Why SacCT?: A Faculty Perspective
Most faculty have heard of SacCT/WebCT. For those who are new to it, I’d say it’s is a great tool for teachers. It is widely known that SacCT is a program to package your course materials for student online access, it has a cool online Gradebook, and that the automatically-graded quizzes/assessments are fairly easy to set up.
As a foreign language teacher, the way I use technology is to reinforce the four language skills that most language teachers seek to develop in students: speaking, listening, reading and writing. I do all four within SacCT. Here is a little view into how I use the technology, for both online and traditional seat-time sections of my courses. Of course, it works for both Mac and PC student users.
I have long been a fan of the Quiz (Assessment) feature of SacCT. Without question, I use Quizzes for reading comprehension, spelling, dictations, etc. They are effective for the ever popular grammar questions I have to impose, and the dreaded verb conjugations! Being automated in SacCT, I have not manually graded conjugations and the like in almost a decade!
For both speaking and listening practice, students use textbook audio CDs or online audio clips as pronunciation masters. More often than not, I create my own audio mp3 files and place them in SacCT. It is easy for students to find and they are able to practice the pronunciation of vocabulary or short readings from the textbook, and to do listening comprehension “quizzes” on audio clips that they listen to. (I place audio clips WITHIN quiz questions too). For my own creations, I use Sanako software to create the mp3 audio clips, which are small files to upload. Other software can do the same. The important thing is to keep files small (mp3) and to not upload .wav files; they are so large that they can shut down your submission capabilities into SacCT.
Another learning element that I require is that students (after much practice) read short articles back to me, in the form of an mp3 file that they upload into SacCT. I provide students a link for a free download of an mp3 voice recorder (CDex for PC, or Audacity for Mac), and installation instructions. For my online classes, I require that students purchase a microphone headset (for traditional sections, we meet in our Teaching Computer lab which is equipped with microphones). Within the first few days of the semester, they all are able to perform this little technical set-up, and I am able to listen to each student individually and clearly (compared to a whole class repeating something at the same time). Since students upload their voice files (every week!) into the SacCT Assignment Dropbox, it is easy for me to click on their audio, make comments on their pronunciation and post a grade in the convenient textbox, which immediately appears in the Gradebook. This feature, in and of itself, has improved my teaching, because the students receive individualized attention in the very difficult area of pronunciation, intonation, and fluency.
Just like the voice file submissions noted above, I use the SacCT Assignment Dropbox for weekly Compositions as well. It is an easy way to receive student writing assignments, instead of using outside email or SacCT mail attachments. The weekly topics are grouped together by using a Dropbox for each week, re-submissions are possible, due dates can be set, and grading is convenient.
The SacCT consultants in ATCS are very talented and knowledgeable. I encourage faculty to try new features in SacCT, because, in the long run, it can be effective for certain teaching needs, and it does make some grading/assessment/access tasks very easy for teachers.
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