TECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGH FOR EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS
Colleges and universities worldwide are increasing and expanding
their usage of information technology in order to enhance the institutions'
capability to offer educational services to students, instructors,
and staff. There are many different providers of this technology
to institutions, including the Blackboard Learning System and WebCT.
They allow the instructors to use the Internet as a tool for teaching
and the students to learn materials. These systems function as an
online environment to complement and supplement either on-site or
distance learning. These systems facilitate closing the gap between
the student and instructor, using the Internet, providing an excellent
and convenient source of communication and learning, even from their
own homes. The systems offer many features that benefit both the
instructor and students.
The student always has a reference to the syllabus for the class,
since the document can be posted on the website through the duration
of the course. Instructors at colleges and universities also can
deliver important and urgent information about classes, exams, or
general news with the post announcements feature. This feature allows
alterations to the curriculum by the instructor and provides an
easy way for students to follow them. Through these systems, even
lecture slides in PowerPoint or in a text format are available for
access from any computer with Internet access. Usually, the lecture
slides are an excellent outline for each class and a great quantity
of useful information from which students may study. The instructor
has the ability to display resources and external links to other
websites related to the course, enhancing the learning experience.
Further improving the experience, a student may inquire or share
ideas or even find a study partner since students have the capability
to post messages to other students on a discussion board within
Another outstanding feature is the function which permits teachers
to post assignments, projects, and even quizzes for the class at
any time or location. Then, to complement this function, the digital
drop box is the place where students may send these files to the
instructor. This eliminates creating unnecessary photocopies for
students and an organized method of gathering each student's assignments.
Additionally, these systems provide an easy way to track the grades
of each student. This function posts each individual grade for all
assignments, projects, quizzes, and exams, and then calculates the
most current grade of the student in the class.
In order to receive this service, the institution must contact
the provider, and request the system to be integrated onto its own
college website. Currently, many colleges and universities have
initiated the implementation of this technology and host the website,
and others plan to incorporate this valued program. In view of budget
cuts at colleges and universities throughout the nation, some find
such a system is cost effective since classes that incorporate its
use tend to require less teaching assistants.
These educational systems have an easy-to-use interface that both
inexperienced computer users as well as experts may enjoy. Many
believe it will become standard to offer this technology in all
institutions to the benefit of both instructors and students. The
demand for online education and communication in colleges and universities
is growing rapidly, and providers like Blackboard, Inc. and WebCT
will likely meet this need in the future.
Rehan Ahmad is a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore
County, majoring in Information Systems and Business Management.
He is also seeking a Masters in Business Administration. He has
designed this and other websites and computerized accounting systems,
as well as having developed advertising layouts and marketing designs,
and has refined and expanded management strategies.
© 2003 Rehan Ahmad. All rights reserved