A Year with Schoology: A Review
by Lydia Yang on Friday, June 5th, 2015
When students hear “LMS”, most associate the acronym with the popular social media post: “Like My Status”. Accustomed to using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as part of everyday life, we spend minutes and even hours looking at photos, comments, and upcoming events. Likewise, another form of social network has become prevalent among Milton students and in classrooms across the globe today. LMS, also known as “learning management systems”, are used by teachers and students, to manage, share, and explore academic content. From Edmodo and Haiku to First Class and Schoology, the options are endless.
Last year, Milton’s Academy Technology Service department worked to find a better way to incorporate technology into Milton classrooms. Moving the school’s main academic service from First Class to a combination of Schoology and Google’s Gmail, ATS managed to make both students’ and teachers’ communication easier. Bryan Price, Chief Information Officer of ATS said, “We looked at the myriad systems that faculty were using and examined whether this fragmented approach was in the best interest of our students. We concluded that adopting one LMS across the upper school would provide the most consistent experience for students.” With the idea of having one system for all of upper school, ATS selected Schoology due to its superior mobile experience, its ease of access, and its group feature.
When students were asked how Schoology affected their lives, they responded positively. “It allowed me to stay organized by letting me see my assignments ahead of time,” said Gemma Freiberg (III), highlighting one of the best qualities of Schoology. Productive students could finish their assignments ahead of time as long as teachers were equally punctual.
Schoology and the new email system benefit students not only inside the school walls but also outside and beyond them. Clubs and extracurricular groups can create exclusive pages on Schoology for posting comments, making both communication and collaboration easier. Mrs. Moyer, the director of the most recent Milton theatre production, when asked how Schoology benefited her cast, answered “I found it to be a good way to communicate with a large group of students”.
Bryan Price states, “To replace the email and student conferences supported by First Class, we chose Google’s product suite. Again, this decision was largely prompted by a goal of providing a more modern tool that is available anywhere on any device (assuming an Internet connection). Google’s Drive service also offers easy access (on and off campus) to saved work, a feature we have long sought to offer all of our students.”
Anooshka Gupta (III), expressed her appreciation of the Gmail system, “I was able to send emails to huge groups of people using the class conferences to tell them about clubs and meeting times.” Unlike First Class emails, many of which were left widely unread, Gmail’s class conference emails seem to get a lot of students’ attention. Although both Schoology and the Gmail system have proven their value to a large group, there are people who seem to find Schoology difficult, confusing, and just too messy. Mr. Williams, a math teacher, has indicated on numerous occasions that Schoology is too modernized and confusing for him. For some people who may be unfamiliar with technology or are more used to handwritten assignments, Schoology receives a more negative rating.
However, in spite of complaints regarding Schoology and Gmail, students don’t seem to prefer First Class over Schoology or Gmail. Nicholas O’Toole (III) stated, “I found First Class to be outdated and not only visually unappealing but also cumbersome to use.” Most people found First Class confusing to operate, and its application was difficult to manage as students were forced to download a separate program. Even Bryan Price noted that “First Class had become increasingly incompatible with Milton’s needs, especially as more students and faculty expected [the program] to function somewhat seamlessly on mobile devices.”
ATS, over the summer, in tends to assess what worked this year on Google and Schoology in order to improve the quality of learning for the Milton community. These learning management systems may yet have flaws, but they aid students to engage in a positive academic experience. Bryan Price mentioned that in order to help these systems to improve, Milton students and faculty should make suggestions and give feedback.
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