Desire2Learn to replace ANGEL
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 13:04
With the expiration of the ANGEL learning management system contract looming, the Parkland College board has chosen Desire2Learn as its replacement.
The college’s contract with ANGEL ends in the summer of 2013, and is not eligible for renewal. The software has been discontinued by its parent company, Blackboard Inc., which acquired it in 2009.
Students can expect to see classes on the new system this summer as 10 courses have been chosen to utilize the new software. Brett Coup, Director of Distance and Virtual Learning at Parkland College and company will be taking steps to make the gradual transition a smooth one, especially for those who find themselves using both systems.
Students will use the same username that they already have, although a new password will be set for first time users of the new system.
Coup expects that an intermediate page will be in place between the initial log in and the two systems with a list of courses and which tells the students which system to use.
Many more courses will be added to the new system by fall semester and most should be migrated by spring of 2013 in anticipation of the end of ANGEL’s contract next summer.
Desire2Learn was selected for Parkland from a group of three candidates. ANGEL’s new parent company, Blackboard, Inc. was one company that vied for the contract. The third was Moodlerooms, a company that utilized Moodle, a free source e-learning software platform.
Buster sat down with Coup to find out what went into the decision making process.
Coup explained that the three companies came out to the college and were each given an opportunity to showcase their product. The faculty and board members then carefully evaluated the options and reached out to other community colleges in Illinois for their opinions of the different learning management systems.
According to Coup, “The general consensus was that Blackboard has had enough unsatisfied customers to dissuade us from choosing them.” He added that, “They have a reputation for not having the best support, and they have a lot of bad history to overcome.”
Blackboard’s aggressive policies did not impress Parkland faculty, either. The company’s acquisition of ANGEL and their lack of support for the product afterward left some of those responsible for this decision hesitant about a future relationship.
Issues included ANGEL’s incompatibility with web browsers other than Firefox, and the fact that the system struggled even when Firefox was upgraded.
Under Blackboard’s management, updates and fixes were slow in coming, and many users had to roll back to previous versions of Firefox in order to perform such basic tasks as emailing professors and posting to class discussion boards.
There are those who feel that Blackboard is more interested in gaining market share than in offering a quality product. They believe that rather than improving, the company has a policy of purchasing its competitors.
In support of this argument is the fact that just since visiting Parkland last semester, Blackboard, Inc. has purchased Moodlerooms. The company also made an attempt to purchase Desire2Learn at one point, and when that failed changed tactics.
According to Coup, when stymied in their attempts to purchase Desire2Learn, Blackboard, Inc. applied for and received a patent for their learning management system and sued Desire2Learn for patent infringement.
In the end, however, Desire2Learn won the day on its own merits. Coup stated that the various systems offered very similar products.
“Moodle was a little simpler and easier to use, but not as powerful,” he explained. “At the end of the day, it was Desire2Learn that had all of the bells and whistles, all of the functionality.”
He said that the software struck a good balance between ease of use and ability. Desire2Learn allows those faculty members who wish an opportunity to set everything up just the way they want it without forcing those less interested to do so.
Coup went on to explain that the good opinion Elgin College expressed, after using Desire2Learn for the last seven years, went a long way toward making the decision a comfortable one.
“With these types of systems, there can be a lot of things to complain about,” he explained. “When all that we’re hearing is that Desire2Learn ‘is pretty good,’ it must be!”
The support behind the software has been encouraging as well. Desire2Learn knows that ANGEL’s days are numbered and that a lot of schools around the country will be making a change to a new system.
With that in mind, the company has been able to make it possible for faculty members to port their entire class as it is to the new system. They have developed migration tools and even exhibited the methods for the process during their visit last fall.
Desire2Learn has a few advantages that students will notice right away. The system offers full support for all the major internet browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari.