Professors should better utilize Angel

One of the most promising signs for the outlook of a semester, at least academically, is a full courses tab on your Angel page a few weeks before the semester begins. Seeing multiple courses loaded up onto Angel before you’ve even stepped into the first lecture hall is a sign that you just might luck out and have professors who will utilize the Angel system, something that makes keeping track of assignments, grades, communication and, as a result, life, far simpler.

In my six semesters on campus I’ve had a wide range of professors, and have experienced varying levels of professor interest and ability in using Angel. I’ve taken classes with some who have used it extremely well, providing a place to post assignments, keep consistent communication and receive up-to-the-assignment grades. I’ve also had professors who use it as basically a storage place for the syllabus and maybe a few important documents. Then there are the professors who don’t bother to create a page at all, creating a 20th century type atmosphere for the classroom that can be at times both frustrating and counter-productive.

It could be considered a generational thing. Perhaps younger professors, who likely grew up with computers, are more accustomed to using the Internet as an educational tool, while professors of the older generation are more comfortable with a traditional lecture-style format. This is not an entirely fair assumption, however, as I’ve had older professors who have utilized Angel in impressive and helpful ways, as well as younger professor who did not want to bother with it.

It’s a shame that some teachers skip out on using the system altogether. While held back by numerous flaws, including a frustrating email client and a buggy posting system, Angel is a relatively sound system that can provide assistance to students who know how to take advantage of it.

For example, two weeks before this semester began, I found myself with a good bit of free time on my hands. I wasn’t working and had little to do besides sleep and watch Netflix, a common winter break scenario for most, I presume. Basically, I was desperate for something to do. Since one of my classes had already posted the syllabus and assignment pages onto Angel, I was able to get a head start on a major assignment. I picked out a book I was required to write an essay on, read it and completed the essay, all before the semester began. This allowed me to get a major assignment done while I had nothing but downtime, instead of in the middle of a semester, where my time is sucked up by the newspaper and assignments for other classes. Angel helped me, a life-long procrastinator, to actually get an assignment started and finished before the night it was due.

Beyond that, it provides help to students, myself included, who are less skilled in organization and the general ‘keeping-important-things’ aspects of life. I’ve lost countless syllabi and important assignment sheets, and have been incredibly thankful when able to find them on Angel, or, conversely, distraught when said documents don’t show up on the server.

I’ve found that professors who truly care about helping their students in any way possible will at least make an attempt to utilize Angel. It is unfair to expect every professor to become a whiz and suddenly shift his or her whole style of teaching to conform to an online system that is certainly far from perfect itself. But it is nice to see a professor who will at least attempt to provide important documents and some sort of grade information on the website.

The ideal Angel professor posts week-by-week updates on the announcement tabs, as well as major assignments in the calendar. They also post all handouts from class into the learning modules. Posting of grades into the reports tab is great too, but only if they are able to keep updated, something that is understandably rare, given the time it likely takes. This is the ideal, however, and is of course not completely realistic. Still, I think most students are with me in hoping that a professor can complete these tasks.

I’ve noticed more professors use Angel, or some sort of online system, in effective ways each year I’ve been here. This is a trend I hope to see continue. Any online system of grading and posting assignments is great for all sides. It provides convenience for students and transparency for professors, something necessary at the university level. Maybe this incredibly dorky column can even inspire some professors to better utilize the system. If this is the case, I will happily martyr any perceived coolness I had left for the cause (there wasn’t much anyway).