Computer Science instructor Murray Goldberg has created a niche for himself on campus--actually, on the World Wide Web.
Two years ago, Goldberg received a grant to put his third-year operating systems course on the Web, complete with interactive exercises, on-line testing and e-mail chat. Last term alone the site had 8,000 sign-ons.
Goldberg has since designed an interactive tool which allows teachers without technical expertise to create sophisticated, web-based presentations of their own courses.
Called WebCT, the tool is being tested by more than 500 institutions around the world.
The WebCT server in Goldberg's lab currently houses about 130 courses, two-thirds of which are based at UBC. Off-campus users include Sheridan, Selkirk and Camosun Colleges, University College of the Cariboo and the universities of Manitoba, South Dakota and California.
Goldberg's server routinely draws 1.5 million "hits" a month.
"Any instructor who wants to build a course and make it available on the Web simply calls me and I set them up," says Goldberg. "This tool seems to have satisfied a repressed need for people to use the Web in a manner that they couldn't before."
Goldberg says designing a course with WebCT is similar to using a word processor or spreadsheet; users access the tool through a Web browser such as Netscape, click on what they would like to do and are prompted for choices and text. The choices range from reading notes and taking quizzes to performing exercises, tracking student progress and communicating with instructors and students.
"Distance education used to be a solitary experience revolving around paper, textbooks and a telephone number," says Goldberg. "Technologies like WebCT create a sense of community akin to a virtual classroom."
Goldberg points out that WebCT will never usurp live lecturers but does offer a convenient, 24-hour resource for both students and instructors.
An analysis underway by a Douglas College instructor of five on-line educational delivery applications indicates that WebCT is the most comprehensive tool of its kind available.
Goldberg says UBC users will always have free access to WebCT on campus.
Starting in September, Goldberg will be working with the University-Industry Liaison Office to commercialize the technology to off-campus users.
He adds that negotiations are underway to have BC TEL act as service provider for WebCT to potential individual or institutional users.
For more information on the technology go to http://homebrew.cs.ubc.ca/webct/.