News & Events

Most Sing ICON's Praises

By Shelby Cloke

UI faculty members are praising a new course-management system implemented this semester that will eventually replace the Blackboard and WebCT programs students had used to check assignments and download files.

Iowa Courses Online, or ICON, was unveiled in May, but most students are using the system for the first time this semester. UI officials touted ICON as a more centralized and streamlined alternative to Blackboard and WebCT.

SHEILA GOINS, a UI visiting assistant professor of management and organizations, said she is impressed with what ICON can do and is happy the program addresses the major concerns she had with Blackboard in the past.

Goins, who said she had been "frustrated" by how Blackboard operated, said ICON runs much more smoothly and is more efficient.

"It's more customizable," she said. "Its flexibility makes it a great system."

Dan Berkowitz, a journalism associate professor, also used Blackboard in the past but made the switch to ICON. After a one-on-one training session and a couple of days tinkering around with the system, he said he was able to fully use ICON on his third try.

"ICON is a lot cleaner than Blackboard," he said, adding that the login time for ICON is quicker than Blackboard's.

But the new computer system is not without its critics. UI freshman Nicholas May said the site would be a more convenient stop if students had numerous courses registered, but because he only had one class on ICON, he said, it took a long time to find everything he needed.

"There are a lot of features that you don't need," he said.

However, UI junior Makenzie Kaiser, who also has a class posted on ICON, said everything seems great so far.

"It really doesn't seem that different to me," she said.

The site contains six primary headers on the navigation bar, including links to Blackboard and WebCT for students with courses on those systems.

ICON also has help available for students and instructors on- and off-line. Brown-bag question and answer sessions, campus-wide workshops, and one-on-one consulting are among the variety of training programs offered to students and faculty looking for extra help connecting to the new system.

"It will only work if it meets all the needs of students on campus," said Phil Potter, the ICON implementation project manager.

The Tippie College of Business is the first school at the university to have all courses registered on ICON this semester. Other departments are expected to be connected to ICON by December 2006. Blackboard and WebCT will no longer be available to students during the spring 2007 semester.

Converting systems "is a lengthy process with a pretty robust schedule," Potter said. "We want the faculty to move at a rate convenient for them."

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