The U-M CourseTools Web site reached an important milestone Feb. 4 when more than 10,000 unique users logged-in that day. The five-year-old project has more than 25,000 students64 percent of registered studentsas users this semester. CourseTools in one of several initiatives under development in the Learning Collaboratory, a multi-disciplinary and inter-campus project that aims to enhance development efforts.
The site, which over the past 13 months has been online 99.96 percent of the time, allows faculty to structure their courses and manage course material through announcements, calendars, assignments, posted resources, participant profiles and group discussions.
Typically, faculty members develop Web sites for students to access whatever information and assignments are necessary for their courses. Students can then find the needed information with great ease. Eric DeRosia, adjunct lecturer in the Business School, says one benefit of CourseTools is that it allows students who do not have a convenient way to access such documents as e-mail attachments to readily find them. DeRosia also says the ease of uploading documents to the CourseTools Web site has encouraged him to use the technology rather than to design his own Web site. DeRosia concludes that though CourseTools has many important functions, the most helpful is that it allows an instructor to access a complete and accurate list of those students enrolled in the class. This is especially important in the early days of a semester, when enrollments are changing daily and the instructor is trying to determine how many people he or she can allow to add the class, he says.
The growth of the Web site is attributed, in part, to its ease of use and dedicated user support. There are three production servers, and no more than two have been down simultaneously. If one server goes down, information is simply passed to the next. In addition, those who run CourseTools are amenable to suggestions from users as to how to improve the site.
Students enjoy the site, too. LS&A junior Sam Buxton says he likes CourseTools because he thinks, It is helpful. LS&A junior Robert Nemzin adds that CourseTools is great because you can access it from anywhere. Such ease allows students to keep up with class work and discussions when they are away from campus. All they have to do is find Internet access in order to visit CourseTools. LS&A junior, Jenny Leifer, states that she wishes more teachers would use CourseTools because of its convenience.