Saturday, May 16, 2009

AUC09 Closing - Summary of Sessions

Sure, there was a cloud hanging over the conference. A cloud of uncertainty. But clouds also have silver linings. Not sure what the lining color of this cloud happened to be, but there is still a vibrant community of users involved in the bettering of the Angel product and our use of the product.

Next year, there will be no AUC. Ray confirmed this during closing remarks. That might be unfortunate. This community might find itself buried under a landslide of Bb users and products. What I find most striking about the users and Angel staff are their techno-pedagogical understanding. This is a highly technical group for the most part, proportionally speaking. Or perhaps it just worked out this way this year. But I do believe that because of the openness of the Angel system, techies are more at home. They are more involved, more invested. They are not just limited to database management and garbage collection – they can directly improve upon the system to effect teaching and learning. That’s cool. Ray did say he would work on preserving this sense of an Angel community.

Ray also said they need to clarify what will happen with pricing structure as well as Angel’s influence in the company moving forward. No change to existing contracts, but what about beyond that?

AUC2009 did “Reach New Heights” as my first and last Angel (specific) Users Conference. If only these new heights afforded us a better view of the future. Wait and see.

AUC09 Utilize LOR

Why and how to start using Learning Object Repositories. The benefit is sharing. Sharing many files and other content items to multiple courses is easier with an LOR. Perhaps media services would like to place photos in a Media Services LOR. Perhaps the library would like a LOR with links to all the important databases. These links could then be included into any instructors course if they so choose.

The part I was missing was the managing of access to particular courses or department level courses. Need to do some testing, but apparently it is all in the filters. Set a filter and access is granted. Doesn’t seem like it was that easy, but I will revisit it.

In setting up LORs for courses/depts the presenters recommended pre-filling the LOR with some folder structure. This helps to keep everyone a little more organized. Nothing to stop them from re-organizing everything, but not many will. All faculty with a course automatically have a personal LOR. Additional LORs need to be created by the admin. Not sure if this can be part of the XEI course creation script or not?

One potential negative to linking to items in a LOR – there is no way to know where that link is going. If you link to an obscure LOR item and the editor later removes it, you might be out of luck trying to figure out where that item was – especially if you have access to fifty plus LORs.

AUC09 7.4 Overview

Improvements coming!
• Discussion forum screen real estate improved a bit. Not leaps and bounds, but it’s certainly better. And a PRINT to PDF option will help many.
• Gradebook – the entry grid is super intuitive and functional. Ungraded item nugget available for homepage or elsewhere.
• RSS nuggets - both for course and personal RSS
• Rubrics – for manually scored content items EXCLUDING discussions. They will likely be looking at this, but nothing promised at this point
• G Button – for easy media embedding/linking
• Submission Manager – for grading assignments and assessments all in one location. Time will be saved here.
• LOR – better interface for searching content in many ways (including search by standards). Also better reporting for linked assignments/surveys for the instructor.
• Surveys – better matches assessments
• Admin – Organizational Structure! Merging courses are also new, but I did not hear any specifics on this. Cleaner CSS. Backup scheduling at course or org level.
• HELP – videos have been included for some of the instructor step-by-step information.
• Question Pool – item analysis now possible.

AUC09 Pushing Published Grades

The important take away from this session is that it is possible. Campuses are publishing grades from Angel to their student information systems. This campus was using Banner, and after allowing faculty to publish grades, they saw a large increase in Angel use.

They are using some custom asp files to make this happen and needed to work with Banner to make the code work. They will share their asp code and Banner code if we’d like to take a look. Contact Kevin Davidson,

The process for instructors is quick and simple. With a grade scale included (this is up to the instructor), Angel figures what grade should be published. Instructors still have the ability to fudge these scores. A custom asp page forces faculty to confirm their choice. Not clear why this step is necessary, but it was slick.

Some Angel admin improvements are still needed to make this better. Grade types are locked to the installation – so we can use only one group of allowable grades. The concept of freezing the published grades was also discussed. Freezing creates a snapshot of the published grades - Admin can freeze them as many times as needed.

AUC09 Respondus/StudyMate

Spoke with the Respondus/StudyMate people. The retrieval functionality that had been announced for Angel will likely see some delays as a result of the merger. Maybe two-three months from now rather than next month. Bummer.

Also need to take time to download 30 day trial of StudyMate. StudyMate is a flash game-like authoring tool. It works much like the Respondus interface, but creates interactive flash components like crosswords, flashcards, etc. There are now audio features to this product. Not recording, but including audio (and video?) as part of a learning object.

50% discount on StudyMate since we already have a campus license for Respondus. Price of the two products are same/similar.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

AUC09 Angels and Daemons I

A look at differences and functionality available with actions and agents. I did not know there was a difference, so this looked interesting. If I understand correctly, actions are individual content item automations (found on the content items Settings, Automate tab) and are always triggered by a user event associated with that item. While Agents can include more course-wide automations. These are set on the Automate tab for the course. Actions are special in that they can compare and evaluate data within the course to then carry out some function. Apparently this isn't possible with Agents. Who knew?

In any case, I now believe it is possible to award points for at least the viewing of (probably not the completion of) a course eval survey that is linked to a LOR. We need to play with this a bunch more.

It is also IMPERATIVE to retire any scheduled agents from a course when the course is finished. Need to add this note to our Agents training!

AUC09 Wimba

Pronto, Wimba’s IM with whiteboard, isn’t available yet for Angel. Darn it. I like Wimba. I like it a lot. The whiteboard feature is simple and could prove useful to many. The voice discussion is compelling. The studies indicating increases in retention are super (I did not actually see the data though, so these might be a bit suspect). Regardless, I’d love to have this option available to encourage new approaches to content for online materials and interactions. Some of the tools Wimba provides are slightly redundant to Angel tools (eg. IM). But Wimba does them better.

Suite includes: Classroom, Voice and Pronto. More info on their website ( Plenty of webinars to attend if interested. FTE pricing model.

UPDATE: Spoke with Wimba, met Iowa rep Sally Cozort. Start small was her suggestion. Try the voice tools and then later move on to the Classroom if needed.

AUC09 iTune U Integration

A custom nugget for iTunes U integration in Angel. Currently working in 7.3 with plans to have it soon in 7.4. Mostly a course list for courses that have published content in iTunes U. With a single click on the nugget, iTunes U opens with access to authenticated private course materials. Plenty of customizations available in terms of roles. A grassroots created nugget from SUNY/Brockport. Requires a little bit of extra management. Actually it requires quite a bit of extra management to set up. But with limited courses having content in iTune U, it seems to make it worthwhile.

I wonder how the nugget responds to course copy? It seems that the link was attached to the Course ID, so perhaps this would be additional set up each semester for each course. Not sure. Once we have iTune U up and running, this will certainly be something to look at.

Available here:

AUC09 Grooming the Beast

A bit more techy session - trying to mix it up a little.

Michael Buchanon from Michigan State University covered customizations of the Angel environment. From the simple to the complex. Of most use to us might be the custom nugget creation. Suggested workflow is to copy another similar nugget, alter the code/text as needed, create the INI file for the new nugget to control how and where it will show on the page, and finally add the nugget to the page layout. And I believe the custom nugget needs to be added to both/all servers.

They also have commented CSS for 7.4 theme creation @

AUC09 iTeach Online

JCCC Teacher Training course/workshop. Instructors who teach online are mostly required (enforcement at the associate dean level) to take a seven week course covering everything faculty need to know about teaching/learning online. Okay, maybe not everything, but there is a core here. The course is offered in hybrid and full online course. Is this something we are missing at KCC? Should online instructors receive training on how to teach in the online format, as opposed to just training on how to use the system - with the occasional best practice tossed in?

The audience for this kind of course would be widely diverse: tech skill levels, disciplines, pedagogical training levels, age, ft/pt, etc…

Within the workshop, instructors experience the role of the student. Examples in the course are given in such a way to demonstrate best practice. For example, a Getting Started module is part of the course and includes all of the skills necessary for students to participate. If there is a discussion requirement, the Getting Started module should include a discussion.

The other clever element to this course is teaching instructors to take screenshots of errors. In the future, if an issue arises the instructor can grab a screenshot and share it with the admin. Awesome idea!

AUC09 FAQ with Bb and Angel

Most of this was repeat of commitments articulated during the keynote. Some additional answers:

A: No, there isn’t an environment variable such as Bb_MERGER = 0. (haha!)

A: ePortfolio is still coming. Even though Bb already has about 4 other ePortfolio products. The product was ready and is going forward. Will be continued along with Angel 8.0 product.

A: 7.4 product will be supported through July 2012. After that move to Angel 8.0

A: Hosting is still available

A: Costs will remain consistent with usual pricing model (sounds comfortably vague)

A: To get involved with product development send email with areas of interest to

AUC09 Keynote Notes

A somber tone from Christopher Class, Angel CEO. But it was comforting in a way. A bit more car-salesman tone from Michael Chase, Bb CEO. But maybe like a luxury car salesman, not too terribly smarmy. And a very fatherly, trustworthy tone from Ray Henderson, newly appointed President of Bb Learn division (he was an Angel Chief Product Officer moved into higher Bb exec position – sign of good faith).

The main messages
1. Support structure will remain unchanged. Roughly paraphrasing Chasen, “Who you called yesterday for support questions, is who you will call tomorrow.”
2. Bb admires Angel and wants to learn.
3. Extended product support will continue as promised pre-merger.
4. There will be an Angel 8.0 – development on this begins today.
5. Angel LPS (institutional outcome piece) is joining forces or otherwise being replaced by Bb Outcomes (a separate and already available product)
6. 7.4 is the MOST stable, bug free release ever (but there are still 30 some known bugs).
7. Angel clients are welcome to attend Bb World conference in July in DC. Registration is free!
8. We can contact Michael with questions/concerns 202-463-4860 x 2201.

Other side Notes
• MyMathLab is/was a Bb product – I didn’t know that.
• We need to look at 7.4 directory layout. We might need to plug into this functionality later, so it will be good to look at. Allows for division specific role assignments and functionality.