikawa suggested notifying faculty of the availability of the final tool in the University times.
- Carol Washburn will develop a draft of the report and inform the committee when it is available.
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