I attended the ANGEL Users Conference this year and found it well worth the time. It helps to see what other people are doing with a product and how they are taking advantage of certain features. There’s quite a bit that can be done with some of the tools we’re not taking advantage of.

For those who don’t know ANGEL is a Learning Management System. Most will be familiar with the 800lb gorilla Blackboard or the OSS option of Sakai. The software was initially started at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis but was eventually spun off as a company. Talking with the people involved I was fairly impressed with their enthusiasm for the product and it’s future. There is a bit of a family attitude to it. While there’s plenty of things I’d like to see change, overall I’m fairly happy with it. I also think now that some of it is just likely limited by our understanding of the product or policies in place.

Not being a morning person I wasn’t completely conscious during this session but it did have some interesting points. The people involved were also very enthusiastic about their work. Kentucky apparently has some higher education problems where they are not getting as many students through college. The use of online courses may help turn this around. They are also using it for student co-op and partnerships with local businesses. An interesting note is when talking to businesses they work with they never mention “distance education” as it has too many negative connotations (complex and expensive). They use “elearning” instead. The two demands by businesses is flexibility and support for languages such as spanish. ANGEL is fairly flexible and now has language packs. Online courses also work great for businesses compared to other education/co-op environments. Schools can use the assessments to match up students with prospective employers. They are also useful for employers that give education assistance as a benefit. Employees no longer have to wait to use their benefit but instead can find open entry/open end (rolling enrollment) courses to get them back in the game. The feeling is that you need to get them back into education sooner than later or they never will.

In order to bring more money into the state they are also marketing their offerings as widely as possible in order to bring in the out-of-state tuition dollars. They recommend listing your online programs in as many “online education directories” as possible. ClassesUSA was one of the examples.

Overall the feeling is that elearning may help both businesses and students that have previously had problems in educational settings.

ANGEL is growing quite a bit so there are fears by some that they could easily turn into another Blackboard or WebCT (almost all attendees had horror stories). Most of the presentation was an attempt to alleviate these fears by showing some of the things ANGEL is planning and why their different. Here are some of the standouts:

More posts as I get time.