When I talk to profs. who are not particular comfortable with technology, but who use WebCT or Blackboard, I ask them what it is they use these course management programs for. Most commmonly the response is that professors want is the ability to have their syllabus on line, and the ability to post assignments, and outside of on-line discussion boards this makes up about 90% of what professors want. Well there is an easier way, that has a lot more upside. Get a free blog. The way blogs work they are highly customizable, and can easily handle of this type of information in a much easier format for students.
Because blogs add the most recent post at top, this becomes a really easy way to add assignments, and to keep students up to date. You can have a page with the syllabus/reading list. You can post links for students to read. If you want you can enable comments so that students can ask questions about the assignments, or you can just as easily shut the comments off. Either way it is a quick and easy way to make information available to your students. It is free and easy to use. And for an added bonus, your information will not be stored on a database only accesible to those in your class, other educators and students can learn from you classroom ideas as well.
There are several free sites out there, but the best for academic purposes is probably edublogs. Edublogs caters blogs to those in education, there is a three minute video on how to set up. Really all you need to get started is a web browser. And if you have any problems you can always look at this tutorial which is a write-up for Jenn’s class on setting up a blog.
Simple, easy, gets the job done, and communicates with students in a way they are accustomed to using. If you would like to see an example of someone using a blog this way, check out Greenall English Blog, music talk, English2ru or this onefor a course on Classics in Western Literature.(Actually just sruf around at edublogs and you can find examples.)