We have spent the past semester investigating options regarding a Learning Management System. Currently we are using WebCT 4.1. However, technical support from the parent company (Blackboard) will not be available after January 2009.
The discontinuation of WebCT 4.1 support necessitates either an upgrade to Campus Edition 6 or a transition to an altogether different product. Throughout the Fall 2007 semester, we examined a number of LMS products, looking most closely at Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and ANGEL Learning
We invited sales representatives from each of these companies to demonstrate their products on campus. These presentations were open to everyone. Full-time faculty, adjunct faculty and staff members attended each presentation. After the last demonstration, an email was sent to all instructors soliciting their opinions. Faculty feedback was used, along with technical and financial considerations, to reach a decision on the best learning management system for San Juan College.
Here is a quick summary of each product:
Blackboard: Blackboard has two products available. The first is Campus Edition 6, which is currently available and fully supported for at least the next two years. The other product is Blackboard Enterprise Edition, which is also currently available and fully supported. A new product, which is a combination of CE 6 and Blackboard, called NextGen, is under development. However, NextGen will not be available before 2010. Either way, we would make two full conversions to two distinctively different systems over the next three to four years (first to CE 6 or Blackboard Enterprise, then to NextGen). The cost and effort of making two full conversions is very time-consuming and cost prohibitive.
Desire2Learn: This product did not appear robust enough to meet many of our instructional or technical needs. Very few reviewers felt this was the right learning management system for SJC.
ANGEL: ANGEL is simple to use and highly customizable. Transitioning existing courses from WebCT 4.1 to ANGEL is a quick and easy process. ANGEL supports the delivery of SCORM compliant learning objects. The scripts that enable ANGEL to integrate with Datatel already exist. Integration means that there will be accurate and timely updates to class rosters.
After carefully considering each of these options and costing out the purchase over three-years, ANGEL was clearly superior. The decision was made to go with ANGEL as our Learning Management System.
The implementation schedule for ANGEL is as follows:
- During the Spring 2008
- ANGEL will be installed and tested.
- WebCT 4.1 courses will be copied into ANGEL
- courses will be available, in ANGEL, to instructors for updating.
- During April 2008, and throughout the following year
- training sessions will be scheduled for faculty members to learn ANGEL.
- courses with instructors who wish to transition as soon as possible will be assisted in creating their online space in ANGEL
- new online courses will be developed in ANGEL
- During the Fall 2008, full online program courses (Vet Tech, PTAP, HITP) will be delivered in ANGEL.
- By the end of Spring 2009, the WebCT 4.1 server will be taken out of service.
This implementation schedule has been developed to give instructors ample time to transition their courses from WebCT 4.1 to ANGEL Learning. Both services will run simultaneously through Spring 2009. We understand that this can cause some confusion for students; however, we will be providing students with clear instructions on how to gain access to all of their courses to minimize any confusion. ANGEL orientation for students is also being planned.
If you have any questions regarding this change, please feel free to contact myself or Sandra Tracy. Also, a big thank you to all who helped review the LMS proposals and submitted their insights.
Tim Warren and Sandra Tracy, Ed.D.