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Student Responses to the Use of WebCT in a Financial Accounting Course

By Lisa Church

This paper discusses the effectiveness of using WebCT in a financial accounting course. Discussion includes results of an anonymous student survey indicating to what extent WebCT contributed to student learning in the course as well as students’ overall impressions of WebCT.

WebCT is an internet-based program with options allowing an instructor to customize a particular course while providing a uniform and integrated campus community structure. Students logon to the designated RIC website to find useful course information, assignments to complete, and links to relevant Internet sites.

I use WebCT in an introductory financial accounting course to supplement the traditional classroom format by administering student quizzes, enhancing communication through WebCT mail and calendar features, and for administrative ease by posting the syllabus and selected homework problem solutions. I am very pleased with the capabilities the WebCT features have provided to my course, but I was interested in knowing how my students felt about this web-based learning tool. This past spring I asked two sections of the course to complete an anonymous student survey regarding WebCT.

Quizzes

I use WebCT to create and administer computerized, multiple-choice quizzes. For a small percentage of their course grade students take a chapter quiz within a designated time frame using their text and notes. While quizzes generally are a great pedagogical tool, WebCT quizzes offer some unique advantages.

I use the WebCT option that allows students to submit the quiz upon completion and immediately receive the quiz score and correct answers with explanations, providing instantaneous feedback on the quiz. I can review student scores overall as well as by question to quickly see if there are topic areas that should be covered more thoroughly before continuing in the course.

A strong benefit of using WebCT quizzes is that students gain experience taking computerized examinations, which are a very common format today. A student that has only had the traditional paper and pencil examinations is at a serious disadvantage upon embarking on a computerized exam. The WebCT quiz can be used to expose students to computerized testing in a less stressful environment.

Responding to the anonymous survey 37.5% of the students said that the quizzes contributed a great deal to their learning, 42.5% said that the quizzes contributed quite a bit, and 15% thought the quizzes were somewhat helpful.

The following are student comments regarding the quizzes:

The WebCT [quiz] is hard but it helps and forces you to learn the material.

I think WebCT helps students understand the course better and it is fun to do quizzes on the PC rather than in class.

WebCT … makes test taking more versatile and interesting.

I really enjoyed having the WebCT Quizzes.

I liked using the WebCT. It takes off a lot of pressure during quizzes because there is no worrying about time.

I felt the quizzes on the WebCT offered great practice for this course, especially when it came time for a test. Overall, I think the WebCT is a great tool for students to use and to have on hand for a course.

I found the WebCT very useful for reviewing the information in the book. I used the quizzes as a review for the tests and found I was able to identify my weaknesses in the quiz before taking the exam.

I think that WebCT is very helpful in this course. It was much more convenient and I learned more from the WebCT quizzes than classroom quizzes in other courses. I recommend WebCT for all other courses; it was very helpful.

I was pleased with the general enthusiasm students expressed regarding WebCT quizzes, but not all students were pleased with the quizzes. My quizzes are open book and not timed, allowing for quiz questions which are purposely difficult and require students to carefully think through to the answer. Some students do not perform well on these WebCT quizzes, as this student comments:

I disliked the WebCT quizzes because of the way some of the questions were worded but also because they did not help me to learn that much. They mostly hurt my grade. I had an A on the in class tests and not too good of a grade on the quizzes. I do not think they show your knowledge of the class.

Though the student was not pleased with his or her quiz scores, I truly believe that the high exam grade was a direct result of making the mistake on the quiz and the learning process occurring prior to the examination. I have had students appear to know the material yet perform poorly on an exam before I used WebCT. Quizzes provide a great evaluation tool that helps the student and instructor to catch misguided confidence early on, to discuss and learn from the error, resulting in a better exam grade, although this particular student did not see it that way.

Enhanced Communication

Most students maintain personal e-mail accounts, so initially I did not see a purpose to using the WebCT mail system. WebCT mail is an internal e-mail system within the Internet-based course that allows the instructor and students to communicate with written messages that appear on the course homepage; messages can be sent to one student only or the entire group. I quickly discovered that advantages to WebCT mail include that I don’t have to worry about a cancelled or changed personal e-mail address, shared personal e-mail accounts where someone else is deleting the student’s messages are not a problem (a true story), and it resolves the matter of the unfortunate student who does not maintain a personal e-mail account. WebCT mail messages are conveniently stored within the course website, rather than being disbursed among the daily messages that arrive in regular e-mail. WebCT mail allows students to communicate with each other about the course, if they so choose, without disclosing the privacy of a student’s personal e-mail address.

I use WebCT mail to remind students of announcements made in class and to converse with a student outside of the classroom. Many times a quiet student will be quite interactive using WebCT mail – and the enhanced communication often appears to make the student more comfortable in the classroom. Surprisingly 97.5% of the students found WebCT mail to be useful for the course.

The WebCT calendar feature is a electronic calendar showing each month with entries that I use to remind students about examination dates, course deadlines, add and drop deadlines, and RIC holidays. Ninety percent of the students checked the calendar entries regularly and 80% stated that the calendar feature was useful for the course.
Students may make their own entries on the calendar, with the option of sharing the entries with the class or keeping them private for the student’s viewing only. A very convenient and flexible tool, one young woman commented that the WebCT calendar was so helpful that she had hoped to continue using it after our course ended.

I was initially concerned that some students would lack the necessary computer skills to use WebCT, but this has never been a problem. While 15% rated their computer skills as fair or not good, 98% indicated that it was easy to access WebCT and navigate the site. Fifteen percent of students checked the website every day, 17.5% checked it several times a week, 45% once a week, and 22.5% checked it every other week, offering great potential for enhanced course communication with students.

Most students maintain schedules with demanding educational, work, and family obligations. Allowing students convenient, unlimited access to the course site and updating it with relevant course information is another means for maintaining contact with students even when not meeting face to face. Maintaining the WebCT course can be somewhat time consuming for the instructor but students appear genuinely appreciative of these efforts.

Student comments regarding access and communication tools included the following:

Easy to use.

I found the WebCT and the calendar to be very useful.

The response time from my initial e-mails were mind-blowing.

Administrative Assistance

I include a copy of my course syllabus on WebCT and 52.5% of the students accessed the on-line syllabus often and 40% used it sometimes, with 70% of students stating that the on-line version of the syllabus very useful, and 25% stating it was somewhat useful.

I use WebCT to display the answers to lengthy homework problems that may not have been optimally displayed in class. I often assign additional homework problems to reinforce a concept and I direct students to the on-line solution on the WebCT course page. The on-line homework problems were used often by 35% of the students and sometimes by another 50%, with 46% stating that it was very useful and 44% that the on-line homework solutions were somewhat helpful.

Instructors are able to monitor which course site each student views within WebCT, the number of times the site is visited, and how long the student remains on the particular site. It was very interesting to see which students used the homework solutions and how often, as I found a handful of the same students accessing the homework site several times each week. The homework site appeared to be a great resource for these students as they reviewed the solutions independently and then would follow-up with me directly with particular questions.

Student comments regarding this feature were as follows:

WebCT is a great process of learning. It helps a lot, especially students like myself who have difficulty with language.

This is the first time I have used WebCT and I found it very useful and helpful in my learning process. The fact that the answers to some of the homework were posted after going over it in class was also very helpful.

WebCT Overall

Students reported that the overall WebCT course site contributed a great deal to the learning of 25% of the students, quite a bit to 45% of the students, and somewhat to 20%.

Student comments regarding WebCT overall were as follows:

I think that it is fine I just wish you [could] have it for all other classes.

I would keep using WebCT. It's helpful to the student at all times.

I think that the WebCT program is very useful. I would recommend this for every class.

One day I hope every Rhode Island College class is using WebCT. It is very convenient and efficient.

I really enjoyed this new and interesting experience. Its incorporation into the course was helpful, useful, and educational. I would recommend this for other courses as well.

I like it, I like it a lot.

Conclusion

I enjoy using WebCT in my course as the quizzes, mail, calendar, syllabus and homework solutions enhance the traditional classroom format. WebCT from a student perspective is a great learning tool, convenient, provides the content material in a different format, and is even fun. A resource that generates excitement from students and instructors alike is worth continuing and expanding upon, but one student final comment, if I may:

The overall use of the WebCT has been very good. I would like to see continued use in the future, but it still cannot replace an instructor.

Well said!

Endnotes

i Fifty percent found WebCT mail very useful and 47.5% found it somewhat useful.

ii Forty percent found the calendar feature to be very useful and 40% percent found it to be somewhat useful.

Copyright © 2002 Lisa Church

Student Responses to the Use of WebCT in a Financial Accounting Course, Issues in Teaching and Learning, 1:1, 2002.

Content may not be reproduced without permission. Contact lchurch@ric.edu, Rhode Island College, Alger #218.

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Page last updated: March 15, 2006