Online Classrooms: Blackboard Vs. Angel

Technology has revolutionized the setting in which learning takes place. In recent years, the schema of a classroom has changed from a classroom with a slate and rows of student desks to an online platform with modules and links for each lesson. With the variety of websites to use for online classrooms, it can be a challenge to choose which one is the best for your staff, students, or classroom.

The two most popular online classrooms are Blackboard and Angel. They are both unique sites that serve the same purpose, which is assisting educators to teach through the internet and assisting students to learn through the internet. Each website has its own background, benefits, and downfalls.

All about Blackboard

Blackboard Learn was founded in January of 1997 when two men, Stephen Gilfus and Dan Cane, started Courseinfo LLC, which was a company that was intended to develop software that would enable education to take place online. They later merged with Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen, who developed Blackboard LLC. From there, Blackboard Inc., which would later be renamed Blackboard Learn, was born.

Blackboard has many benefits; hence, it is used in K-12, higher education, and even in business and government.

• Cost-effective

When Metro Nashville Public Schools started using Blackboard, they added 72 additional classes to their curriculum. This enabled them to save $379, 427 dollars. It also helped them save $1,300,000 dollars in professional development during merely one year of using Blackboard.

• High-quality Audio, Video, and Application Sharing

The high-quality audio, video, and application sharing significantly helps students learn because it provides a comfortable online learning experience. The WebRTC enables students to hear clear audio and have efficient application sharing.

• User-friendliness

In addition to the high-quality audio, video, and application sharing, Blackboard is also user-friendly by allowing students to complete all of the virtual classroom tools in the same browser. There is no java or installation needed. Blackboard is genuinely dedicated to making their site easily accessible to all teachers and students, even those who have disabilities.

• Enables Easy Collaboration

Collaboration is essential for the learning experience. Though the students cannot physically see each other in a virtual classroom, Blackboard makes collaboration very simple and convenient. The Mobile Collaboration feature enables students to collaborate with their class from anywhere in the world. This is ideal for higher education because their students can join in on a class discussion on their own schedule. Marcel Brechtoldt, system admin-principal and senior lecturer at the University of Missouri-St. Louis says, “Mobile web conferencing will let us provide the innovative degree programs our students deserve.”

Though Blackboard has many benefits, it is like most experiences in life; it has its downfalls as well.

• Frequently Updates

Blackboard is always making updates and changes to its website. When these updates occur, even though they are made for the benefit of the users, teachers and students tend to get frustrated. The updates tend to make simple tasks such as submitting homework assignments more complex.

• Technical Glitches

In recent years, Blackboard has received many complaints from their customers about technical issues going unfixed for an extended period. At an open “listening session”, Blackboard addressed these complaints and seemed willing to fix them. They even stated they appreciated the complaints because the complaints would help them grow as a company. Just like any other technology, Blackboard frequently has technical glitches that need to be addressed.

• Difficult Navigation

A complaint that many Blackboard customers have is that the basics are hard to find. The “Grades” are available in the tools section, which confuses many students. The assignments are not in chronological order from which was posted most frequently, which is also confusing to students.

• Expensive

Blackboard is more costly than other virtual classrooms. Some virtual classrooms such as Moodle are free, and who would not want a free service? However, you tend to get what you pay for because Blackboard has many features. If a school is planning to use most of the Blackboard features, the cost is worth it to them. If the school is not planning to use most of the Blackboard features, the cost is unnecessary money spent.

All about Angel

Angel Learning derived from research conducted by the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. It was first used in 1996, and it was exclusively used by Indiana University. In July of 2000, it was officially launched by Cyber Learning Labs, Inc. In 2009, Angel was acquired by Blackboard Inc.

Angel has many benefits, which make it desirable to the K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and corporations that use it.

• Learning Management System (LMS)

The Angle LMS is a set of learning management tools that enable optimal course delivery, course management, and course content. This makes teachers’ jobs easier and assures students’ will learn as much as possible.

• ePortfolio

The Angel ePortfolio enables students to create an online portfolio of their work. This will help schools report and monitor student progress. This will help students monitor their progress and have proof of their skills and knowledge for future higher education and job prospects.

• Available Technical Support

Angel is great with providing their customers technical support. The users have access to a support portal and knowledge base. Technical consulting is also available to help the customers customize the services for their individual needs.

• Flexible Training

Angel is also great with providing their customers the training they need for smooth-sailing of the website. The training is available online, onsite, or in a customized format for the organization.

Angel is very customer-oriented. However, they also have their downfalls.

• Not an Independent Company

Angel is under Blackboard’s acquirement; therefore, the user can expect to see many similarities between Angel and Blackboard. This may be a neutral quality if you have no preference or a similar preference between the two. However, if you have a disdain towards Blackboard, Angel may not be the virtual classroom for them.

• Lower Product Quality

Blackboard has many enhancements such as Inline Grading, Video Everywhere, Calendar ,and many more. Angel does not have these enhancements, and therefore, their product comes with less features. The fact that Angel has a lower product quality makes it less appealing to some educational institutions.

• Lack of Course Conversion

Another feature that makes Angel less appealing than Blackboard is that it lack Blackboard’s convenient Course Conversion feature. When Angel and Blackboard were tested side by side, the Course Conversion feature played a huge role in Blackboard winning the competition.

• College Degrees for the Online Classroom

Many adults are choosing to pursue higher education online. Online higher education allows working adults with families to attain their degree on their schedule. This would be possible without virtual classrooms such as Blackboard and Angel. I was able to get my Master’s Degree while working 2 jobs and renovating a house because of the ability to find a school that was 100% online based.

• Education

Many teachers who want to pursue their master’s degree pursue it online because it allows them to continue working their current job and care for their families. This option also helps teachers learn the virtual classroom platforms they may be currently using in their classroom or will use in their future career. Using a virtual classroom also helps teachers see from their student’s perspectives about the challenged and conveniences of online learning.

• Health Science

Many registered nurses wish to pursue their Bachelor of Health Science in nursing. There are many excellent Bachelor of Health Science degrees they can pursue online. The online option to pursue their degrees enables them to advance their career without putting it on hold.

• Business

The Bachelors of Business Administration is another degree that is commonly pursued online. A Bachelors of Business Administration opens up the door to many more job prospects in the business field. For those who are interested in utilizing their education to start their own business, having the online option allows them more time to plan their future business while acquiring the skills to do so.

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