The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 20th

Use of Online Resources Increases

The use of Blackboard, supported by Academic Technology & Networks, and other course-related Web sites has increased, according to ATN's Center for Instructional Technology, which keeps track of which courses are active online and how many people access certain sites.

"The Web is becoming ubiquitous," said Lori Mathis, the manager for instructional application at CIT.

In the fall of 1999, the first version of Blackboard was introduced, leading to an exponential increase in the number of courses that use the Internet as a resource. Blackboard is a program that provides a shell for each course so that professors can post information online. Some features include discussion groups and a gradebook where instructors can give practice quizzes and distribute grades.

Mathis said that in the site's first term, there were 24 courses that used online Web sites. For the fall of 2001, she reported that 740 sites were accessed by at least one user.

In addition to Blackboard, CIT also provides resources to help professors create their own Web sites if they find Blackboard's layout too generic, Mathis said. She said there are more than 100 of these "homegrown" Web sites using central ATN resources, in addition to a large number of sites on department Web sites and professors' personal online space.

Todd Taylor, who teaches in the Department of English, said he uses both Blackboard and other Web sites in his courses. "The more communication there can be between faculty and students, the more opportunity for dialogue, the actual exchange of ideas, the better," Taylor said.

Students have mixed reactions to the use of the Internet in their courses.

"It basically just provides an outlet for teachers to give you extra work," said sophomore Nichelle Wynn. "It would have been helpful if everything worked, but many times technology fails."

But senior Dave Broome said online material is more useful. "I tend to find Blackboard to be extremely useful, especially in cases with a high volume of lecture slides," he said. "You can study the notes beforehand and take them to class with you. It facilitates paying attention in class."

Junior Rusty Eriksu said he finds increased communication through online forums to be useful. "It kind of created questions so when we came to class we already had an assessment of where the discussion would go," he said.

Some professors believe that, as it increases, the use of online technology is influencing the way they teach. "It's a foundation," Taylor said. "It's a landmark improvement."

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