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  March 5, 2001

Accounting Professor Recognized
for Creative Use of WebCT

Amy Dunbar, an assistant professor of accounting, has been recognized for her outstanding work in a competition sponsored by WebCT.

WebCT, a leading provider of integrated e-learning systems, recently announced 16 winners and four honorable mentions in the WebCT 2001 Exemplary Course Project. Entries for the competition came from a wide variety of educational institutions worldwide and covered subjects ranging from art to physics. Some of the courses in the project were web-enhanced, while others were on-line only or distance education courses. The courses were selected on the basis of academic rigor and robustness of content. Winners were selected from 100 entries.

Dunbar received recognition for "Taxation of Business Entities," a graduate course in accounting, where she uses WebCT extensively.

Use of WebCT, a course management software that helps instructors manage their courses via computer and the web, has burgeoned at the University - from approximately 60 courses in the spring of last year, to 250 last fall, to 500 this semester.

Faculty can use it in a variety of ways: They can put syllabi, lectures, quizzes and links to other sources on their class websites; have students participate in discussions; and post grades. These resources can be accessed through WebCT from anywhere at any time. The software also allows faculty to monitor when and where students have accessed the site.

Dunbar, a dedicated WebCT fan, says using it is fun. "I use almost all the web tools in one way or another," she says. "In the accounting department, all of our tax classes are on WebCT, so a student who is enrolled in one particular course can easily get to another course. What makes it nice is that the students see common tools."

Dunbar says the use of Flash software to create movies in her course helps students learn. "In accounting, we develop our journal entries on the board so students can see various transactions. When the students are at home reviewing, instead of just seeing the end product, the Flash movies allow students to recreate frame by frame the journal entries that were created earlier," she explains.

She says using the quiz function on WebCT for homework works well for students, encouraging interaction. "I take homework questions and put them in a quiz format. The students then meet in a chatroom and work together on assignments."

The competition involved a multi-stage judging process. All entries were evaluated with the assistance of representatives from 40 WebCT Institutes. Kim Chambers, manager of UConn's Instructiona l Resource Center, was one of the volunteer evaluators, but did not evaluate Dunbar's website.

"I'm pleased that Amy has been recognized for her exemplary work," says Richard Kochanek, professor and head of the accounting department. "She has encouraged all of us to use WebCT and our numbers have grown," he says. The accounting department is one of the most prolific users of WebCT on campus.

Chambers says the rating scale was "very elaborate. It involved course design and instructional design issues. Courses were not just evaluated on the use of WebCT, but also on good pedagogical principles - such as how the faculty member promotes student learning," he says.

"I think Amy employs good comprehensive use of WebCT and uses its many features effectively," Chambers says. "She understands the teaching and learning aspects of presenting a course in a web-based environment."

Dunbar says the web is used extensively at accounting firms. "New hires in accounting are going into workplaces where using chat rooms and message boards is the norm," she says. "Students will have to get used to writing in that environment. We're in fewer situations where people are picking up telephones."

Carol Vallone, president and CEO of WebCT says, "Virtually the only thing that the WebCT 2001 Exemplary Courses have in common is their exceptional use of technology to deliver academic excellence. Otherwise, they couldn't be more different: they cover subjects ranging from music to mathematical modeling, come from large public institutions and small private colleges, from all over the world." She says the diversity of the courses shows not only how widespread electronic learning has become in higher education, but how important learning technologies have become to the mission of higher education across the board.

More than 148,000 faculty members at 1,578 colleges and universities are using WebCT's products and services with more than 5.9 million students.

Sherry Fisher