Managing Your Online Class: ANGEL

The following material is geared toward ANGEL users. We are working on updating this information to accommodate Canvas users. If you have questions, please contact your learning designer.

Quick Links

Please Note: Non-Dutton links will open a new window.

Several Weeks (or more!) Before Your Class Begins...

  1. Review Best Practices and Expectations for Online Teaching
  2. Make a new copy of your ANGEL section (if you have taught your course in ANGEL previously and want to reuse the same materials for the upcoming term). To begin, you  must have course editing rights in both the courses or groups you are copying to and from. See "How to Copy a Course" for details.
  3. Review your course content and fix any broken hyperlinks, images, etc.
  4. Update your syllabus and any other instructor-specific course materials.
  5. Update your course calendar. Many faculty use the ANGEL "Calendar" tool to help students see important due dates. Others prefer to include that information on their syllabus or on a stand-alone web page. Regardless of location, busy students appreciate having this information!
  6. Reactivate your Library Reserves (if applicable). If you had items on "e-Reserves" ("Library Reserves" through ANGEL) previously and want to reuse them this semester, you need to complete the "Reserve Reactivation Request Form".
  7. Update any content open/close dates. Some faculty like to set items under the Lessons tab in ANGEL to automatically be hidden or revealed on certain dates/times.
  8. Set up your ANGEL Gradebook.
  9. Merge your course sections, if applicable.
  10. Send your students a welcome letter (either by e-mail, snail mail, or both!) that tells them:
    • The URL/location of the course
    • The URL/location of the syllabus
    • How to login (typically using their Penn State Access Account user ID and password)
    • What materials they need to purchase and where they can get them
    • Who to contact if they need technical assistance (Resident instruction students should contact the ITS Help Desk and World Campus students should contact the Outreach Help Desk)
    • Reinforce course prerequisites - What are they? How necessary are the prerequisites? Will you enforce them?  

NOTE: We suggest that instructors send a class welcome letter out at least once per week through the first week or two of class in order to catch any late adds.

WORLD CAMPUS INSTRUCTORS: The World Campus sends out a "welcome letter" to students upon registration. Review this sample welcome letter to see the information they already provide to students. 

One Week Before the Class Starts (a.k.a. "Orientation Week)...

A standard practice for online courses is to give students an "orientation week"—access to the class one week before it officially begins. This practice enables distance learners to try out their Penn State Access Accounts and to familiarize themselves with the class environment so that they will be comfortable and ready to learn on the first day of class.

  1. "Enable" your class
    By default, a new class section is "disabled," meaning that registered students will not be able to see it when they log in to ANGEL. As the instructor of record, you are responsible for "enabling" your class so students can access it (unless other arrangements have been made). NOTE: Students are automatically given access to your class as they register.
  2. Provide formal orientation materials to help your students get used to your class and the class environment.
    EXAMPLE: Most College of EMS online courses include a Class Orientation lesson that students complete before beginning the class. See the GEOG 497C "Class Orientation."
  3. Hide select class materials from student view. (Optional)
    If there are materials that you are not ready to have students see, it is possible to "hide" materials in ANGEL and also in content management systems like Drupal.
  4. Post a "welcome" announcement for your students. This should ideally go wherever you think your students will "land" when they first enter your course. Many faculty like to use the "Announcements" tool in ANGEL (under the Resources tab) and/or e-mail for this purpose. (Include the name of the course in the title of your announcement.)
    • Need help? See Add a new announcement
    • If you imported your course contents from a previous ANGEL section, your announcements will have automatically been imported as well. See how to edit/delete and reuse your old announcements
    • All announcements will show up in your course and on the students ANGEL home page. For this reason, please remember to include the name of your course in the title of the announcement so students can see at a glance which course it is referring to.
NOTE: There are a few things we recommend that you mention in your welcome message:
  • Tell your students to begin the class by reviewing the syllabus and working through your class orientation materials...and provide directions for accessing those materials!
  • Remind them of the official class start date.

Hello and Welcome to GEOG 472!

This class will officially begin on Monday, May 16, 2013.

Meanwhile, feel free to familiarize yourself with the material in our class orientation. To get there, click on the "Lessons" tab (above), then click on the first link to the Class Content. This will open a new page in your browser that contains the class website. On the left margin of the class website, you will see a menu box that says "Start Here!" Click on the Class Orientation link found in that box and away you'll go!          

You can always contact me with your questions and comments using the e-mail tool located under the "Communicate" tab above.

See you soon!          

- Joe Smith, class instructor

During the First Week of Class...

Most courses begin by asking students to post a self-introduction to a class discussion forum (typically in ANGEL) as a way to break the ice and begin to build a sense of community. This is also a great way for the instructor to get a feel for who the students are and what experience they bring to the class.

  1. Make your own "personal introduction" post to the class to get the ball rolling. In your post, tell students what information you would like them to include in their own introductions.
  2. Review the personal introductions that your students post to the class discussion forum and respond to each, or to the entire class in a single note, as a way of welcome.
  3. Summarize the postings for your class by posting a note to the appropriate discussion forum or send an e-mail to all students, sharing what you've learned about the class make-up and addressing their class expectations (e.g., "Several of you stated that you hoped to learn more about XYZ in this class. While we won't be covering XYZ specifically, we will address the more general issue of...")
  4. Contact students who have not yet accessed your ANGEL site. In ANGEL, you can easily see who has, and has not, accessed your class. If a student hasn't accessed the class yet, there may be a problem that needs your attention.

NOTE: When using ANGEL to send an e-mail to students who haven't accessed your class in ANGEL yet, you will want to be sure to send a copy to their Internet (non-ANGEL) e-mail address!


During Weeks 3 through 6 (or 25-50% into the class for non-standard offerings)

  1. Undergraduate Courses - Submit your Early Progress Reports. Early Progress Reports are formal e-mail alerts sent by instructors early in the semester to students who are earning grades below a C performance in one or more courses. Instructors use a tool in eLion to initiate these reports. For more information, see Early Progress Reports.
  2. Graduate Courses - Send an e-mail notice to low-performing students. It is an important retention strategy to notify students who are off to a bad start in your class! Send them a private e-mail letting them know their current grade and suggest strategies for improvement. Be sure to send your note to the student's non-ANGEL e-mail address, because if they haven't even logged in to your class yet, they won't see your note otherwise!


On a Daily Basis Throughout the Class...

How often you check the class is an individual decision, but you should let your students know, up front, how often they can expect to hear from you. Checking in at least once each business day and once over the weekend is a good way to keep in touch and to keep the e-mail and discussion forums from piling too high!

  1. Monitor the Class Discussion Forums
    If you prefer, you can have all discussion forum posts forwarded to your email. See how to "Subscribe to a Discussion Forum."
    • You will NOT be able to reply to the post via email but it is a way to be notified of class activity without actually logging into the class.
    • Another easy way within ANGEL to see if you have new emails or posts is to use the Class Guide.
  2. Monitor the class e-mail tool for new messages
    You have the option of forwarding a COPY of your class e-mail to your personal e-mail address. If you are new to ANGEL, and you want your email forwarded, see how to "Forward ANGEL Mail to a Non-Penn State Address" (those directions work for Penn State addresses, too).
    NOTE: You cannot reply to ANGEL class mail messages from outside ANGEL. You can only reply from within the class.
  3. Grade all assignments.  Students appreciate timely feedback on their assignments...and will let you know if they feel they are waiting too long! ;-) How long it will take to grade assignments and send meaningful feedback to students depends, of course, on the nature of the assignment. However, students may not be able to proceed in your course until they get your feedback on how they are doing. As a general rule of thumb, it seems reasonable to expect students to receive their grades, including feedback, within one week of submitting an assignment. If one anticipates that it will take longer than that to return students' work, it is best to inform them in advance when their grades and feedback will be available. Doing so will forestall a lot of questions from students and calls to the main office! It also is best to grade assignments in sequence (i.e., assignment 1, then assignment 2, and so on) so students can apply the feedback from one assignment to the subsequent assignment.

On a Weekly Basis Throughout the Class...

Once a week (preferably on the same day each week) we recommend that you:

  1. Post a note to the class announcements area, telling students what you will be covering in the coming week and reminding them of any due dates.

    EXAMPLE: Check out these great weekly announcement examples:

  2. Update your class schedule with any new or revised due dates
  3. Summarize discussion forum conversations, since it can be hard to bring a close to those discussions and/or cull out the important points before moving on to other discussions!

    EXAMPLE: Instructor Kay Shattuck provided this great summary of one of her class discussions (pdf) (word document).

  4. Consider holding online office hours
    Giving your students a chance to communicate with you in real-time can help build strong relationships and motivate students to fully engage in the class. Two popular options for conducting live office hours with geographically dispersed students are chat rooms (text-based discussions) and Adobe Connect (web conferencing) sessions. Just let your students know when and how to join your office hours!


At Mid-Semester...

  1. Gather mid-class feedback from your students

  2. Administering a mid-class evaluation is a great way to see how your class is going from a student perspective. There are several options for gathering this information.      

    • Create an ANGEL survey where you ask personalized, class specific questions. (Need help? See Create a Survey)

    • Use Penn State's "Student Evaluation of Educational Quality" (SEEQ). The SEEQ is administered by the Schreyer Institute and can be given to your students online. For more information, see the FAQ about Online SRTEs.


Before the Class Ends...

  1. Encourage your students to complete the online SRTE.
    Research has shown that the biggest influence on whether a student completes an end-of-class survey is the instructor! So a note from you that encourages your students to complete the survey and that assures them that the information will be used to improve the class is important.       
EXAMPLE 1: "I hope that you will be able to find about 15 minutes to complete the SRTE, our class evaluation survey. We rely upon your anonymous feedback to guide our continuing efforts to make this class worth the time and money you (and in many cases, your employers) invest. Whether your feelings about the class are positive, negative, or mixed, please take a few minutes to let us know. A link to the SRTE can be found on your ANGEL profile page."
EXAMPLE 2: "One sure sign that the end of the semester is upon us is that the SRTE opens tomorrow (Student Rating of Teacher's Effectiveness).  I realize that given this is a 400-level course, most of you should be familiar with the process, but in case this is news to anyone, I'll share: 

The SRTE is anonymous, so you should feel confident in voicing your honest opinions about this class (good, bad and indifferent!).  Yes, you link to it from ANGEL, but it's stored on a different server.

We really don't get the results for a long time after the class is over.  Many students seem apprehensive (usually only in the case of an impending negative review) that it could somehow influence their grade in the course.  This is impossible because your grades will be long-since submited before I ever see the results.  And, those results are aggregated into one big report for the entire class.

They matter!  Really they do!  We try very hard to make sure our students are having meaningful and pleasant experiences in each course they take.  This feedback mechanism is your way to let us know what we're doing right and what we could be doing better.  I've often tweaked the structure of assignments or presentation of material based on feedback I've gotten in SRTEs.  I hope you'll take some time to give thoughtful and specific answers to the open-ended questions especially.   The SRTE will be open April 20-May 3 for this course." - Brandi Robinson

On the Last Day of the Class (and soon after!)...

Post final grades on LionPATH within 2 days of the end of the class, per University policy.

  1. Post an end-of-class announcement to wrap-up to the class. Include a final request to complete the SRTE!

  2. Handle any deferred grade requests (see Senate Policy 48-40)

  3. Remind students to download/print their work, if they desire. If the class utilizes an e-portfolio, recommend that students download a copy of their e-portfolio, especially if this is their last class in the program.

  4. Post final grades on LionPath within 2 days of the end of the class, per University policy.
  1. Review and revise your course materials while everything is still fresh in your mind. Will there be a different instructor next time the course is offered? It would also be good to meet with that individual now to share your experiences.