Ed Bilodeau

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This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Friday, October 07, 2005

WebCT Vista - Better, but not by much : When I first started teaching at the Centre, I put my materials up on my own web site and gave students the URL in class. It wasn't secure, and there were no communication tools, but the overhead was almost zero and it did the job.

Once I started working at the Centre full time, I became the web guy, and so was asked to try to improve our department's use of WebCT. Since it would be hard for me to convince someone else to use the system if I myself wasn't on board, I decided to take the dive and use WebCT for my class web site.

In the semesters that followed, I learned how to use WebCT effectively, which meant in essence not using most of the functionality, and instead using it to host files and provide a discussion group. C'est tout.

With Vista, which I am using for the first time this semester, I decided to try to use as much of the functionality as possible, to see how much things have improved. Overall, I would have to say that while things are better, they are not good enough for me to use on an ongoing basis.

The biggest change for me was to use a learning module (aka a content module) to organize my course materials, but the new version is still just as cumbersome as before, if not more so. I actually have less control them before over how to display the content. I'll stick it out this semester, but come winter, it's gone. Same goes for the gradebook, which didn't even get out of my pre-semester planning.

I think if we were to look at what most faculty on campus need out of a LMS, WebCT is overkill. Not in the functionality, which does look good on paper. But the implementation of those ideas leave a lot to be desired. WebCT Vista breaks almost every measure of good web app design. Frames, disabling browser controls, popups, plugins, no URIs for content, jamming way too much into the UI.

But we're stuck with it. This semester I'm going to try to get more feedback from my students, and hopefully in the winter session come up with a better way of using WebCT.