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  February 2, 2004

UConn Joins Statewide WebCT Consortium

Connecticut's three units of public higher education - the Connecticut Community College System, the Connecticut State University System, and the University of Connecticut - have embarked on the Northeast's biggest e-learning initiative, selecting WebCT Vista as their e-learning system.

Their single shared license for WebCT Vista will support rapidly growing e-learning activity - learning enabled by technology - across the three independent systems and their 72,000 students. "This will be one of the largest e-learning initiatives in the Northeast," said Allan Cole, co-founder and executive director of the New England Learning Association, a Boston-based association that brings together professionals in industry and educational institutions to advance the successful adoption of technology for learning.

The state expects immediate savings of more than $200,000 by sharing a single software license, collaborating on course development and technology administration, and sharing services. In the near future, WebCT Vista is expected to include a repository for items such as web pages, media clips, or curricula, that can be used to create online courses.

"This is a precedent-setting, far-reaching initiative to share information technology on a broad scale," said Ed Klonoski, executive director of the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium and the lead negotiator of the contract. "WebCT Vista has a tremendous impact on education, and this license-sharing agreement will yield significant cost savings."

The consortium is expected to expand over time to include private institutions and K-12 schools in the state.

WebCT Vista will enable each institution within the three units to develop its own online identity with a distinctive look and feel. Yet students moving through several institutions - for example, a community college graduate enrolling at a university - will find the basic system familiar as they move from school to school, eliminating the need for retraining. Students will have online access to course materials, assignments, and assessments, and they will be able to use tools such as e-mail, chat, and threaded discussion.

Currently, students use WebCT's software for homework assignments, discussions among class members, reading assignments, quizzes, and tests. The system allows teachers to track the number of times students post discussion items, determine whether assigned readings have been done, and communicate with students between class meetings.

The three Connecticut higher education units have been using their own licenses for the WebCT Campus Edition course management system since the late 1990s.

A single license for WebCT Vista will now support all their e-learning on the same platform and enable the institutions to integrate their student information systems with ease. Integration lets student information systems automatically exchange registration information and grades with WebCT Vista. WebCT Vista will also enable every school to maintain its own branding identity and autonomous control of teaching and learning.

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