• En | Fr
  • Welcome
  • About
  • Awards
  • Apply
  • News
  • Support Us
  • Contact Us

Murray Goldberg

Location: Vancouver, BC

Award: Principal Award

Category: Education

Year: 2004

Innovation:

Developed WebCT, the world's first and most widely used Course Management System. WebCT has empowered educators to develop meaningful on-line learning experiences for students and put Canada on the map as the significant player in the global e-learning market.

News Release

Web-Based Tool Enriching Learning for Millions of People

B.C. professor's WebCT software wins top $100,000 Manning Award

Calgary, AB (September 27, 2004) - WebCT has become an indispensable, collaborative teaching and learning tool used daily by more than 10 million students at nearly 3,000 universities and colleges in over 85 countries. Business entrepreneur and University of British Columbia Adjunct Professor Murray Goldberg of Vancouver, B.C., has won this year's coveted $100,000 Encana Principal Award for his remarkable innovation that has helped create and continues to nurture a worldwide e-learning community.

Goldberg got the idea for WebCT (World Wide Web Course Tools) after conducting an experiment with his computer science students. It showed that those who learned from his classroom lectures and a Web-based course did better academically than students taught by lecture or website alone.

But a decade ago, high-quality educational websites were extremely expensive, time consuming to create, and required a lot of computer expertise. Goldberg pioneered the field of e-learning by building a tool that he and other faculty members could use to easily create and deliver Web-based courses.

"WebCT opens up communications paths," he says. "It allows students to communicate much more effectively and much more deeply with one another and with faculty members."

His WebCT software — designed by a teacher, for teachers — immediately caught on with educators around the world. Within four years, more than two million students were learning with WebCT.

To meet the growing demand for his product, Goldberg founded WebCT Educational Technologies Corporation with business partner Sasan Salari, a student who had helped him design the software.

In 1999, WebCT merged with Universal Learning Technologies of Massachusetts. The company (www.webct.com), under the leadership of President and CEO Carole Vallone, now has a total of more than 300 employees in offices in Lynnfield, Mass., Vancouver and Australia.

WebCT continues to be the most widely used software of its kind in the world, in a global e-learning market estimated to be worth about $7 billion US. Courses created with WebCT contain searchable course notes and content, review material, a bulletin board for discussion, assessment tools such as quizzes and exams, image databases, chat areas and more.

Michelle Lamberson, Director of Learning Technology at UBC, says Goldberg's innovation "has empowered educators to create meaningful online experiences for students, and enabled the creation of new forms of educational access for learners in Canada and worldwide."

Goldberg left as Canadian president of WebCT in 2002 to found a new company, Silicon Chalk, which builds e-learning products for the classroom, as a complementary technology to WebCT. He still loves teaching and tries to teach at least one course a year at UBC — with WebCT's help, of course!

"My greatest satisfaction is in knowing how much of a difference WebCT is making," Goldberg says. "It's actually improving education for people, or providing access to education that they might not have otherwise had. That's extremely rewarding."

Since 1982, the annual Manning Awards program (www.manningawards.ca) has encouraged and rewarded leading Canadian innovators with more than $3 million in prize money. This year's four major winners, being announced throughout September, will share a total of $145,000. All will be honoured at the annual gala awards dinner Oct. 1 in Vancouver.

For more information about the award-winning WebCT, please visit www.webct.com or contact Murray Goldberg at (604)-732-5660 or email: goldberg@silicon-chalk.com

For more information about the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, please contact Donald Park, Executive Director, at (403)-645-8288 or e-mail: Don.Park@encana.com
 

Media Backgrounder

$100,000 Encana Principal Award

Murray Goldberg, WebCT (World Wide Web Course Tools)

University professor Murray Goldberg had no idea his small experiment would blossom into an indispensable, collaborative teaching and learning tool called WebCT, used daily by more than 10 million students around the world. Initially, he just wanted to make it easier for him and other teachers to use the Internet's World Wide Web to help their students learn.

"People wanted to use the Web," Goldberg says. "But faculty members didn't have the resources, the time, the skills and the money. So we built a tool that put those resources in everybody's hands."

Goldberg, as a computer science professor at the University of British Columbia, began an experiment in 1995, with the help of a $45,000-grant from UBC's Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, that would shape the global future of electronic-assisted or e-learning.

He divided his students all taking the same course into three groups. The first group learned only through his classroom lectures. The second group never met in person, but had all the course content delivered via a website that Goldberg and two of his undergraduate students, including Sasan Salari, designed. The third group of students combined face-to-face lectures with the course website.

At the end of the course, UBC social scientists measured the students' learning, specifically whether each student performed as expected, better than expected or worse than expected.

The lecture-only and Web-only groups had about the same academic performance. But Goldberg knew he was on to something when significantly more students who learned from both his lectures and the website did better than expected academically compared with either of the other two groups. The students in the combined-learning group also contributed more to class discussions, experienced closer bonds with the other students, and helped each other learn more than in the other two groups.

A decade ago, high-quality educational websites were extremely expensive and time consuming to create. Building them required a lot of computer expertise. It took Goldberg and his two students a full year to complete the website used in the experiment.

Goldberg was lying in bed one night when he had a "Eureka!" He realized he should first build a set of tools that he and other faculty members could use to easily create web-based courses. He set about developing software that let instructors create and deliver web-based courses in days or weeks instead of a year. Goldberg called the program Web Course Tools, and he started giving away copies.

By early 1997, about 100 educational institutions were using his course-management software. Backed by UBC's University Industry Liaison Office, Goldberg created a small spin-off company — with Sasan Salari as a business partner — called WebCT Educational Technologies Corporation.

By mid-1999 — barely four years after Goldberg's experiment with his class — more than two million students were learning with WebCT at nearly 1,000 institutions in about 40 countries. And the WebCT firm employed 30 people, mostly Goldberg's current and former students.

The company had no sales team, no marketing and no business development. Yet its business was booming!

WebCT's success caught the attention of well-financed companies that started making competing products. In 1999, Goldberg's company partnered with Universal Learning Technologies (ULT) of Massachusetts, keeping the WebCT name. Goldberg, who had taken a leave from UBC, remained as president of the company's Canadian operations while Carole Vallone, president of ULT, became president and CEO of the new combined company.

WebCT (www.webct.com) now has a total of more than 300 employees in offices in Lynnfield, Mass., Vancouver and Australia. Under Vallone's leadership, the company tripled its revenue from 2000 to 2001, and doubled it again in the next fiscal year. And Sasan Salari, the student who helped Goldberg create his first course-management website in 1995, still works for WebCT

Courses created with WebCT contain searchable course notes and content, review material, a bulletin board for discussion (where questions need only be answered once by the instructor!), assessment tools such as quizzes and exams, image databases, chat areas and more.

Teachers familiar with WebCT can be up and running with Web-based course components in 15 minutes. Those new to the program might take half a day — a snap of the fingers compared with the full year it took Goldberg to build his first educational website in 1995.

Goldberg believes his website tool became so successful because it was designed by a teacher, for teachers, and supported by what he describes as a "fantastic" community. "It's a community of people who really care about teaching, who believe teaching is important and has a strong societal impact, and who are there to support others who also care about teaching."

WebCT, now used by more than 10 million students, continues to be the most widely used software of its kind in the world. In a global e-learning market estimated to be worth about $7 billion US, WebCT is licensed to approximately 3,000 institutions, from the University of Alberta to Johns Hopkins University to African Virtual University — and many, many others in over 85 countries.

Every major educational textbook publisher now produces content in WebCT format to supplement their textbooks. WebCT has been translated into 10 world languages and, for institutions like the University of North Texas, has become a "mission-critical" technical system on campus.

In British Columbia alone, more than 70 companies are members of eLearning BC, a consortium that markets its members' services and provides technology-based solutions to the world. Goldberg's pioneering innovation has even made headlines in the New York Times.

Michelle Lamberson, Director of Learning Technology at UBC, says: "WebCT has had a profound, positive impact on education within the province of British Columbia, across Canada and around the world."

Goldberg left WebCT in 2002 to start up a new firm, Silicon Chalk. It builds e-learning products for the classroom, as a complementary technology to WebCT. Silicon Chalk's products allow students with a laptop or desktop PC to, among other things, make notes on Web-based presentations and give instant feedback on the pace and clarity of the instructor's presentation. "Students have a completely searchable recording of every class they've been in," Goldberg says.

Goldberg, who was awarded an honourary doctorate this summer, is an adjunct professor in computer science at UBC, where in 1994 he won the prestigious Killam Teaching Prize for outstanding teaching. "I try to teach at least one course every year, because I just love to teach."

He just laughs when asked if he ever desired to become the Bill Gates of the e-learning world. "I don't consider myself a person who cares that much about running a big business," Goldberg says. "I view myself as somebody who really enjoys trying to think of new things that will make my life and somebody else's life easier. To me, that's really fun and satisfying."

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

This year, Manning Innovation Awards presents $145,000 in prize money distributed among four leading Canadian innovators, as well as $20,000 among eight Canada-Wide Science Fair winners. Since 1982, the Foundation has awarded over $3 million to recognize Canadian innovators.

Media contacts (photos available):

Murray Goldberg, President & CEO


Silicon Chalk

Phone: (604)-732-5660

Email: goldberg@silicon-chalk.com

Website: www.webct.com or www.silicon-chalk.com

Donald Park, Executive Director


Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

Phone: (403)-645-8288

Website: www.manningawards.ca