October 2005 Archives

WebCT and Blackboard evaluations

We are beginning the next phase of evaluating web based course management systems to replace the current version of WebCT.

OIRT has scheduled two workshops to cover WebCT "Vista" and Blackboard. Anyone interested in seeing the latest versions of both of these products should please sign up for the following dates by sending e-mail to oirt@rutgers.edu:

WebCT Vista - 10/27, 9am-noon
Blackboard - 11/1, 1pm-4pm

Session locations will be in a hands-on lab on Busch or College Avenue, the exact room is still to be determined. Both WebCT Vista and Blackboard are significantly easier to use than the older versions of WebCT. If you are using WebCT now, you should be pleasantly surprised by how different both systems are.

Incidentally, the WebCT and Blackboard corporations have announced a plan to merge. Ultimately the two products will become one under the "Blackboard" name, bringing in features from both products. The new, merged product is still several years off.

Bibliographic Software

The library, in coordination with the Office of Instructional and Research Technology and with the Center of for the Advancement of Teaching, is currently considering implementing a university-wide site license for bibliographic database software. The two prime candidates are EndNote and RefWorks.

For those unfamiliar with these tools, both allow people to collect and organize bibliographic data for their research while searching through library indexes. This creates a complete reference list which can be inserted into papers during the writing process. In most cases it will automatically format all citations for the particular writing or publication style needed.

People who already use this type of software are more likely to be familiar with EndNote, but for central distribution it makes more sense to use RefWorks. EndNote works by requiring people to install the software on their own computers then uses the network to link to library resources, while RefWorks is accessed via a web site and allows people to save the collected data to their own computers when needed. Since everyone accesses RefWorks through the network, any updates to library resources are handled automatically, whereas users of EndNote would need to download and install updated "filters".

Naturally people can continue to use whichever product they choose, regardless of the university site license. A site license would merely lower the cost (possibly to nothing) to students, faculty and staff for new purchases, as well as allow the university to concentrate on fully supporting the software in a way that is not currently possible.

OIRT is soliciting feedback on the choice. They have arranged for demonstrations of the two products. EndNote has a 30-day free trial on their web site, and RefWorks is allowing the Rutgers community access to their web site during our evaluation period. Anyone interested can sign up for the demonstrations at OIRT.

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