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Course management software adds online library resource tool

by Suzanne Zack - April 3, 2006

Online access to comprehensive library resources for courses is now a reality at UConn.

Thanks to a special tool developed in connection with the University’s course management software WebCT Vista, the library is now able to develop and make available modules of library resources online for both individual and multiple courses.

In addition, instead of being able to place only .pdf files of print material on Electronic Course Reserves, faculty can now post more sophisticated materials, such as photos, audio files, and spreadsheets for their students’ use.

WebCT – or Web Course Tools – has been widely adopted since its debut at UConn in 1999.

By this spring, an estimated half of all faculty, graduate students, and professional staff teaching courses had WebCT sites, for a total of some 3,000 classes, sections, and labs.

Through these sites, instructors post lecture notes and assignments, and students contribute to online discussions of topics covered in class, or submit their work to the professor.

The Library Resource Tool, which was developed by WebCT and University Information Technology Services for the libraries, is now operating in a one-year pilot program, and will provide faculty who participate in WebCT with direct access to library resources geared for their area of study.

It is scheduled to become fully operational this fall.

Currently, faculty may choose whether to use WebCT Vista or the older “Campus Edition” WebCT for courses that are already web-enhanced or completely online.

The Library Resource Tool is available only in Vista.

The Campus Edition of WebCT will be disabled by fall 2006, necessitating the use of Vista.

Christopher Clark, a professor of history who has used WebCT Vista in several of his classes, has found the Library Resource Tool particularly helpful in an upper level undergraduate course on New England history.

He has made available a large proportion of the required reading for the course via the tool, because there is no appropriate text or source book that students can purchase.

“The balance of the reading has been made available electronically by links from the syllabus to external websites or to other facilities,” he says.

“On the whole, Vista has worked well. I have found it fairly easy to make items available, and have particularly appreciated the electronic reserve facility.”

With the Library Resource Tool, library liaisons will be able to develop modules of library materials tailored to a specific area of study.  

Once developed, the module can be made available to faculty teaching other courses with a similar focus.

Instructors who wish to use WebCT Vista take part in a brief workshop conducted by the Instructional Resource Center in the Center for Undergraduate Education building.

To request online reading material from the libraries, instructors should complete the online request form to give the Libraries Reserve Services the necessary information to allow support staff to pull, scan, title, and upload files into WebCT.

This past fall, only five courses used Electronic Course Reserves in Vista. Currently, 93 courses use it.

For more information about Electronic Course Reserves, contact Steve Bustamante at 860-486-1158 or steve.bustamante@uconn.edu.

To learn about developing learning resource modules, faculty should contact their department’s library liaison.

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