Back in 2010, Edudemic’s own Jeff Dunn introduced readers to Schoology, a sophisticated learning management system (LMS) that harnesses the popularity of social media to enhance the school-related experiences of students, teachers, parents, and administrators. The LMS does this by using an interface familiar to many users.
Schoology has proven to be a successful venture; it is even starting to lure customers away from free solutions with their enterprise solution. With today’s tight education budgets, that might just prove to be big news. Recently, Schoology formed a partnership with the Palo Alto Unified School District, arguably one of the best school districts in the country.
This prompted the editors of Edudemic to revisit the platform and take it for another test drive.
Using the platform allows teachers to communicate effectively with all the stakeholders in schooling. For instance, parents can access a student’s grades, attendance, and calendar of assignments for all the student’s courses. Parents can see the teacher’s updates to the course, view the discussion threads, download or view files, and view assignments. Students can access all of these things too, of course, along with access to assessments and the assignment dropbox.
The LMS also allows teachers to save a ton of time at the copier by giving them a place to store assignments, load quizzes and tests, post homework and notices, create discussion threads and blog posts, and store files. It is feasible that every student deliverable could be submitted via the LMS rather than on paper. Imagine the savings that would generate, as well as its impact on the environment.
On the technical side, one advantage of Schoology is the ability to import from other systems fairly easily. The free version I test drove allowed me to integrate my Google Docs, import from Moodle, and import from Blackboard. That the district or individual user does not have to dedicate a server to the service is also a huge plus.
I’ve been an online student since 2006 and have extensive experience with WebCT, Blackboard, and Moodle as an online student. What makes Schoology unique is its commitment to the social experience of those using the LMS and the ease in which users can immerse themselves in that experience. Each of the aforementioned systems provides instructors and students the ability to post messages – public and private. However, the focus of these systems (in my opinion) is on the individual student experience, not on developing learning communities.
Schoology strives to create online, cloud-based learning communities. For districts that value parental involvement, transparency in the classroom, increased communication among stakeholders, and a repository of resources for students to access at any time, Schoology is a solution they should consider.