On Learning Differences

Vol. 2, No. 2 - Information on Learning Differences Online Spring 2003


In This Issue

Auditory Processing: Potential Effect on Learning

On the Path to Remediation

A Technology Breakthrough for Educators and Students

Overcoming Fear and Shame:
It is Never Too Late to Learn

Book Review


An Editorial Consultant and Writer Extraordinaire

Conference Information

About the Editor

Sharing Ideas

Permission to Copy from Visions on Learning Differences

Please see other issues



  by Rehan Ahmad

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 that system.

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