Thursday, November 17, 2005

A First Class day

Question: is FirstClass a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or is it simply a communications and collaboration platform?

I think the "simply" in that opening question is misleading as it hides the rich diversity of ways the FirstClass system can be used. A quote on their website (and I'm paraphrasing slightly) says that FirstClass is about supporting a "collaborative learning community". That's one of the main reasons I like FirstClass - it's about community. However, I find myself having to justify the use of FirstClass in the faculty here because the University provides and supports WebCT. I am asked why we are spending time, money and effort on FirstClass when the university is offering WebCT - a fully featured VLE?

Handy Device
Handy Device,
originally uploaded by Old Shoe Woman.
Perhaps the heart of the question I want to consider is what is a VLE? Last week I was through in Edinburgh for the launch of FirstClass ED. It looks great and seems to me to do everything that WebCT and Blackboard can do and more, but I have found FirstClass significantly easier to use. The FirstClass chap at the launch said we shouldn't compare FirstClass with WebCT and Blackboard because they are completely different beasts. I agree with him. There is no comparison - FirstClass is clearly the best!

Can you see my problem? I cannot look at this dispassionately. I find it impossible to be neutral, but I have to try and give a more balanced report on whether we should stick with FirstClass (in which case I'd have to justify the extra expense to the Faculty) or whether we can/should move to WebCT. However I've only dabbled with WebCT. I'm much more familiar with FirstClass. Therefore I'm appealing for your help again:
  • Does anyone reading this blog have experience with WebCT?
  • Even better, does anyone have experience with both WebCT and FirstClass?
  • What are the unique selling points of each system?
  • Is it possible to come up with a sensible recommendation when I am comparing apples to pears?

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1 comment:

Jim Henderson said...

David we use Firstclass extensively in Highland. Some of our secondary schools have a comprehensive range of conferences for communicating and collaborating the same is the case across some of our primary schools. How we migrate from Firstclass to GLOW groups etc and convince schools that the move is worthwhile is something we are considering carefully.
We have used Web CT to develop a few online courses (Intermediate Gaelic) however I personally find it clunky and clumsy. A few of our schools are using MOODLE to deliver courses too. North Lanark have probably developed the use of Firstclass further than us. They have deployed Firstclass RAID and have been looking at the new Firstclass VLE.