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Minutes, ACAC meeting, February 6, 2013, 2:00-3:00pm, by Sue Margulis, Ph.D.

Chuck Wigley called the meeting to order (2:04pm).

I.  Report by Dennis Mike & LMS Subcommittee on possible (likely?)  LMS replacement


The majority of today’s meeting consisted of discussion of the LMS Subcommittee report. Subcommittee chair Dennis Mike provided an overall summary of the subcommittee’s charge and conclusions (a detailed, written report was circulated to ACAC last week). The subcommittee members were: Patricia Johnson, Susan Margulis, Nicolas Lorgnier, Estelle Siener, Jodi Moore, Pat Coward, Mark Meyer, Clancy Seymour, Joe Rizzo, Fr. Michael Pastizzo, Steve Warszawski, and Dennis Mike (chair); Dennis thanked this group, which met 8 times during the fall semester (and winter break), for their service. Last spring, this subcommittee was charged with review of Angel. Although many subcommittee members were considered to be high-end users of Angel, in order to be sensitive to the fact that the subcommittee must represent all faculty, beginning and mid-level users were included as well. Since most participants were members of last year’s LMS review focus group, organized by Chris Filkins, we began with the recommendation generated by that group and did not include Moodle.


Process: While our agenda was not simply “let’s dump Angel,” it was clear to all subcommittee members that Angel wasn’t getting the job done for us. Instead of an on-line survey, we met with a subset of departments. The people we met with represented various levels of LMS users. This informed our discussions of Angel. An apt analogy for the challenges we face with Angel is that of an old car that you love. You may be able to keep it running, and invest in it, but it will never have the features present in a newer car


Having decided unanimously that we have problems with Angel and that there are better tools out there, we looked at three solutions: Desire2Learn, Canvas, and Blackboard With the exception of one member of the subcommittee, D2L received the top endorsement of the subcommittee, with Blackboard 2nd and Canvas a distant 3rd.


We were unanimous in our conclusion to leave the final decision to Estelle Siener and Walt Drabek in terms of which LMS to ultimately choose. We did not view any of the three LMS systems as unacceptable. We could comfortably live with any of these three, and all would be a vast improvement over Angel. This concluded Dennis’ brief summary. Discussion followed.


Several ACAC members shared anecdotes regarding their own experiences, and those of their students, with Angel. The general consensus was one of dissatisfaction with Angel. Several members also expressed their gratitude to the hard work of the subcommittee. While Angel may be getting the job done for those who use it only as a repository for documents, it is not adequate for other uses. Of particular note was its lack of compatibility with mobile computing devices.


Costs: Estelle indicated that Desire2Learn and Blackboard are similar in cost, however the next LMS will be hosted by the company, not us, and will likely cost a little more than Angel.


Pathway to Angel—Estelle indicated that the subcommittee had sandbox accounts for all three possible LMS’s, and several members used this to migrate courses from Angel. The top two choices did this very smoothly.


Because the college previously used Blackboard, there was some “gut resentment” expressed towards this LMS. The subcommittee indicated their surprise with the many changes that have taken place in Blackboard over the past 5-6 years. Although Blackboard has a reputation for crummy support, it is clear that Blackboard is changing and is trying very hard to be more responsive.


No one expressed great concern over the presumed transition from Angel to a new LMS, and ACAC expressed great trust in  ITS to make this transition seamless. There was some concern however, about the prospect of doing this every few years. It is hoped that the next LMS will stay with us for many years.


An eloquent minority viewpoint was expressed concerning the overall good job that Angel has been doing for us. The lack of mobile application was not viewed as a serious concern by some faculty, or the students they teach. The suggestion was made to survey students and faculty on this issue. Some individuals may preferentially block access on their mobile devices in order to avoid too much information flooding in. Originally, Angel was supposed to have an end-life in 2012, but clearly that has not occurred. From an evaluative standpoint, Angel is a good fit for some, and concerns have not been consistently expressed by all faculty. Going to a new system always leads to some problems. Angel was rated 5 out of 5 in the online course evaluations for selected courses. None of the students in one class had problems with the technology. For those courses that are not technologically demanding, a system like Angel, without all the bells and whistles of some newer systems, is quite adequate for faculty and students.


It was re-iterated that the subcommittee took several votes, the first of which was that Angel MUST be replaced. It is the hope of the subcommittee that ACAC will vote today so that a formal recommendation can be made. By making a decision now, it is hoped that a planned transition can be included in the 2013-14 budget.


Members of ITS offered their comments on Angel. Some have used it for years, both here and elsewhere. Angel has not advanced in recent years. ITS receives calls on a daily basis regarding Angel problems. If you’re just using it as a repository for files, or for a simple discussion board, it’s fine, but for anything else, it’s a problem. While Angel may hold a dear place in the hearts of some, technology never stands still. Eventually, Angel will break and will not work with newer systems. A hosted solution may provide fewer problems. ITS has never moved from one thing to another without giving faculty an opportunity to get used to it. The transition has to be made, and ITS will try to make it as smooth as possible.


When might this transition occur? The ideal plan would be for Fall ’13, with a semester of overlap in which both Angel and the new LMS are running in parallel.


Prior to formal motions and votes, Chuck offered his comments. First, he expressed thanks to those members who voiced opposing views and he thanked the subcommittee for their hard work. Second. Chuck noted that a decision to replace Angel does not mean that we would not continue to evaluate the adequacy of any LMS that we choose.  Third, even if we believe that there is not a problem with the current system, it is advantageous to switch to another system because the current system denies us newer technologies and advantages that other systems offer. We are looking for the best system that will meet our goals.  Finally, although there may be unknown and unpredictable problems with a new system, there may also be unknown and growing problems if we retain the current system.


Motion: made and seconded that we recommend that the college adopt D2L.

Discussion: It may be preferable to leave the final decision to ITS. The subcommittee trusts Estelle and ITS, and notes that Estelle, as part of the subcommittee, is aware of our preferences. Estelle added that she wants to do what the committee wants. Although her personal bias is against Blackboard, she would prefer to act on a mandate from ACAC

The question was raised as to whether a change in LMS might impact enrollment. This is something we need to be cautious about at this critical time in our history. It was noted that, if anything, Angel is viewed by students as being “stodgy,” and may hurt enrollment (especially on-line enrollment), given that we are currently using a tool that hasn’t changed in seven years.


The motion was withdrawn.


Motion: made and seconded that we replace Angel as the LMS. No additional discussion.

Vote: Yes:  12              No: 0               Abstaining: 0

The motion passes.


Motion: made and seconded that ACAC recommend that the college adopt Desire2Learn as soon as possible. No additional discussion.

Vote: Yes: 3                 No: 6               Abstain: 6

The motion does not pass.


Motion: made and seconded that ACAC ask ITS to listen to the subcommittee’s recommendations and make appropriate arrangements with vendors to replace Angel as soon as possible. No additional discussion

Vote: Yes: 13               No: 0               Abstain: 0


The motion passes.


Estelle will begin to evaluate the costs and incorporate this into the upcoming budgeting process.

II.  ITS Updates

Dan Drew: we are no longer supporting VHS players. They will gradually be phased out in classrooms over the next several years and will not be included in new classrooms. The equipment is not reliable anymore.  Note that Media Center cannot take copyrighted VHS and transfer to DVD unless written permission from the producer is obtained. ITS can transfer from VHS to DVD if it’s your own content.


Estelle Siener:

  1. Everyone will be receiving an email notice about taking a MISO survey from the library. This is nationwide survey of faculty and students, with comparisons to peer schools with respect to technology services and library services. The survey will close on Feb 18.
  2. Digital Day is Friday, March 1, in Science Hall. The keynote speaker is Dr. Tracy Mitrano, Cornell University, Director of IT security at Cornell University. Her talk will be at noon in the Commons, and the topic is  “Academic integrity in the digital age”. Twice as many proposals appeared as could be accepted. Send your students. A follow-up roundtable discussion will take place at 4pm. Special ACAC Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at the conclusion of the noon keynote talk.  Please try and attend, and announce to your students.


Scott Clark: Several announcements are now posted on the portal and should appear upon log in. Apple users should be aware that Apple and Oracle have had a public fight about Java (security concerns over Java). Apple has blocked all versions of Java. Oracle has posted an update that Apple has accepted. There are still problems with Java. Banner is still reliant on Java 6 which will soon not be supported by Java. Mac users will find instructions on the portal about how to download the patch.


Joe Rizzo: FaCTS center continues to announce information in Under the Dome and on the portal regarding technology help, workshop registration links, iPad users group details, and email retention workshops. Note that the email retention deadline has been extended to April 15.


III. Reminders

ACAC meeting adjourned at 3:06.