Penn State Intercom......May 1, 2003

University faculty expand
their uses of ANGEL

By Stephanie Anderson
Information Technology Services

Gerry Santoro, one of the numerous University faculty members using ANGEL (A New Global Environment for Learning course management system), recently has started to use the system to do more than just manage his courses.

Each semester Santoro, assistant professor of Information Sciences and Technology at University Park, asks a select group of his students to use features available in ANGEL to create specially tailored online surveys. The surveys are completed by the rest of the students in his classes and this information eventually enables Santoro to understand how and what his students are learning and what information they deem useful -- while also teaching them ways to integrate technology into their classroom experience.

Santoro is not alone in his expanded use of the ANGEL system. ANGEL was created as a means for faculty to manage their courses and for students to keep track of their assignments and have access to online materials. However, as each semester passes since its creation, ANGEL and its applications are becoming increasingly attractive for a variety of other reasons.

One of the popular new uses for ANGEL is classroom communication. As traditional e-mail in-boxes suffer from a glut of messages, many faculty members find ANGEL an easy alternative for communicating with their students. All classroom communications can be placed by faculty in "folders" on the ANGEL Web site at http://cms.psu.edu/, making the information easily accessible to students at any time. Materials, in the Web folders, can then be printed or saved from ANGEL without adding to the clutter of e-mail boxes.

With the exception of face-to-face office meetings or instant messages, Santoro requires that all course-related communication between him and his students be conducted over ANGEL.

Another benefit of ANGEL is confidentiality. ANGEL offers a level of privacy that a Web site cannot. Faculty, students and staff can create specific groups and folders on ANGEL, and that information can be made available to anyone with a Penn State Access Account, or be kept private for specified group members only. With a large portion of the University's population working on grant proposals, research or policy, sensitive information may be made public to only the appropriate people using ANGEL, therefore safeguarding intellectual propriety and issues of disclosure.

Wendy Mahan is an academic counselor and part-time instructor in The Smeal College of Business Administration. She also is an adviser to the Smeal Student Mentors, a large student organization that helps first-year business students adapt to The Smeal College and to campus life. The group has a public Web site, but also uses ANGEL to post surveys and tests for its members using the "Add a Survey" feature. Mahan said that ANGEL has eased the burden of communication and test-scoring.

"The Smeal College is undergoing some curriculum changes for fall 2003," she said, "so many of our older students will have difficulty helping out the new students. I plan to develop some instructional materials that these student mentors must review over the summer months. They also will be required to demonstrate mastery of this material by completing a test. If I didn't have ANGEL, I would be struggling to figure out how to use form mail and filter my e-mail messages, then I would have to develop an Excel spreadsheet to plot everyone's scores and determine trouble spots."

Mahan also cites ANGEL's privacy features as an additional bonus.

"Privacy is a bit of an issue," she said. "If the training site was public and accidentally contained erroneous or outdated materials, a student could stumble upon the site, print out the information, and use it to his/her advantage."

To learn more about ANGEL's features, go to http://cms.psu.edu/.


Stephanie Anderson can be reached atsna113@psu.edu.

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