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media:Fw: WEBCT DELIVERS ACCESSIBILITY WITH NEW RELEASE OF LEADING E-LEARNING SYSTEM

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@home.com>
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 13:25:08 -0400
Message-ID: <006101c1139c$6c3dcd20$2cf60141@mtgmry1.md.home.com>
To: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

    For Immediate Release 
WEBCT DELIVERS ACCESSIBILITY WITH NEW  RELEASE OF LEADING E-LEARNING
SYSTEM 
-- New Release Provides Access for  Those with Disabilities and
Complies
with Section 508 of Rehabilitation Act --  
Vancouver, BC - June 25, 2001 - WebCT, the world's leading provider of 
integrated e-learning systems for higher education, announced today a
new 
version of its e-learning software, WebCT 3.6, in both Standard and
Campus 
editions. WebCT 3.6 includes a number of features and revised
interfaces
that  increase the openness and accessibility of the software including
full  compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and
recent  amendments. Company executives made the announcement at the
Third
Annual WebCT  User Conference, which opened here today. More than one
thousand administrators,  IT professionals and faculty members from all
over the world have gathered for  the Conference. 
WebCT is committed to making certain that online courses are  open and
accessible to people with disabilities. As a result, the Company has 
released WebCT 3.6, which complies with Section 508 of the United
States 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, enabling people with disabilities and using

assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to fully use the
software.
WebCT  has worked with the Adaptive Technology (ATRC) at the University
of
Toronto on  Section 508 compliance requirements. WebCT 3.6 enables
faculty
or course  designers with disabilities to use assistive technologies
with
WebCT in their  course creation and delivery. In addition, WebCT 3.6
makes
it easier for faculty  and course designers to create courses that are
compliant with Section 508.  
Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires
that
 electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained,
or
used  by the Federal government be accessible to people with
disabilities.
WebCT 3.6  compliance with Section 508 allows any Federal government
organization to use  the software for their e-learning programs. 
"WebCT's commitment to  accessibility is important because it is
critical
that digital information be  easily transformed from one format into
another, depending on the needs of the  user," said Laurie Harrison,
education coordinator for ATRC. "For example,  learning resources in
accessible formats may be displayed on any size of monitor  or in any
size
of font, rendered as audio output by text-to-speech software, or 
translated into a tactile format for access via refreshable Braille
display.  This flexibility ensures that students with disabilities are
empowered to  independently access information and education." 
Since the advent of  e-learning, students and faculty have realized the
power of online courses to  break down barriers - ethnic, gender,
socio-economic, learning styles and  disabilities. Many students report
that their class discussions and projects  have been liberating because
they are able to focus on the thoughts of their  classmates, free of
those
barriers. For disabled students, online courses  provide a special
freedom.
For many, online courses are the only way they can  participate. For
others, the freedom to work at their own pace, and respond in 
discussions
with their own voice and at the same speed as other students is the 
first
time they have been able to participate as fully as other students. 
However, courses must support their needs and the assistive
technologies
used by  these students in order to provide this experience. 
Professor Michael Pless  of St. Petersburg Junior College has just
completed the creation of a WebCT  course he will offer this fall using
JAWS 3.7, a screen reader supported by  WebCT. "Online courses are
critical
for many reasons including their ability to  let all students
participate
equally, especially those with often-stigmatizing  physical
disabilities,"
said Professor Pless. "I think it is vitally important  for faculty as
well
to have the same access to education and technology tools. I  am
excited
about teaching online; my world has expanded considerably with the 
online
course I'll offer this fall." 
In addition to releasing WebCT 3.6,  WebCT has also created a help desk
for
customers who have questions regarding  accessibility or need
assistance
developing an accessible course. Dr. Glen Low,  director of educational
technology and development, heads WebCT's work in  accessibility and
works
with ATRC to provide consulting resources to WebCT  customers. 
"WebCT has long been committed to providing open access to  e-learning
for
all students and faculty. The fundamental promise of e-learning  is
that it
breaks down the barriers of the classroom and even the campus to 
provide
access to many new learners. It was critical to us to create software 
that
supports that mission and to help institutions deliver on that promise
in 
their e-learning programs," said Carol A. Vallone, chief executive
officer
of  WebCT. 
Other Enhancements in WebCT 3.6 
& Test Interoperability 1.1 format. This support of the IMS  standards
for
content and assessment allows schools to easily share course  materials
with other IMS-compliant software as well as the flexibility of 
importing
IMS-compliant courses created outside the WebCT environment.  
Enhanced Calendar -- WebCT 3.6 provides a centralized student calendar,

enabling students to view a single calendar with information for all
their
WebCT  courses. As institutions continue to expand their e-learning
programs, more and  more students are taking multiple online courses.
This
integrated calendar  allows them to view and manage a single calendar
for
all those classes. 
Palm  Calendar Support -- Palm users will be able to view the WebCT
calendar  integrated directly into the Palm Date Book when they are
away
from their  computer. 
Additional Operating System Support -- WebCT 3.6 provides support  for
customers using Red Hat Linux 7.1 and Compaq Tru 64 on UNIX version
5.1.  
Improved System Management -- WebCT 3.6 provides automation
functionality 
for end-of-year tasks required of administrators. These include
archiving
and  restoring courses as well as assigning courses to categories. 
About WebCT  
WebCT is the world's leading provider of integrated e-learning systems
for 
higher education. More than 2,211 colleges and universities worldwide
are
using  WebCT's products and services to transform the educational
experience for their  students. Consortia in 16 American states, four
Canadian provinces, two  Australian territories, the French National
Center
for Distance Learning, the  Association of Jesuit Colleges and
Universities, the Japanese National Institute  of Multimedia in
Education,
and the Consortium of Distance Education have  licensed WebCT for their
member institutions, making it a de facto standard in  higher
education.
More information about WebCT can be found at www.webct.com/company. 
# # # 
For  more information, contact: 
Brenda Wheeler
Bob Donegan
Wheeler Baird  Group
WebCT
973-762-8683
781-309-1162
brenda@wheelerbaird.com
bob.donegan@webct.com
Received on Monday, 23 July 2001 13:25:20 GMT

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