Students, faculty interact with WebVista

Using the site, teachers can put assignments and lecture notes online.

Devin Henry

Numbers from the Digital Media Center show WebVista, an online course management system, has an increasing number of users at the University.

The nine-year-old system has 2,379 course pages and about 50,000 University users, Linda Jorn, director of the Digital Media Center in the Office of Information Technology, said.

“Its purpose is to support teaching and learning,” she said. “Our faculty uses it to enhance face-to-face learning.”

The site lets teachers put documents, assignments and features used to facilitate discussions online.

“These tools are very integrated,” Jorn said. “You can have a WebVista site and it might link out to the blog tool. There’s a lot of integrating going on with these systems.”

Instructors can also see how many students access the pages and when they do, assess how popular their study resources are, associate professor of family social science Catherine Solheim said.

“It gives you a sense of how connected students are to the class,” she said. “The more connection one has, the better learning is, often.”

Instructors, however, can’t identify which students log in, Jorn said.

First-year international business and marketing student Andrea Rodriguez said she doesn’t have a problem with instructors accessing that data.

“I guess that’s OK as long as they don’t access personal stuff, like who the actual student was,” she said.

Biology 1001 teaching assistant Charlie Rohwer said he uses data that professors put online to grade students’ papers. He said he thinks WebVista is a good tool for teachers, especially considering its privacy measures.

“It’s also helpful that it’s password-protected. They know that their class has access to it, so they can put things up there that only their class can see,” Rohwer said.

Instructors can also use other online resources like University blogs, external professor Web sites, and Moodle, which hosts 305 course sites and 7,850 users, Jorn said.

“All of these systems have different tools that support teaching and learning,” she said.

Solheim said she uses WebVista to keep students connected in a lecture-style class.

“I use it as my main communication tool with students,” she said.

She posts PowerPoint slides and worksheets, and maintains a class discussion page, which she grades for class participation points.

“I would be really interested in knowing what students’ opinions are of it, because, bottom line, that’s what we’re here for,” she said. “We need to be providing the tools that help the learning process.”

Rodriguez said many of her classes use WebVista, and while it’s helpful sometimes, she does have problems with it.

“Even though for econ we get a week to do our homework, it would be due on Sunday,” she said. Because students wait until the due date to submit their homework, “like half of the Sunday it would be down and it would suck.”

Matt Wagner, a graduate student in mathematics education said he sometimes has trouble with his Internet connection while accessing WebVista.

“I have wireless, and it’s not that great,” he said. “But the program itself works pretty well.”

Jorn said she thinks WebVista’s purpose is to support teaching at the University.

“The tools will change,” she said. “I think what always stays the same is how we evaluate the use of these tools and how they support teaching and learning.”