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LON-CAPA outlasts other online learning systems

August 12, 2012

MSU’s mainstream online learning management systems have come and gone, from ANGEL to Moodle and now Desire2Learn, but for about 20 years, LearningOnline Network with Computer-Assisted Personalized Approach, or LON-CAPA, has remained almost untouched and is used by professors and students across campus.

LON-CAPA was first developed at MSU and used mostly in science and math courses, but the system has spread to various classes and to other universities, colleges and high schools.

Gerd Kortemeyer, director of the LON-CAPA project and associate professor of physics in Lyman Briggs College, said LON-CAPA is used mostly in advanced or specialized courses, such as physics, statistics or art history.

“Faculty who have a taste for doing more advanced stuff take the advantage to migrate over to this system … one that has a longer heritage,” Kortemeyer said.

Catherine Westfall, a visiting associate professor at Lyman Briggs College, said she tried to use ANGEL but found it to be confusing.

“I discovered how wonderful (LON-CAPA) was,” Westfall said in an email. “(It is) so much easier to use than ANGEL. I never had the kind of problems with it crashing, like I heard happened to those who used ANGEL. In fact, I’ve never had one single problem with it.”

Westfall said she has used LON-CAPA for all her classes for about five years.

Karen Davidge, a zoology sophomore, said she has used LON-CAPA and ANGEL in her classes and that she found professors use ANGEL for the calendar and to upload documents, such as the syllabus. LON-CAPA has the same features, along with the ability to complete homework assignments.

“Although I have had a few problems when answering homework questions on LON-CAPA, I have found that this system is more user-friendly and less likely to have technical issues than ANGEL,” Davidge said in an email. “LON-CAPA also allows students to discuss and help each other with homework problems online, which can be very convenient.”

Kortemeyer said the inconsistency and problems with MSU’s other online learning systems makes LON-CAPA a better option for classes.

“Who knows what’s going to happen to Desire2Learn (in) five years?” she said. “The track record has shown that these systems come and go; Moodle came and went, ANGEL upgrades (and now) ANGEL is going.”

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