Updated online tools coming to Buffalo State January


Illustrated by Eric Bomysoad

Buffalo state is doing away with Angel, and making room for Blackboard.

SUNY Buffalo State is preparing to implement two new systems in the 2014 spring semester. Blackboard Learn and Degree Works will replace ANGEL Learning and Degree Navigator, respectively.

The complete replacement of ANGEL with Blackboard marks the third and final stage of the transition that began over the summer.

Ginger Bidell is the instructional designer in the instructional resources office. The office is overseeing the transition with the SUNY Learning Center and the Information Technology Exchange Center.

“I think (the transfer) has gone really well,” Bidell said.“Blackboard has more capabilities (than ANGEL). There are so many benefits.”

One of the reasons for the switch was that ANGEL’s parent company is discontinuing its support of the product, Bidell said.

ANGEL and Blackboard have been owned by the same company since 2009, when Blackboard bought its competitor. The company planned to end support for ANGEL in October 2014, but announced last year that they would extend the deadline indefinitely.

In the meantime, they aren’t planning many updates for ANGEL, instead focusing on their own system, according to Bidell. This also influenced the decision to switch. The transition also complies with Open SUNY, a program designed to get all SUNY campuses onto the same network.

Student reaction to the transition has been mixed.

“(Blackboard) is interesting,” said Jessica Micha, a history senior. “I like that the grading system allows for comments.”

Micha said that her only problem with Blackboard was that she could not fully access it on her iPhone.

Other students were more skeptical of the change.

Michael Puglia, a senior studying both journalism and public relations, said that he used Blackboard at his previous school, Daemen College. When he transferred to Buffalo State, hepreferred ANGEL.

He described Blackboard as outdated and fragmented.

“Blackboard is almost like a step back in time,” Puglia said.

He also had issues with accessing Blackboard on iPhones and smartphones. Puglia said that because teachers are more used toANGEL, they can use it effectively, but many do not know how to use Blackboard.

Bidell said the instructional resources office was trying to teach faculty how to use Blackboard, but because of the office’s small size, it would be difficult to offer those classes to all of the students. Their plan is to instead educate faculty and staff, who can then assist their students with issues.

Bidell said in the meantime, students in need of help could find links to tutorials and a call center on the Buffalo State Blackboard homepage.

Another new system to be implemented next semester is Degree Works, which will replace Degree Navigator.

Like Blackboard, the Works transition is related to Open SUNY. According to Don Erwin, chief information officer at Buffalo State, the goal is to get all the SUNY campuses using the same audit system.

A common auditing system would make it much easier for transfer students to see what credits would transfer to their new school, Erwin said. He said that other campuses were already using Works.

Erwin noted that the decision was also influenced by the factthat Buffalo State was having technical issues with Navigator, including lag and system crashes.

“We saw an opportunity to get this thing we need, and improve our audit system,” Erwin said.

Erwin described Works as being functionally similar to Navigator, but with a more modern interface and better navigation.

The cost of Works will be similar to that of Navigator, andSUNY is funding the costs for the changeover.

Degree Works will be available to all students starting in the spring. ANGEL will shut down on Jan. 17.


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