WebCT Woes

(Warning: Major rant in progress.)

What in the world is wrong with Blackboard/WebCT? As you all know, last year Bb bought out WebCT and promised to maintain both products and eventually merge the two into one super-duper-LMS. We WebCT users didn’t really know what to expect — we’d just upgraded to CE 6 (long, frustrating story). We’d heard horror stories about Bb support and were hoping that WebCT’s usual good customer service would continue.

Sadly, we were wrong.

We’re working with an LMS that is in alpha version at best. (How can you release a course management system when the assessment tool doesn’t even work?)

We’re trying to make the most of it, though. BB/WebCT is very slow to respond to our problems. We’re dealing with numerous bugs that occur randomly yet regularly. For example, sometimes exams randomly will load just the first five or six questions then nothing more in various classes for random students. A few weeks ago, we and numerous other academic institutions completely lost access to our servers for almost an entire day because Bb let the WebCT license for BEA Weblogic expire. And earlier this week, we get the following somewhat discomforting email from Bb:

We have discovered a critical software issue regarding the assessment engine in the Blackboard Learning System – CE 6 and Vista licenses. Under certain circumstances, the URL within an assessment can be manipulated by students giving them the potential of getting answers to the assessment they are currently taking.

We are working diligently and quickly to resolve the situation and expect to make available a permanent solution later this week through a hotfix. In the meantime, we have developed a script that will allow you to determine if this is an issue at your institution by uncovering any attempts to access the assessment data.

This is just ridiculous. We WebCT users are feeling like unwanted stepchildren of a marriage that’s gone bad. We now completely understand the dramatic increase in the number of academic institutions moving to Moodle over the past year.

Katrina Adams
Howdy folks! I’m an Instructional Designer at UT Dallas. I have a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Angelo State University and a Master’s in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems from the University of North Texas. I’ve been working in edtech for 11 years. Hmm… what else? I’m a *huge* fan of that little Irish band called U2, and I’m a bigtime Firefly/Serenity advocate.

4 thoughts on “WebCT Woes

  1. Matt Crosslin

    The great thing about any open source program is that you can always find a way to fix a problem. Even if the company isn’t responsive, you always can hire someone to look into the problem and fix it – since the you have access to the source code. Or, if you have the technical know-how, you can look in to it yourself.Many people point to the support that commercial products give as a plus for commercial products on the open-source vs. proprietary debate. Obviously, those people have never had to deal with tech support before :)

  2. I feel your pain. I don’t think I have had a response to a request for tech support since the change. I am watching and waiting very patiently to see what happens. I have not made the upgrade yet, so therefore I am in a nothing ventured/nothing lost situation as to a LMS selection – and open-source is a possibility. Eventually we’ll have to convert or upgrade…..

  3. Katrina Adams

    Good for you guys, Charleen! Take your time weighing all your options. We were wooed by the WebCT reps, and now we’re suffering. (Latest WebCT woe we’re experiencing: Almost every course on campus has a WebCT component. All the courses were created using a special template. Well, the template somehow got corrupted, so for every single course, we have to go through this whole convoluted process just to do a simple course copy from semester to semester. *yeesh*)From what we’ve heard at conferences, Moodle is the LMS of choice right now. Sure it has its bugs. Every tool has bugs. But instead of waiting for a work request to float to the top for some programming group in DC, you can have your resident Moodle Man (or Woman) work on it immediately. (Again, I find myself grumbling about us WebCT users being the Bb stepchildren.)Goodness knows, our team has sat together at staff meetings and seriously discussed Moodle as an option. “Moodle is free, but then you have to provide your own support,” you’ll hear from the Bb reps out there. Well, you consider that we’re currently paying the not-cheap-by-any-means WebCT licensing, plus we have two people working full-time on WebCT (who by the way are just as frustrated as we users are b/c their hands are tied)… *they* could be our Moodle people. So, in this situation, switching to Moodle wouldn’t really lose us anything. (Well, except the integration with our student information system… which doesn’t work most of the time.) Plus, from listening to Matt, we’d be gaining all kinds of useful collaborative tools.*gripe* Is it Friday yet?

  4. Matt Crosslin

    [waves hand in front of Katrina’s face]

    Moodle is perfect in every way

    Katrina: Moodle is prefect in every way

    [waves hand in front of Katrina’s face]

    You will switch over to Moodle

    Katrina: we will switch over to Moodle

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