New Tool: Online Users for WebCT

Development of tools that enable interesting new ways of supporting online teaching and learning is an area that in which UBC is strongly engaged. From the Admin side of the house comes a tool that will interest the WebCT support community — both technical and learning administrators.

WebCT stores a phenomenal amount of user data (every click, I think ) that can be analyzed at the course and server level to understand a variety of usage patterns.

Renbo Huang, one of the talented e-Learning Analysts with ITServices (UBC’s central IT unit) has developed a nice little application that interprets log file stored by WebCT in a very useful way – producing information that is relevant to system performance and usage, history of that usage and even more intriguing, data that can be used for identifying problems (e.g., broken links) or predicting times of load (e.g., quiz timing).The tool monitors:

1) Server Performance
2) Number of users online (updated every 15 seconds)
3) 0utgoing traffic
4) Number of quizzes in progress
5) Last time courses were reset
6) Broken Links (ones that are being actively accessed)
7) Quiz analysis (what quizzes are scheduled and when)

It does this by producing a dashboard summary page (click for picture ) and an RSS feed (for newsreaders or to embed select components into web pages).

We are embedding the System Status RSS feed into our WebCT login Page (click for picture)
so that students and faculty can see how heavily loaded the system is upon login. This is an RSS variant of the “Stop Light” (green-yellow-red) approach to system status. Must say — it is pretty cool. The full dashboard is used by our distributed administrator support team.

As well, the tool produces graphs for each day (on the fly) (click for sample), and provides summary information about the number of unique users by week and month. The nice thing about this tool is that we are closing on on being easily be able to produce reports on system use. Anyone that works on trying to produce these stats will appreciate that this to date has not been an easy task.

The tool is being made available free for educational institutions. See the Flintbox site Flintbox – Online Users for WebCT for details. Installation has to be done by system administrators.

It is our hope that those that use this tool will help us continue to improve it – and to share their improvements with the community.

Kudos to Renbo Huang for developing this tool!

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