Blackboard to replace WebCT by summer 2012

Emily Banks

By the summer of 2012, Information Technology Services and ISU instructors will no longer be using WebCT.

Instead, Blackboard Learn will be the primary way for students to take online courses and get course information that is now found on WebCT.

The change is due to Blackboard’s purchase of WebCT in 2006, said Jim Twetten, director of IT Services.

“We were faced with the fact that WebCT won’t be supported by the company anymore starting in 2013, so we had to change to something else, so we went with what the company was already offering, [Blackboard],” Twetten said.

The Blackboard system is now being used in about 30 ISU classes in order to test the system. Starting this summer, Blackboard will be available for all professors to use with their classes.

The major differences between WebCT and Blackboard are the amount of control instructors have over their class site and a new way of grading.

Instructors will be able to enter results and scores directly into Blackboard’s Grading Center. The program is similar to Microsoft Excel and is able to calculate grades as they are entered. The program also shows “grading history,” which shows any changes an instructor or teaching assistant makes to a student’s grade.

Unlike WebCT, grades are found under an individual section instead of a class-by-class basis, making it easier for students to look at their grades. With this, the new Grading Center instructors will also be able to print grade reports for students. They will be able to assign students into groups or sections in order to make the grading process among teaching assistants easier.

“Instructors can now choose to deploy assignments to all students individually or to groups of students. This allows instructors to assign a single grade to all of the students in a group and also to override that group grade and assign a student a different grade,” according to the website.

To make the transition to Blackboard easier, the website links to a student’s WebCT course page. Students are able to access their courses that are still in WebCT through the Blackboard page, which keeps them from having to check multiple sites for their grades, assignments and announcements.

Despite the changes, Blackboard will not require more funding than what is already used for WebCT, Twetten said.

“The licensing cost is effectively the same as WebCT. However, running two systems in parallel doubles the operating costs, so once WebCT is shut down, the cost will be back to normal,” Twetten said.