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CourseWorks' Website Tool to Provide Faculty with New Course Management System

By Lauren Marshall

This spring, faculty and students on the Morningside campus will have access to CourseWorks@Columbia, a new course management system that will enable them to publish course syllabi online, regularly update and post online course materials, and even create a course bulletin board, easily and on their own using their desktop computer. CourseWorks@Columbia is a kind of one-stop shopping for online course management tools, where faculty have the option to activate applications that suit their needs.

"We took Prometheus, an open architecture software platform originally developed at George Washington University, and added our own customizations to deliver functions proven over the years to be valuable to faculty," said Vace Kundakci, deputy vice president of AcIS, the group that headed the development of the application. "As a result, we brought improvements to an already good system and also vastly improved the technology that we had before in terms of capabilities and ease of use."

"The introduction of CourseWorks is like the introduction of the word processor, which freed many faculty from reliance on secretaries for typing and allowed them to focus more energy on the substance of their writing," said Frank Moretti, executive director of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning(CCNMTL). "So too will CourseWorks reduce the reliance of faculty on specialists to produce basic Web sites for courses and allow them to direct more energy to the construction of learning modules that make purposeful use of digital media. CCNMTL's role is both to support the faculty in the use of CourseWorks and to work with them on exciting more advanced projects."

The CourseWorks interface, modeled after the blue-and-white Columbia course web page template designed by CCNMTL, offers online features that can help manage, enhance and also extend the classroom experience. In addition to an improved version of CUBboard, Columbia's online bulletin board application developed by AcIS, new CourseWorks features include the ability to post and grade texts and quizzes online and the option to create a "class files" area, where documents and reference material in a variety of formats can be stored and organized.

When faculty log onto the new system they will find a list of their courses and a number of options available to them. Faculty can publish course information and content; communicate with students via bulletin boards and email lists; maintain digital assets, such as text, slides, video and audio; deliver and receive files, such as readings and assignments; manage group projects and maintain an archive of past courses on their own and with relative ease. Faculty can also link to Columbia Library reserves and online resources that apply to the course.

"The main feature of CourseWorks that faculty will enjoy is independence. With a bit of creativity it can be made into a powerful educational tool which students and teachers can both use to share ideas and information. Its flexibility can reinforce the intellectual vitality of the learning experience," said Lia Maryam May-Landy, lecturer with the American Language Program.

The new course management system moves the development of course websites into the hands of faculty. Before CourseWorks, websites were either developed and maintained by faculty themselves or by CCNMTL in collaboration with faculty. If changes or updates were needed, faculty would have to call CCNMTL technologists, who made those adjustments. Similarly if a faculty member wanted to remove a message from their online bulletin board, they would call AcIS for assistance. Now it is a matter of a few clicks online.

"We expect more websites to be developed at Columbia this semester than in any other because these tools are now so easy to access and can be so helpful to faculty in the day-to-day management of their classes," said Dan Beeby, associate director, CCNMTL, a member of the team that has worked to customize CourseWorks for Columbia faculty. Beeby also offers support to faculty who wish to build enriched course web sites at CCNMTL.

To help orient faculty to CourseWorks, CCNMTL is offering basic tutorials on developing a course website in CourseWorks during workshops held on the first and third Friday of each month. More advanced workshops on specific topics (such as preparing tests and advanced layouts) are offered on the fourth Friday of each month. Click for a complete schedule or to enroll in workshops. CCNMTL continues to develop customized websites for faculty.

CourseWorks also offers substantial benefits to students, who gain a single point of entry for all of their course information and content. This includes links to digital library reserve materials, a calendar they can use to track assignments and deadlines, bulletin boards and groups they are registered in and updates from their instructors.

CourseWorks@Columbia is provided by Academic Information Systems (AcIS) and Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), in close coordination with Columbia University Libraries and Health Sciences Center for Academic Information Technology (CAIT). CourseWorks is available to some groups at Health Sciences campus. Service will expand over the coming months. Faculty may contact CCNMTL (212-854-9058 or ccnmtl@columbia.edu) about developing a course website or learning to use CourseWorks. For more information contact courseworks@columbia.edu.

Published: Jan 22, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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