Why I Hate WebCT, Part II

My initial post on the subject has actually made the rounds at McGill and some people are talking about ways to fix things. I appreciate that. In followup correspondence, I listed some other things I hate about WebCT, and since the first post was a hit at least three people, I thought I’d post these as well.

More reasons why I hate WebCT Vista:

–you can’t customize layout. This is a problem because the overall design concept (popups, icons, etc) seems very 1995. It could be much simpler and more straightforward. Compared to much of the web it looks amateurish. I dress well for my students and wouldn’t mind a well-dressed website to go with the look.

–they want you to not only use their bizarre jargon for course organization but to force the students to learn it – what’s worst about it is that it implies a particular approach to course design (thus reducing the prof’s freedom and reducing variety for students – rather than giving in, I work around this)

–sign up sheets are designed for classes of 25 and are unusable for classes of 250 with conference sections (I had a long back and forth with tech support about this last year and there was no available solution)

–announcements are something students must seek out apart from annoying pop up windows (they should appear on the course homepage when the course comes up) — only my dedicated students seem to be aware of them (this was much less the case when I was able to customize the layout in earlier versions of WebCT and when I used to do my own course websites)

–I post reading questions for each reading to help guide students. I linked all the calendar dates for the course to reading questions for the assigned readings in winter 07; but when I updated my course for fall it wouldn’t let me move the dates forward despite there being buttons for this feature (there is a tech support record of this and I was told that they could not fix it in my case). If I’d had used fewer capabilities of the calendar, I might have been better off.

–it takes several mouse clicks to delete an old file, upload a new one, erase the old link and create a new one with a correct name (there should be an “update this file” option for powerpoints and such that I post online). Even uploading a fresh powerpoint involves several mouse clicks when it should be a simpler operation.

–rearranging icons on for files inside a folder is a logistical nightmare akin to playing a game of Tetris, though strangely rearranging columns in the gradebook is easy. If they figured it out once, I can’t imagine why they didn’t figure it out a second time.

–the search function for discussion boards is extremely limited

–conference section enrollment can’t control access to messageboards, so students often post in the wrong place and their TA doesn’t see it.

–when you write multiple choice questions, you can’t save preferences for questions (e.g., letters not numbers for answers and scrambled) which means that you have to be sure to tick the correct boxes for each question.

These are the issues off the top of my head. For each of them I have found workarounds or simply given up. WebCT automatically updates enrollment, which is nice, and the online practice quiz worked great. I find it somewhat tragic that the software is weakest in supporting large, intricate undergrad courses, where I think courseware could be the most useful. It’s also fails to make things easy that should be — like updating a course from year to year with small revisions.