Wednesday, February 06, 2008

LMS 2.0

If you're not in education, you're probably not familiar with the terms CMS or LMS. These terms are acronyms for Course or Learning Management Systems. There are a number of options available, including commercial and open-source L/CMSs. I'm not going to get into the specifics of what these packages do or compare one versus another, instead I encourage you to read a great wikipedia entry on LMSs.

Until recently, my college was using the WebCT LMS. WebCT and competitor Blackboard have been the dominant commercial LMS applications, until roughly two years ago when Blackboard purchased WebCT. With this consolidation, our college and many other colleges were faced with three choices (1) stay with WebCT until Blackboard merged the two products, (2) convert to Blackboard, or (3) transition to an entirely different LMS - either commercial or open-source. We decided to migrate our online, hybrid, and web-enhanced courses to Angel - a smaller, commercial alternative to Blackboard. After running a pilot in the Fall of 2006, we began training our faculty in Angel and moved all of our courses into Angel in the Spring of 2007.

Other than some issues with conversion of courses from WebCT to Angel, the transition has been very successful and well-received by the faculty. It's likely that we would have had similar issues moving to Blackboard or even a newer version of WebCT. One of the great things about Angel is the size and responsiveness of the company. AngelLearning is a relatively small company - especially compared to Blackboard - and as such has been very open to user feedback and quick to respond to any issues or problems we have encountered.

Reading this blog, you know how much I value many of the Web 2.0 tools, including blogs, wikis, podcasts and RSS content syndication. I and others have requested the integration of these tools into Angel. In fact, I have been advocating that every LMS should support Web 2.0 tools. It's great to see that AngelLearning has taken this feedback to heart. We are currently testing Angel version 7.2 on a closed network inside the college. As you can see from the screen capture below, Angel 7.2 now allows an instructor to create a wiki or blog page and to create a folder to store and syndicate content. This is a tremendous move forward in the evolution of the LMS and will allow for greater student involvement, interaction and engagement. I'm not sure where others (Blackboard, Desire2Learn, WebCT, Moodle, Saki, etc) are with regard to Web 2.0, but it's great to see Angel taking such a big step forward.

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