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Collaboration, Sharing and Society,
Teaching, Learning and Technical Considerations

From An Analysis of WebCT, BSCW, and BlackBoard

May,2000 by Paul Pavlik

Introduction BSCW BlackBoard
WebCT General Technical Information Legal/Security
Pedagogical Implications Present and the Future The Competition
Commercial Products The End The Untold Story
The Future Paul Pavlik    


Introduction: Top of the Page
The original Internet was designed to be a document, research, chat and mostly textual academic sharing /collaboration environment. As schools all over the world are 'catching up' to this, they must beware of chasing out-moded, ancient, cumbersome, cold-blooded creatures, that are ready to crumble, crash and fall.... or simply wither, and die of old age.

All the Learning Environments (LEs) we examined: BSCW, BB, and WebCt, suffer from one degree to another from being designed on ancient structures/paradigms, according to weird and proprietary interfaces, or just not living up to the promise of the computer systems of FIVE years ago (i.e. multisensory input and output such as MultiMedia/surround sound, voice navigation, text to speech, animations).

As learning systems have barely thought to catch up to five years ago, (they were all designed or thought up prior to wide multi-media and WWW popularity), they are being left further behind by advancements in other, more exciting, technical innovations that may yet bring both information and the means of information cheaply / freely to all and accessible to most . The best example of this 'new' communicator can be seen at Symbian the new prototype wireless handheld device designed to work like Nokia's phones over the open standards European wireless networks.

We might note that this wireless network system as used and implemented by Nokia is being planned for implementation over wide areas of the world presently unavailable to land phone lines - such as Africa, Asia. See: Sept. 1999 issue.

None of the systems we looked at purported any adherence to usability guidelines, accessibility guidelines or regulations such as posted on the WWW consortium May 18, 2000. Thus they are mostly textual and /or static visual support/sharing environments. Before we elaborate on the pedagogical significance of this, we will give a summary of the main focus of the three environments.

BSCW - Top of the Page

A free, basic document, media, email, sharing and support mechanism from Germany. Basic Support for Collaborative Work is developed by the BSCW project group at GMD: BSCW Project, GMD-FIT, D-53754 Sankt Augustin, Germany email: . The main characteristics of BSCW are: a clunky, ancient, cryptic, extremely hard to use, non-standard interface, and no cross-cultural/gender sensitivity of any fashion. This system is an extreme dinosaur just waiting to be petrified in the black ozze of high speed - teen inspired innovation. Suffice it to say that, as a judge for ThinkQuest, , last year, I had to evaluate a more robust, user friendly system complied and programmed by three teenagers made from free and open-source materials. It is available for free from the ThinkQuest site. It was found seriously short on the usability scale - but it sure makes BSCW look more than ancient.



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