Course Management Systems: (Also referred to as Learning Management Systems.) This is software that contains and organizes course content. Tools are often available for creating tests or discussion forums. Course management systems typically support text well and provide a way for course materials to be uploaded for students to access. Multimedia support may be limited. Examples of course management system software include Blackboard and Web CT. A comprehensive list of course management software product reviews is available on the EduTools site at: http://www.edutools.info/course/
Web Page Authoring Software: This software may be used when creating a site to either house or support the online course. Some online courses are developed on Web sites without the aid of course management systems. Others are housed within a course management system and have a complementary Web site for resources and multimedia applications. Examples of this type of software include Front Page, Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive and Netscape Composer.
Multimedia Software: Multimedia software is used to create images, animations, sound clips, video, and interactive elements for an online course. There is a wide spectrum of software products that range from simple to highly complex. Some multimedia elements require the use of special plug-in software to work with the Web browser. Examples include Real Player, Media Player, Flash, and Shockwave. When using multimedia in the online course students will often be required to install programs like these. Most of them are free and easy to install. Additional information about using multimedia in online instruction is available in the multimedia portion of this site.
Communication Software: This type of software enables communication between class members and the instructor. Many good communication tools are available in course management systems such as Blackboard or WebCT. Typically, these tools include an area to post messages. They may also have chat or whiteboard capabilities. Other types of communication software that may be used in an online course include the following:
- Email: Most people have email accounts provided by their Internet Service provider, school, or work. Free email accounts may also be set up through services such as Hotmail or Yahoo.
- Instant Messengers: These are typically free and allow instant chat between two or more people. The chat is typically typed, although there may be features allowing audio or video exchange. Examples of instant messengers include MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger.