Seven Deadly Sins of WebCT

Don't let these tempt you!

1. Putting PowerPoint slides in WebCT when the text-based outline would suffice.

While PowerPoint on WebCT looks great on our fast campus network, it often runs very, very slowly for students using home computers with modems. If the students really need to see the graphics-based presentation, then email it to them as an attachment or at least offer the text version as well.

2. Putting your textbook online.

The purpose of an online course is not to replace the textbook. Besides violating copyright laws, you are really doing students a disservice if you force them to read long pages of text on a computer screen. Use WebCT as a means of interaction and resource sharing.

3. Using fancy graphics, audio, or video just because you can.

Again, most students have slow home connections, and large files result in frustration and a lack of learning for them. Don't use intensive graphics or plug-ins unless it is critical to the instruction. Even then, consider an alternative means of distribution (CD-ROM, videotape).

4. Failing to develop structure and clear requirements.

Our experience shows that if you want students to participate in an online course, you must clearly state your expectations. Saying "every student must post to the bulletin board at least twice per week," works better than saying "be sure to use the bulletin board for interaction."

5. Not taking the time to learn WebCT yourself.

Students are more apt to use technology effectively when you have the confidence to answer most of their questions and understand their concerns. By practicing and mastering (yes, you can!) WebCT, you will be able to go beyond the basic features and maximize the effectiveness of your online course. You will also save lots of time in the long run when you are able to quickly make adjustments to your course.

6. Failing to interact with students online regularly.

Our past evaluations have shown that students feel more connected with instructors who participate regularly, even daily, in bulletin board discussions. Students also expect that their private mail be answered quickly (within a day or so).

7. Letting the discussion board get so full that it's unmanageable.

If your discussion board use is heavy in your class, you will want to clean it up (delete older messages) sometimes so that only the most recent discussions appear. If you'd like to save the older discussions, you can "compile" them (before deleting) and archive them in a "library" that you create within your course (the Distance Education office can teach you an easy way to do this).

By Melanie Clay, State University of West Georgia