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Web-based Discussion Board
     
    Web Board


Web Board allows students and instructors
to post questions anytime

 

One of the key advantages of web-based courses is convenience for both students and instructors. A web-based discussion board (or just web board) allows students to ask questions anytime, not just during office hours. The instructor can then answer the questions at their convenience. Other advantages is students can help other students and one reply can be read by all users (no more answering the same question a dozen times).

eCourses has an integrated web board system for each class that is set up. Each class web board is independent of other classes and only students enrolled in the class can access the board. The instructor does not have to install or set anything up to use the web board. The web board also has a built-in drawing tool so that diagrams can be constructed and saved with the posted message or question.

     
    Forums or Topic Areas
    The web board uses "Forums" to help organize questions and replies. Each forum is a group of questions about a particular homework, test or quiz. There is one general category, "Course questions" that is always present. Forums for homework, quiz and test are created as those problem sets are set up by the instructor. For example, when Homework 1 is set up, then a link will automatically be established to the Homework-1 forum. If on the other hand, no quizzes are set up, then there will be no links to any quiz forum.
     
  Posting questions and replies

Each Forum can have an unlimited number
of topics (or questions) posted
 

First, you need to click on the forum link that you want to post a question or a reply. In the example at the left, clicking on Homework-1 brings up two questions listed under "Topic". In this web board, topic is the same thing a question. Topic is used since sometimes you want to post a comment and not really a topic. For the rest of this section, both "topic" and "question" will be used but they are the same thing.

On this page, you can add a new topic or question by clicking on the "Post new topic" link at the top. You can also click on any of the existing topic listings to see what has been posted and to reply to that topic or question. You should read all topic postings before posting your own question since your question may have already been answered.

If you want to reply to a current topic, click on that topic link and the original question or comment is posted along with all the replies as illustrated below. The author of the posting and the date/time is was posted are also shown. To reply, just click the "Topic reply" and you will be asked to type in your reply and then confirm it. Once a posting has been confirmed, it cannot be changed or deleted by the student.

     

Listing all replies to a given topic or question
     
  Posting Drawings with Text


Web Board text entry page with "Add Diagram" link

 

In engineering, diagrams are critical in understanding problems and developing solutions. They can also be important in discussing problems. Therefore, eCourses has the ability for all students (and instructors) to include a diagram or drawing with the text message. The drawing is constructed at the same time you enter the text message and no outside drawing tool is needed.

 

     

Drawing tool for adding diagrams to web board text
 

To construct a drawing, just click on the "Add Diagram" link at the left of every text entry page. A separate browser window will appear (similar to the diagram at the left). The drawing is constructed using the basic drawing tools shown. The tools include pencil, lines, arrows, boxes, circles and an eraser. Individual objects can be move and deleted if they are selected with the select tool. When done, click the save button, and the diagram will be attached to the text message and saved to the server. The diagram is actually saved as a Flash-based drawing so it is very small and scalable.

Once the diagram has been constructed and saved, it cannot be edited.

     
  Managing the Web Board
(Instructor Account Only)

   

The web board has a number of managing and editing features for the instructor. You can delete and edit any posting. This is useful to remove those postings that are inappropriate or no longer useful for the class discussion.

When you login with your instructor account, each of the topics will have a edit and delete link. In each case, you will be asked to confirm the change after you select the option or edit the posting.

If you delete a topic, then all replies in that topic will also be deleted. Please note, once a topic or reply is deleted, it cannot be recovered. It is permanently deleted from the database.

     


Instructor options in the topic listing page


Instructor options in the reply listing page

     
  Turning of the Web Board - Instructor


Web Board customization screen
 

The web board can be turned off by those instructors that do not want to use it. The customization screen (shown on the left) is accessed by clicking on the "Web Board Admin." link in the admin menu. The instructor can also stop message posting at any time. This is useful after the course is over, but you would like to allow students access to the posted messages.

Other options include who should recieve email notices when new postings are added by students. This is very helpful to let you and your TA know when a new question or comment has been posted.