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What is CTools?


What is CTools?
What are the main parts of CTools?
The CTools screen

What is CTools?

CTools is an advanced web-based environment that combines course management features with project and research collaboration features. It is a set of tools designed to help instructors, researchers and students create sites on the web.

Using a web browser, site creators choose from the many tools in CTools and combine them to make sites that meet their needs. Here are a few examples of websites made with CTools:

- a website where an instructor or project director can make announcements and share resources, such as electronic documents or links to other websites
- a website where researchers can collaborate on a project
- a website that serves as an online discussion board
- a website where students can work on and submit assignments electronically

To use CTools, no knowledge of HTML is necessary.

What are the main parts of CTools?

CTools Gateway

When you first open or click a link to CTools, you will see the CTools Gateway. When you are on the gateway page, you are not yet logged onto the actual CTools application. The gateway is the "public face" of CTools and is viewable by anyone with web access. In the upper-right corner of the gateway window is the Login button that you use to log into the actual CTools application.

My Workspace

When you log into CTools using your uniqname and Kerberos password, you will automatically open a site called My Workspace. This is your personal workspace in CTools -- all CTools users have one. My Workspace contains a set of tools in the left-hand menubar that you can use.

Here are a few of the things you can do in My Workspace

- post files in your own private Resources tool
- see an integrated Schedule for all sites you belong to
- see Announcements from all sites you belong to
- create your own private Schedule items
- see a list of all sites you belong to in Worksite Setup
- create project sites of your own for group work in Worksite Setup
- revise worksites you own by adding users or changing tools
- choose how you would like to be notified of new or changed items on sites you belong to in the Preferences tool
- add yourself to publicly joinable sites in the Membership tool
- save drafts or backup copies of work in progress in My Workspace Resources.

Course sites and Project sites

A course site is a website created in CTools for a particular course. A project website is one that has been set up for projects, research, or other activities involving collaboration. A course or project website can have just a few or several tools depending on which tools the site's creator has chosen. Only instructors can create official course sites, while anyone with a uniqname can create project sites.

You can access a course or project site in which you are a participant by clicking its site tab along the top of the window. (If there are more tabs than will fit across the top, they will be listed in the drawer, which is a panel that opens when you click More Sites.) If you are not yet a participant in any sites, you will only see a tab for My Workspace.


CTools provides over 40 tools, including discussions, resources, schedule, chat, news, syllabus, and many more. Some sites created with CTools will have several tools and others will have just a few, depending on which tools the site's creater decided to include.

Some tools, called standard tools, are part of the actual CTools application. Other tools, the external tools, are developed and maintained outside of CTools and are integrated with CTools. You can access the tools by clicking the links in the left-hand menubar. You can add tools to a site while creating the site or later. See Creating a Site or the Site Info Tool for more information about adding tools.

The CTools Screen

CTools Screen

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CTools was developed at the University of Michigan in conjunction with the other members of the Sakai Project, which is a a multi-university community-source CLE (collaboration and learning environment) development project. CTools is UM's implementation of the Sakai CLE.