A little over a year ago I posted about my delight in discovering SCHOOLOGY (READ FIRST POST HERE); I was asked to complete a quick review of our experience, one year on;
For us, Schoology was initiated as a means of assessment/homework communication between teachers, students and parents. I looked at a LOT of platforms before deciding on Schoology … a year on … I have had no regrets.
It is important to note that, like all platforms, it does require some significant time to establish and administer – with particular careful attention to the privacy and communication settings. Once up and running, the core administration time is lessened with some upkeep required for semester changeover, new arrivals and exiting students.
The platform offers significant capacity (Function capacity is well explained on the website along with some great videos – https://www.schoology.com/about.php).
I was attracted to:
- Safety / Cyber-safety features – Student email is NOT required (though functionality is improved if students have an email)
- Ability to synergise with MOODLE (if you choose to go that way in the future or you have existing resources on this platform)
- Gmail connectivity and (new) additional “apps”- REMIND 101 is a RIPPER!
- Internal “dropbox” facility
- Friendly platform for students
- HIGH visibility WITHIN our learning community and ZERO visibility/access for OUTSIDE users
- FREE with high functionality – great to “test” with a small class group before paying for subscription
- Clear Calendar function – settings for students / parent and staff
- Making visible the expectations of courses/homework, etc.
- SAFELY building community (parent/student/staff) e-skills
- iPad APP (this was a bonus as we had already committed to this platform before the iPad decision)
- Handles roll and grade books for each course – available securely to parent, student and any “approved advisors”
I liked the ability to stagger the functionality so user were familiar with each “phase” we added over time. E.g. as students and parents have become more confident with the space – we added student blog function (WITHIN SCHOOLOGY) , student comment on course materials (MONITORED) – ability to access grades and roll.
You may ask what it doesn’t do well… it doesn’t train the parents for you :). In most schools this is done VERY poorly or as a one-hit-wonder with little consideration of on-going-induction (personal rant). Administrators have to be willing to sit down with parents LONG after the excitement of the platform has worn off, and reteach how to access/utilise the platform fully. Easily the most “administration hours” are in this area but I do believe it has been well worth this investment. By showing a full commitment to this process; parents now believe that we won’t be “flipping” to the next exciting thing that comes on the market – a frustration for many parents (and staff!).
There is a need to keep selling this to the parents/students and remember that some students will still need to keep a paper diary despite your best efforts to keep things well organised. Also, a BIG WARNING, if you don’t have organised teachers who will commit to use the platform – don’t do it! Training staff is important but it is intuitive to use for the basics and then time needs to be invested in expanding functionality (e.g. quiz, test, roll, links, files, dropbox function, etc.).
As you can tell – I love this platform! Here are some comments from a member of our staff about their experience with Schoology:
As a part-time teacher Schoology has enabled me to communicate with the students when I’m not at school. Also, I have been able to set up quizzes and comprehension tasks, the results of which are recorded automatically into a grade sheet for me to evaluate later. It has also been useful for setting due dates on tasks and for some students who keep losing their handouts I can upload course info, tasks and medical forms to schoology for them to download.
Going back to my first point, I particularly like the way we can post updates (like a news feed in facebook) this is really handy when new things come up or to remind students and parents about coursework or events. It is fairly labour intensive in the beginning to understand how to travel around the software, but with some time and effort and coaching from Paul it began to earn its keep. All of the teachers use the software regularly. Schoology works for us because we all use it and are dedicated to using this software as part of the communication between students and parents.
For College and MS it is great to be able to keep in touch with what the rest of the staff are doing as well as using it to communicate with students.