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Archive for the 'Add-ons' Category

Student access and new Teaching Assistants

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

We get two questions a lot at this time of the semester, and there are quick answers to each:

1. My students can’t access my Summer ‘09 course: can you open for them for a bit longer?
The WebCT administrators at SFU have developed a nifty tool, so instructors can modify on their own when students can first access their WebCT course container, and when they’re denied access. It’s called Course Tools, and can also be used to add instructors to a course. To add and use Course Tools, follow the instructions here.

2. How do I add my TA to my Fall ‘09 course?
There are two ways of adding TAs to your WebCT course container. You can either add them through the Grade Book tools, or you can use the Course Tools. You’ll need your TAs Computing ID (their log-in to WebCT, MySFU, MyInfo, etc). More detailed instructions on both of these options are available by clicking here.

For more information or help you can email instructional_support@sfu.ca or you can download very detailed print guides on the Gradebook, Assignment tool, Assessment tool, Discussion tool and more on this page.

What your colleagues from U Carleton are doing.

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

The University of Carleton has a teaching and learning blog, with some postings on WebCT use.

This postings discusses the use of educational technology as a means of acheiving (or at least approaching) a paperless classroom.  Instructors at the University of Carleton and at SFU post classroom materials online: syllabus, lecture outlines, links to readings and weblinks and assignment descriptions and guidelines online. This gives the student just one place to look for these materials (instead of coming through past emails, or stacks of paper). Online quizzes can also be a means of implementing regular assessment (graded or self-testing) and feedback into the course without contending with mountains of paperwork.

Another posting is more general, talking about creating learning opportunites using technology.  This is an opportunity to look at three different courses who use the WebCT online environment to:

  • create long term resources
  • reducing trivial emailed students from students
  • fostering an online learning community
  • create a common look and feel for the course
  • using images on the course content home to reinforce key ideas and concepts from the course
  • importing other tools (Google Calendar or Picasa photo management) into WebCT, to combine those tools ease of use with a central online location for the course materials and community.

We are planning on having some SFU faculty demonstrate their use of WebCT in the new year. Keep an eye on the LIDC calendar of events for dates and times.

New: Manage access to your WebCT container

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

The WebCT administrators at Simon Fraser University just added a new proxy tool called “Course Tools”.  Once added to your WebCT course container, you are able to add and remove members (Primary Instructors, Instructors, Designers, Teaching Assistants and Auditors), and be able to modify the start and end date restriction.  To add the “Course Tools”, please do the following :

  1. Log in to WebCT
  2. Go to the Course and go to the Build tab
  3. Within the ‘Home page’, click on the drop-down arrow for ‘Add Content Link’
  4. Click on ‘Course Tools’
  5. Select ‘Create Course Tools’
  6. Enter the tile of ‘Course Tools’ and hit ‘Save’
  7. Click on the drop-down arror for ‘Course Tools’ and click ‘Hide Item’.  Currently, the Course Tools only has options for Section Instructors and Designers.  Therefore, it’s best to hide the item from student to eliminate confusion.
  8. Go to the Teach tab
  9. Go to the ‘Coures Tools’
  10. Select ‘Course members’ or ‘Course dates’ option and follow the instructions

This new addition will give faculty and instructors greater control over when students can access the course. Instructors will still be able to add co-instructors, TAs and co-designers and change the start and end date that students can access the course in the Course Request Form, but this is a new chance to modify these restrictions after the course has been created. The default access dates for students will continue to be the first day of the new semester until the first day of the next semester.

Pilot: when Wiki met WebCT

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Wikis are online, editable pages that you and your students can use to collaborate on group projects or the development of course notes.

We are currently piloting a means of adding wiki functionality to WebCT. If you would like to add a wiki to your course container, please email instructional_support@sfu.ca and we will be happy to set it up and discuss it’s implementation and management.

This would act as a “plug-in”, much like the integration of Elluminate Live! software and Turnitin software. SFU currently uses the MediaWiki platform, and this plug-in allows you to have a wiki in WebCT. Currently, you would not be able to access the wiki outside of WebCT (that will require further work), wiki pages would be editable to all persons registered in the WebCT course and you can only have one wiki (put multiple pages in that wiki) per course.

Add lecture recordings to your WebCT course

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Create a seamless link between large class lectures and your WebCT course container to provide learning opportunities for students outside the classroom.

If your lecture hall lectures are recorded, you can now place a quick link to the recording in your WebCT course. Check here for instructions: http://wiki.sfu.ca/webct/index.php/External#adding_SFU_lecture_recordings


  1. Open the BUILD tab in your WebCT course container
  2. Add the WebLinks tool (go to Manage Course, click on Tools, select “WebLinks” and click save).
  3. From Home Page or any Learning Module or Organizer Page, Expand “Add Content Link” drop down menu
  4. Select “Web Link”
  5. Click “Create Web Link”
  6. Enter a title (e.g. SFU Digital Lectures)
  7. Enter the URL: http://podcast.sfu.ca/mylectures

Integrate more into WebCT

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

ADETA has a list of the top 10 free tools that can be integrated into WebCT. Many of the tools provided will provide some HTML code or script that you can add to an HTML page for a direct link between the two applications.

There are some really good ideas here – I am going to start playing with Hot Potatoes, and link to a few google tools. Hmmmm, and what about Flickr? The theme here is to use the tools that you are comfortable with, and making things accessible to your students. These are opportunities to supplant lectures and readings with images, movies, sounds, maps and collaborative documents.

Section numbers now in WebCT Grade Book

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Section numbers such as tutorial or lab numbers now appear in the WebCT Grade Book automatically.

The column is titled “Section” and will be all the way to the right in your grade book. To reorder your grade book columns, consult the instructions here: http://wiki.sfu.ca/webct/index.php/Student_grades#Navigate_and_customize_the_grade_book
If you do not wish this column to appear in the Grade Book, click on the action link next to the column titled “Section” and choose “hide column” from the drop down menu.

Finding and sorting by section number in the Grade Book

  • Sort by section number: click on the column title, and choose “sort column” from the drop-down menu.
  • Use the “Find Members” function in the “Grade Book Options” drop down menu to find specific section members. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Column”, and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102). Click on “run query” to show results.
  • If you manually change a section designation (e.g., a student registers in D105, but attends the D108 section) in the grade book, the symbol “^” will appear in front of it. This will not impact the students registration – only how it appears in WebCT.

Selective release of content according to section number
If you have a folder on the home page of your course, you can use the selective release to share it only with specific sections.

  • In either the Build or the Teach tab, click on the “Selective Release” button found under the Designer or Instructor tools.
  • You will see a list of folders – click on the button “set release criteria” for the appropriate folder.
  • Choose “Add Grade Book Criteria.”
  • You will get a pop-up window. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Criteria”, set the “Condition” to “contains” (this is the most general option – other options may suit you better), and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102).

Selective release of discussion topics according to section number
If you are using the discussion tool, you can use the selective release to share individual discussion topics with specific sections.

  • Open the discussion tool, and create the topics you require.
  • Click on the action link next to the topic you wish to release.
  • Choose “Set Release Criteria” from the drop down menu.
  • Choose “Add Grade Book Criteria.”
  • You will get a pop-up window. Choose “Section” in the drop down menu under the header “Criteria”, set the “Condition” to “contains” (this is the most general option – other options may suit you better), and in the “Value” box, type in the section number (e.g., D102).

Add RSS feeds to your WebCT course section

Friday, July 20th, 2007

For more information on what an RSS feed is and it’s role in education, download the Seven Things you Should Know About RSS], or go to http://www.weblogg-ed.com/ and click on the RSS tab near the top to download Will Richardsons introduction to RSS. For quick browsing, go to the ”Finding and Adding Feeds section”

How to add an RSS Feed Reader to your WebCT course section.

  1. Log in as a Section Designer and go to the section.
  2. From Course Content Home, click Add Content Link and choose RSS Feed Reader from the dropdown menu.
  3. Click Create RSS Feed Reader.
  4. Add the RSS URL in field #3
  5. Click save and preview in the Student View

The settings
The easiest way to add an RSS feed is to use the default options available. Just remember to add your RSS URL in field #3. For more information on how to find an RSS URL, please consult the resources listed above.

Advanced setting changes

If you are an advanced user of RSS feeds, there are other settings that you can change for your own needs.

The proxy tool settings consist of the following:

  1. Title: The proxy tool title that appears in the Course Content Home.
  2. Operational Timeout: Leave this set to the default (10).
  3. RSS/RDF URL: This must be set to the URL of the RSS feed. (e.g. http://feeds.macworld.com/macworld/all, http://rss.cnn.com/services/podcasting/newscast/rss.xml))
  4. XSL Transform Can be set to:
    • Default RSS: use the built-in RSS transform to convert the RSS to HTML. If this is selected, the XSL URL setting is ignored.
    • Default RDF: use the built-in RDF transform to convert the RSS to HTML. If this is selected, the XSL URL setting is ignored.
    • Custom: use a custom transform to convert the RSS to HTML. If this is selected, you must also set the XSL URL setting.
  5. XSL URL: If XSL Transform is set to Custom, this setting must contain the URL of an XSL transform capable of converting the RSS feed to HTML.
  6. CSS URL: Can be used to specify a custom cascading stylesheet (CSS) file. If empty, the built-in CSS is used.
  7. Window title: The text to display in the title bar of the popup window (when applicable).
  8. Title contains HTML: Set this to true if item titles in the RSS feed contain HTML (otherwise the HTML code is displayed).
  9. Description contains HTML: Set this to true if item descriptions in the RSS feed contain HTML (otherwise the HTML code is displayed).
  10. Custom parameter x: These five settings can be used to set parameters for the XSLT engine. This is only useful if you have a custom transform.-The format of each Custom parameter setting is:
    -So if you want to pass the current username and the learning context name to the transform, you would enter
    Custom parameter 1: username=$USER$.name
    Custom parameter 2: lcname=$LC$.name
    -In your XSL transform, you’d have something like this:
    <xsl:param name=”username”/>
    <xsl:param name=”lcname”/>

    <xsl:template match=”channel”>
    <p class=”channeldescription”>Hello, <xsl:value-of select=”$username”/> from <xsl:value-of select=”$lcname”/>!</p>
  11. Open in new window

Embed a YouTube video in WebCT

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

My newest objective is to figure out how to embed content from other web-based applications in WebCT.

I started with You Tube, since they make it pretty easy. All you have to do is grab the code they provide, and put it in some body tags on an HTML page. It’s my duty, of course, to remind you that plenty of content on You Tube is not copyright protected, and some clips are taken down as soon as the original broadcast network can find them*.

Video can be an effective learning tool – it can provide a new perspective on a point you are trying to make in the classroom, provides information in a new format and it’s powerful combination of audio and video can propel some affective learning from your students. The clips on YouTube are generally less than 10 minutes, so they are an effective length to keep the students attention.

  1. Go to http://youtube.com and find the clip you want to embed. If you don’t have an exact title that someone told you about, be prepared to get distracted by just about anything.
  2. To the right of the screen where the video plays is a box with the clip title, tags and other metadata. There is a field called “embed” – copy all the code from that box. The code with start with <object width … and end with </object>. This code sets the size of the window, places a play/pause controls and gives the URL for the video.
  3. Go to WebCT and create a new HTML page.
  4. You need to put your YouTube code in the body of the HTML page. At the top of the page, type: <body>
  5. Paste your YouTube code on the HTML page.
  6. Type </body> at the end of the HTML page.
  7. Save your new page.

In student view, you will now have a link to a YouTube video that will play in the WebCT course container.


* this is a whole other debate. My personal opinion is that the clips should be treated like quotes people use in book reviews. Seeing a two minute clip of the Jon Stewart show is only going to remind the fans of how funny it is, and attract new converts. jeesh.

Wrapping up your web-supported course

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

part three: wrapping up

By default, your students will have access to their WebCT course discussions, content and grades until the last day of the semester. After the next semester starts, the course container is closed to them, but they retain access to anything in their personal WebCT File Manager. You’ll still be able to access the course content.

If you have used the discussion forum, post a “good bye” message to students. You can later “lock” discussion forums so that students can read, but not post new messages, but give your students a chance to wrap up their online thoughts. If you are going to grade student postings as part of their participation grade, have them compile and email their top five postings to you. This will save you time, and they’ll be able to revisit and review some of their past contributions.

The assessment tool can be used to survey your students at the end of the semester. They’ll have formal course evaluations, but you can check how they liked the web-supported course forum. Which tools or content supported their learning, and how did it extend the classroom environment. Use the same survey to ask yourself those reflective questions. What worked, what didn’t, and what would you do differently?

The gradebook tool can give your students an overview of their semester grades. Create a calculated column to calculate and distribute provisional final grades. There are instructions available to help you move grades seamlessly from WebCT to SIMS.

Streamline things for the next time you teach: store files that you use in multiple WebCT course sections in your File Manager – you’ll be able to link to those files from any WebCT course.