Question: How did the total cost of ownership change? …has your back-end systems support increased? How about front end user support?
Bruce: “Our costs went up significantly for our institution. We had to purchase a new application and a new DB server (as we would have for CE6). Our annual license fee is three times what we had been paying for CE4.1, but significantly less than the fee quoted to us by Blackboard for CE6. We spent a significant amount of time in training faculty – two or three – two-hour workshops and anywhere from one to six or more hours of individual consulting as faculty were setting up their courses. For the most part we are over that hump, but are still doing workshops to help faculty learn new tricks. The student support time has reduced significantly. ANGEL integrates easily with our Active Directory network user database, so the students now only have one login password to worry about. We have fewer support calls because of password problems. Also ANGEL links to our Datatel-Colleague SIS system via an optional module called “XEI”. We now can automatically create the empty course shells each semester based on a flag on the courses in the SIS. We automatically create new accounts for new students every night and enroll them in the appropriate ANGEL course sections. The scheduled agents are easy to set up. Our support time to create courses and manage rosters has gone to almost zero. We could automatically remove or disable students on the course roster when they drop the course, but we decided to leave that function with the instructors. Also when the next term rolls around the instructors import their course content from the previous semester with three or four clicks and it is done. No intervention needed from the support staff. On the back-end side I suppose that there are things that we should be doing, but we haven’t. We pretty much have turned it on and let it run. It is a Windows app and the DB is MS-SQL Server. We do find that we need to regularly recycle the application pool (which does not drop the users), and sometimes restart IIS (which usually drops the users). One thing that I will say about WebCT 4.1 on Redhat is that it was rock solid. I never had the restart Apache. We are still trying to figure out the system and what we need to do to optimize and manage the DB, but in the five months that it has been running we haven’t done much. We sure haven’t needed a full-time DBA. ANGEL releases an upgrade patch once a month. It takes about five to ten minutes to download and install the update. We do it during a scheduled maintenance window. It is a breeze and has worked every time with no glitches.”