LMS Comparision Jimenez

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LMS Comparisons

Platforms Reviewed:
1. ANGEL Learning Management Suite v. 7.3
2. Moodle 1.9
3. eCollege
4. Sakai 2.3
5. KEWL

ANGEL Learning Mangement Suite v. 7.3.

ANGEL was listed first on the LMS roster and the name alone gives it an aura of on online educational designer’s paradise. It isn’t just an LMS, it’s a suite. Being that I had heard of this platform but had never seen it, I was curious to see how it matched up against more familiar LMSes like Moodle or Blackboard.

Communication Tools
ANGEL provides a bit more the standard fare here. Students and instructors can create and maintain discussion forums and choose whether or not they want to subscribe or force subscribe users. Assignments can be turned in using a drop box. What sets ANGEL apart from the rest here is that students have the option of sharing the contents of their drop box folders with their peers. That would be a handy tool for use in collaborative assignments. ANGEL allows for both synchronous and asynchronous class sessions. Communication features also include real-time chat, whiteboard capabilities, and an internal e-mail system in which the instructor can e-mail the entire class at one address or alias.

Student Involvement Tools
There is a wide range of group creation capabilities within the ANGEL LMS. Instructor OR students can assign groups. A nice feature in ANGEL is the ability for students to create their own personalized start page, allowing them to customize the layout of course materials and menus. That is a feature I found myself wanting during my experiences in setting up my Moodle project.

Course Delivery Tools
ANGEL offers a variety of testing modules (i.e. multiple choice, matching, short answer essay, etc.). These all include automatic grade book and student progress tracking. Angel goes beyond its competitors in that it allows instructors to customize different sets of activities and resources based on student performance. On the surface that seems a peculiar feature to add, but admittedly it could be useful in trying to practice differentiation of instruction.

Content Development Tools
ANGEL delivers in this area as well featuring a template-based course creation capability. I really liked that they went beyond what Moodle provides as far as helping novice users. The biggest perk with ANGEL is that it includes step-by-step guides to creating course content as well as a design wizard.

Moodle 1.9.

I’m not exactly sure if this is the same version of Moodle that we used in our Moodle projects. But our experiences with Moodle in both the designer and learner roles makes any COMETeer qualified to write a review of Moodle’s capabilities.

Communication Tools
It is still the same Moodle we all know and perhaps love. Moodle features drop boxes for student assignments, synchronous and asynchronous communication. It can support whiteboard capabilities through third-party add-ons. As many of us have already experienced, Moodle has a built-in e-mail and forum notification system.

Student Involvement Tools
Moodle 1.9 offers the exact same tools as mentioned in the above review of ANGEL. Instructors and students can form their own groups. What Moodle lacks is the ability for students to customize their own start page or create a class portfolio.

Course Delivery Tools
Again, Moodle matches up well against ANGEL as far as the availability of certain types of quizzes and tests. The only difference here is that Moodle offers a type called “calculated.” I’m not exactly sure what that means other than it might be some sort of mathematics type quiz. What sets Moodle apart in this category is that is gives instructors the option of exporting quizzes to an outside source, such as a standards-based web grading service.

Content Development Tools
Instructors can create pages or link existing materials to the course site. As we’ve been learning, however, I can’t say that the Moodle interface for course designers is intuitive. But since it is the only one I’ve ever actually used, I can’t honestly compare it to any of the other platforms reviewed. Aside from some web-based getting started guides, the instructor is pretty much on his/her own in putting together the course.

eCollege

This is a platform I had never heard of before. I wanted to see what it stacked up against the competition listed above. Surprisingly, it fares pretty well compared to its more reputable competitors. However, it does not contain all the bells and whistles that come standard with ANGEL or Moodle.

Communication Tools
eCollege does offer communication tools comparable to both Moodle and ANGEL. It even beats Moodle out in that, like ANGEL, it allows students to share file folders with one another. Where eColloge really shines is in its extensive whiteboard capabilities. The whiteboard supports PowerPoint uploading, group web-browsing, and two-way voice chat.

Student Involvement Tools
Like ANGEL, eCollege does have a student portfolio capability in which students can compile the work they accumulate throughout the course. While the creation of students groups is supported, it appears that eCollege only allows the instructor to form such groups.

Course Delivery Tools
Here is where eCollege takes a backseat to the competitors mentioned above. It offers a more limited amount of test types, but it still offers most of what a basic course would need. Multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer and essay questions are all supported. But it falls short in offering the ability to custom create new question types.

Content Development Tools
There was one puzzling thing I noticed with eCollege. While its content development tools are similar to both Moodle and ANGEL, there was a blank next to instructional design tools. Nothing was mentioned to explain eCollege’s capability to organize learning objectives and goals. It was also unclear if this platform allows instructors to reuse a course as a template.

Sakai 2.3

I must admit, I chose this platform because it just sounded exotic. Like eCollege, this is another platform that I am not familiar with. The one item that jumped off the page here is Sakai’s impressive flexibility in configuring its communication capabilities.

Communication Tools
I was initially impressed with the amount of communication customization that Sakai allows. One feature I saw that would be useful to instructors is the ability to pre-load page content for a specific release date. Suppose you wanted certain announcements or updates to appear at certain dates and times, but you didn’t want to constantly have to log in an update your page. Sakai allows content to be pre-set to release when you want it. This includes items such as class assignments and discussion forums. Aside from that it matches up with the services provided by the competition. One noted omission, however, it that there is no whiteboard function.

Student Involvement Tools
Like eCollege, Sakai does not allow students to form their own groups. Groups may be assigned specific assignments and have the option of being instructor-monitored or private. Overall, Sakai isn’t as flexible when it comes to the ability to customize student groups.

Course Delivery Tools
Again, Sakai and eCollege are in a virtual dead-heat regarding testing formats. The usual suspects are available here, yet there is no ability to create customized question types.

Content Development Tools
Sakai provides templates for use in the creation of course content, but no wizards or tutorials here. Aside from that content development capabilities are essentially the same as the above platforms. There was no stated ability to reuse a course once it was completed. But one reviewer commented that Sakai allows the instructor to import or copy material from one course to the other.

KEWL

Any platform trying to make its name sound cool is setting itself up to be target for pointed criticism. I only chose to this platform to see if KEWL indeed lived up to its name.

Communication Tools
KEWL was the only platform besides ANGEL with the ability to incorporate RSS feeds into the course pages. KEWL provides both synchronous and asynchronous capabilities comparable to the other platforms mentioned in this review. It was noted that an online journal and notes option was removed in KEWL version 2, but would be reinstated in version 3. An online whiteboard function is also slated for release with version three.

Student Involvement Tools
KEWL falls in line here with eCollege and Sakai. Only instructor-created groups are supported. Like ANGEL, KEWL does allow students to create their own custom start pages. Again, KEWL teases us with the promise of an online portfolio feature in version 3. So far this review reads more like a movie-trailer for the upcoming blockbuster that will be KEWL 3.

Course Delivery Tools
Apparently, this is one area where the current version of KEWL doesn’t hold back. KEWL provides all standard test question types as well as the ability to create customized question types. It keeps up with the big boys with a fully functional grade book program, not quite as full-featured as Moodle or ANGEL, but it would be enough to serve what I would require of a LMS.

Content Development Tools
There is a potential red flag in this area. It was noted that KEWL is not confirmed to be 508 compliant. It was also unclear to me if courses are reusable. KEWL does not supply any information regarding course creation templates or quick-start wizards. While KEWL is said to have built-in course creation capabilities, it was unclear on the comparison chart how well these match up against other platforms. Seems like KEWL chose not to show up in this category.

Conclusion
In my opinion, ANGEL came away as the most impressive on paper. I hesitate to declare it the winner out of the five without actually using it myself. But from what I’ve experienced through Moodle, the course creation interface can’t get much worse. If I were in the market for an LMS I would have to pit it against Moodle in a head-to-head trial run. eCollege, Sakai, and KEWL gave me the impression that they were emerging platforms that just haven’t found themselves yet. There was one vital bit of information, however, that was missing from the comparison chart altogether. How much do site licenses cost? I would be more apt to give eCollege, KEWL, of Sakai a test run if they had a substantially lower cost.

Unless I was moving all the course I teach to an online format I don't think I would use an LMS at the moment. However, any of these platforms would probably serve my needs if I were to transfer some content to an LMS. As a teacher of AP World History, I've often thought about creating a site for a summer assignment. Though each of these platforms had their strengths and weaknesses I think any of them would serve the needs of a K-12 or higher learning institution.