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Use of Wimba at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Flourishes

ITS adds three online programs for faculty

To read the original article in The Alestle, click here

by Justin Wingerter

Blackboard is undergoing changes. Changes include updates to the Respondus test creation tool and Wimba suite along with the introduction of StudyMate Class - a study aid creation tool - which is being offered for piloting throughout the summer.

StudyMate Class is an update from a preceding version of the software, called simply StudyMate, according to ITS Instructional Designer Matthew Schmitz.

“The product allows for the development and usage of a variety of study aids including but not limited to flash cards, crossword puzzles and matching activities,” Schmitz said. “Unlike past products where the instructor was responsible for providing the material, StudyMate Class enables students to create their own resources either individually or in groups.”

Despite an underutilization of the original StudyMate program according to Schmitz, he feels that the new and improved StudyMate will become much more popular.

“We believe that the new features and flexibility will demonstrate the usefulness of StudyMate Class to instructors and prove how much more improved this product is compared to its predecessor,” Schmitz said.

Furthermore, the new product is expected to require little to no additional training for even the most technologically challenged professors.

“StudyMate Class is incredibly simplistic to use so people generally just require a quick overview before they’re ready to begin creating material,” Schmitz said.

In an attempt to garner feedback on Blackboard’s latest tool, ITS has begun a three month pilot of StudyMate Class, according to Schmitz.

“Our goal for the trial is to get participants from as many departments as possible so we can showcase the product’s usability across disciplines,” Schmitz said.

Thus far Schmitz and the Blackboard Support Team have heard good reports from those taking advantage of the pilot opportunity.

“Feedback concerning StudyMate Class has been generally positive from participants who have enrolled in the training sessions and individuals who have contacted ITS for support with the product,” Schmitz said.

In addition to the StudyMate Class pilot, ITS announced upgrades to two of its existing Blackboard tools in its summer newsletter.

“The newest version of Respondus (4.0.2), the test creation tool for both electronic and print assessments, has many improved features including the ability to add local and remote audio and video files,” Schmitz said. “In addition, several other creation, arranging, and exporting features have been enhanced.”

Popular among professors, Respondus is an external assessment tool often used for tests, quizzes and surveys, according to Schmitz. It has been in use at SIUE for five years.

Meanwhile, the Wimba suite of products - ­including Live Classroom and the Voice Tools - is undergoing an upgrade following a dramatic increase in its use and popularity amongst professors, according to Schmitz.

“More and more people are finding ways that Wimba tools can assist them with synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning in their face-to-face and online classes,” Schmitz said.

For Schmitz the changes are merely progress, an attempt to ease and enhance the education here at SIUE.

“An upgrade is a natural progression is the life of any educational technology,” Schmitz said.