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ANGEL alternative to come out this summer

April 13, 2011

This summer, some students will have the chance to test drive Moodle, a new alternative to ANGEL.

Depending on the success of the trial program in six summer courses, instructors across campus might have the option to use Moodle in courses as early as the spring 2012 semester, said Brendan Guenther, director of MSU Virtual University Design and Technology.

However, more testing needs to be done to ensure the program is reliable enough to implement, he said.

“We’re not really sure when we’re going to turn it on for the whole campus — we’re going to wait until it’s ready,” Guenther said. “We’re really concerned about reliability in the infrastructure.”

The classes are using Moodle 2.0, the newest version of the software. Functionality issues might arise because the program recently was released, said Leigh Wolf, coordinator of the Master of Arts in Education Technology program and one of the instructors using the program in the summer pilot test.

Compared to ANGEL, Moodle offers instructors more flexibility in customizing the site for classes, Wolf said.

Moodle also focuses more on group learning, she said. Users can build profiles with photos and interests, similar to social media sites. Instructors also can customize the format to make Moodle visually similar to Facebook, which creates a comfortable environment for some students, Wolf said.

“There’s always a learning curve when it comes to introducing a new learning technology,” she said. “(But) generally, (Moodle) is pretty straightforward.”

Because Moodle is an open source program, switching from ANGEL might save the university money, although savings the program might present are unclear, Guenther said.

Still, the program is less mature than ANGEL and it might take additional resources to fix any glitches, he said.

“The true cost of things — the larger equation — is the staff,” he said. “The day in and day out work is the cost that keeps these things running.”

The trial is part of technology staff efforts during the past several years to examine options for online learning software, Guenther said.

Professional writing senior Reanna Trombley has struggled using Angel for courses, especially group projects.

“ANGEL is not good for group work,” she said. “A lot of the time we use Google (Documents) instead.”

If instructors introduce students to the new program at the beginning of the course, it has the potential to be more user friendly than ANGEL, she said.

But using both Moodle and ANGEL will give instructors options in designing courses to best fit the needs of students, Guenther said.
“They’re complementary alternatives to each other,” he said. “Theoretically, there should be courses better suited for Moodle (and some) better suited for ANGEL.”

Although Moodle has the potential to surpass ANGEL in popularity, the university will continue to offer ANGEL in upcoming years, Guenther said. The university’s contract with the provider isn’t set to expire until 2014, he said.

To explore the new program, visit the website at tech.msu.edu/moodle.

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