Just ask the barmaid

Miriam Unruh has agreed to take over teaching Open Educational Resources. We met on Friday afternoon at a local watering hole so I could thank her properly. As we were discussing the course I used the word “Angel”, and our waitress, walking by, said “I hate Angel”. At first I thought it was a religious comment. “I hate Angels”. Odd. But no, it turns out she is a student in psychology (just accepted to do her PhD in North Dakota) who has had courses in the Angel Learning Management system, and HATES it. “Why?” I ask politely. She explains how it was down for 3 days before an important test or due date. Well that can happen to any system in theory. So I asked her, “If it would have been problem free, would you like it?” “No” is the emphatic answer. “Why?” She explained that it is too complicated, difficult to navigate, not simple . . . All True!

I know a few people who were on the committee that picked Angel. All well-meaning I’m sure. Why did they pick Angel? Partly I suspect because of all the things it “could” do. You could have a wiki, you could have a blog, you could have a local learning object repository. Someone should have asked, “do instructors use these tools?” “do students want these tools?” “why would someone use the wiki in Angel?”

This conversation (back to the bar on Friday) is juxtaposed against the conversations in the committee I am on reviewing the IT department at University of Manitoba. How can we ensure decisions about IT are made in the best interest of the stakeholders? Why is the answer to why things aren’t working well is we need more resources? If you had all the resources in the world would Angel still suck? Obviously the solution is to go to bar and talk to people!


About Karen Keiller

I am the University Librarian at Lakehead University.
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One Response to Just ask the barmaid

  1. scottx5 says:

    It’s not Angel guys. Angel is clunky and would be workable were it open-source and due the slack we cut things that are under development by well-intentioned people. Also, it’s hard to judge something that has most of its features turned off. Beyond that though is the more disturbing issue of whether Angel represents the University of Manitoba’s attitude towards online students.

    Based on my experience, the U of M considers e-students as outsiders. We have no student card, print our own course material, student records and tax receipts. There seems to be an unwritten rule that “classmates” are discouraged (if not prevented by the poorly designed Angel message board) from communicating with each other.

    Isolation is a problem for online students. We’re not “skipping class”, or blithely “studying in our pyjamas”, we simply can’t come to class. In addition, as we may be the only person in our community taking the class we have no one to bounce ideas off of. Restricting or discouraging our attempts to form at least some kind of learning community with a poor LMS is disrespectful of our efforts as students.

    To me, the Angel course site is like an abandoned classroom I have to visit to pick up my assignments. No sign of life there, no evidence of other students, no sign it’s “my class”, no trace of my having been there—ever. Without a functioning LMS the course loses its gathering point, its centre. Discussions pushed off site become scattered, infrequent, no longer course enhancing and exciting exchanges where we can play with our new learning and test it against each other.

    I find it extremely ironic that I’m enrolled in the Emerging Technologies for Learning certificate program at the U of M. Sad too.

    Thank You for Your Time,

    Learning Object #7667824

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