Angell and Falcón saw teachers building unsuccessful classroom websites.
"Teachers would find they would spend hours and hours in the summer working on a classroom website and ignore it during the school year because it was too cumbersome," Angell said. "That led to the philosophy of Haiku we maintain today: providing for a sophisticated set of tools that you can access in just a few minutes a week."
In contrast to many similar companies at the time, Haiku was marketed specifically for K-12 teachers rather than higher education classrooms.
Haiku’s LMS helps teachers design an online classroom where students can view content created by teachers and submit assignments for their classes. Teachers can record grades, assess students’ work and assign projects through the web on Haiku.
Angell said Haiku is the simplest system to use because it is managed through the Internet.
"Our business model is as a web-delivered platform. The advantage to our customers is that we’re a software updated in a cloud," Angell said. "Our customers don’t have to maintain hardware, they don’t have to download software, they don’t have to worry about software updates. They simply have an account and log in from any web browser, and they are off and running."
This connection made Haiku an easy choice for Google when the company developed the Education app, he said. Google approached Haiku in October, and the Apps for Education launched in January.
"Because we are web-delivered, we play in the Internet space very nicely with other applications in the Internet," Angell said. "So the Google apps with our integration is a perfect example of that. Google is an online application and so is Haiku, and getting the two systems to communicate with each other is a relatively common practice for Haiku."
Teachers can now move seamlessly between their Google Education accounts and Haiku LMS after only signing in once, Falcón said. After teachers create Google Documents, build presentations or embed web links such as YouTube videos, they can transfer their curriculum easily to Haiku. Students also will find the connection between Google and Haiku an easy one to manage, Angell said.
"So teachers enter their Google apps space, they sign in, students sign in, they are checking their mail and they are creating Google docs for class," he said. "Right on the menu bar above there is a list that says ‘Haiku LMS’ and when they jump to that they find themselves inside the Haiku element space. No additional log-ins and no additional passwords. It’s a very clean process."
Falcón said Haiku hopes to address common problems for teachers through its integration with Google.
"Our goal with Google apps integration was to address each of those painpoints and remove them," Angell said.
Falcón said Haiku will soon launch updates to the program that organize content and file management.
Google Apps for Education also respond to teachers’ needs for cost efficiency, Falcón said
"With the current state of the economy and current budget cuts, a lot of states are asking what they can do a lot more cheaply. And at the same time, as the nation tries to figure out what to do with education, there are a lot of initiatives right now which are pretty strict on what schools need to do," he said. "That is a hard combination for schools because you have to do more with a lot less. What they are doing is moving to Google apps because it is either cheap or free. ... Haiku is one of the most affordable elements out there."
Michelle Horning, an accounting professor at Goshen College, became involved with Haiku Learning first as an investor and second as a teacher when the company started.
"I use it as the place students can go for information about the class," she said. "In the past, professors would hand out a syllabus for the class with objective and assignments, but I do all of that online now."
Horning said she uses certain features on the website to expand her class beyond its meeting time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She uses her LMS to embed videos and post links to articles for her students, update her class calendar, collect assignments in the drop box without cluttering her e-mail and start discussion boards on class assignments.
"Students are so used to technology and to accessing things online that this is normal for them," she said. "They expect to access this information."
The Haiku LMS adapts well to K12 classrooms because most students are familiar with the web, Horning said.
"Students at all grade levels are comfortable with technology," she said. "Even my second grade son knows how to sit at the computer and access the Internet and maneuver a web site."
Websites like Capterra provided overwhelmingly positive reviews for Haiku, and most feedback agreed the system was constantly updated to improve its features.
"When Haiku started it did not have all the functionality that I wanted but they have added things over the years," she said. "The things I wanted three or four years ago are features I have now."
Some of those features include an online grade book where students can view their personal grades and comments, as well as the ability to embed videos on the class LMS page.
Falcón and Angell said they expect to see their Haiku grow even more with the Google Apps integration.
The company is based in Goshen and has five full-time employees. Falcón lives in Arizona, Angell lives in Goshen and the other employees are scattered across the globe.
Falcón said his daily conference includes six people in four different times zones. Haiku’s clients are global, as well. Haiku LMS is used in school districts ranging from southern California to Mumbai to Austrailia.
Haiku users of Google Apps responded with "sheer excitement," Falcón said.
"From a user perspective, this is very exciting," he said. "But it also opens up possibilities for us and is exciting from a business perspective, as well."