Columbia University Courseworks

Perhaps, you’ve already heard of CourseWorks. That’s a course management system run by Columbia university. This web-based publishing environment enables any person to quickly psot assignments, syllabi as well as any kind of files, including PowerPoint and Word. Apart from that, CourseWorks offers many other worthy features such as hosting a class-related discussion board and sending emails to the class.

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Recently, the course management system has been seriously upgraded. We’ve just interviewed the Columbia Center for New Media as well as Teaching and Learning’s Dan Beeby to figure out intricate details of this long-awaited update. So, let’s cycle through the tasty changes of columbia university courseworks.

The old course management system was based on software dubbed Prometheus, that was originally created by The George Washington University at the end of 1990’s. In 2001 the system was purchased by BlackBoard. That company was planning to move all Prometheus’ customers right into BlackBoard.

Along with the Teachers College and Business School, Columbia University kept on running and developing the Prometheus-based platform CourseWorks over the decade. Then, Prometheus became outdated and it became harder to acquire and support its software and hardware. The obsolete features as well as degrading industry support for the platform’s software and hardware, made Columbia seek an alternative solution.

The new system is built around an open-source software program dubbed Sakai. It’s being developed and used by a community of hundreds of higher educational institutions throughout the world. The developers constantly improve and change this software in order to meet the needs of students and educators. The updated platform CourseWorks boasts a variety of robust tools. It feels like it’s going to be a perfect platform for integration with other software products such as some Google tools and WikiSpaces.

Since the inception of CourseWorks in 2001 another institution has arisen – the CourseWorks Advisory Committee. It included administrators, library staff and faculty. In 2008, exactly that group managed to persuade the University administration to change their course management system.

So, the promising project was officially approved and funding started in 2011. Then, the CourseWorks Team got down to rolling out the service. It acquired a new name – «New CourseWorks». Several Morningside departments along with the Medical Center moved in autumn, 2011. Later, in spring 2012 CUSSW (the School of Social Work) as well as some Arts and Sciences departments started their move. Finally, in autumn 2012 all the remaining departments and schools moved into the new company New CourseWorks.

Needless to say, Columbia students were especially thrilled about the upcoming feature. Previously, the roster tool was accessible at the faculty, but later students were deprived of it due to privacy concerns. To be exact that occurred because of the Privacy Act and Family Educational Rights. By the way, after consulting with attorneys hired by the University it became absolutely clear that Columbia students could get the desired permission to opt in and CUIT immediately started to roll it out.

Sure, there are several good tips. However, they can hardly be regarded as secrets. To start with, we sincerely hope that our students as well as faculty fully realize their course websites are directly addressable. Respectively, bookmarks to these websites should work in any web browser. Furthermore, the social networking site "My Workspace" (already available on the left side of the system "My Courses") has appeared to be extremely useful for students due to announcement pages and unified calendar. Besides this, every CourseWorks user receives a small space for his personal use. By the way, the space is UNI-authenticated.

Is there any kind of inspirational vision regarding the role of Courseworks as an educational tool for students as well as teachers of Columbia?

Anyone serving with CCNMTL hops that both students and instructors will fruitfully utilize CourseWorks as a helpful tool and it will assist them in learning and teaching. Meanwhile, we fully realize that even the best course management tool can't be a magic stick. It can only be a good supplement to our solid classroom experience.

As some instructors start rethinking their teaching experience and implement new techniques, we sincerely hope that CourseWorks will play a good role in the upcoming evolution. CCNMTL is ready to implement any other tools if they appear to be effective enough. If anything worthy arises departments and faculty members will do their best to add this to their teaching.

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