By Teachers, For Teachers
This past year I have had the privilege of using Schoology as my classroom’s learning management system (LMS). I have also had the privilege of working with a host of colleagues who each utilize Schoology’s resources in a number of different ways. This system has proven to be a fantastic tool for my classroom, and it has steadily spread in both popularity and innovation. Here’s an overview of what this resource might be able to do for you.
Schoology is a website and an app that you and your students can utilize to share information, resources, and files. It is a learning management system designed to provide a digital medium to enhance classroom interactions and support webpage and content creation as well as collaboration.
Schoology is free to use, too! Well, its basic package—which is amazing in itself—is free, and you can upgrade as needed. It is possible for your school to host accounts for teachers as well. In this way, the school itself would provide communications and materials to students and teachers alike.
Schoology includes plenty of useful features like a gradebook, attendance tracking, analytics, badges, calendar, event creation, private messages, groups, and profile personalization. But more than this list, there are a handful of others that you can greatly benefit from using:
Create classes and folders: Teachers can create specific courses that students can join. Within those courses, you can then create folders and post materials for students to access. If you’re new to Schoology, this is a great first step—uploading is simple and enhances how you distribute materials to your class.
Have discussions: You and your students can have online conversations (as a requirement or purely casual) and post questions to one another through Schoology’s discussion board. Similar to other platforms, you’re also able to include attachments and links in each post.
Post and Receive Assignments: Posting assignments to Schoology is a breeze—you can include its title, the details and requirements, attachments, and due date on a calendar. You can even receive completed work via Schoology too! Grading and annotating any student project is also supported, making Schoology a big step towards going paperless.
Create Requirements and Steps: Let’s say you have several steps you want students to go through. In Schoology you can organize each step and create restrictions so that students cannot go onto step two until they complete step one (or achieve a specific score), and so on.
Create Quizzes: You can create assessments inside of Schoology itself. If you have a multiple choice quiz, Schoology will grade it for you and provide a score summary for your class. You can have multiple choice, true and false, short answer, and matching questions.
Seamless Integration: You can easily pull external resources, like Google Drive, into Schoology to use, or you can push documents from Schoology to other tools, like TurnItIn.
Before you begin to think that this system is absolutely perfect, there are a few drawbacks I should call your attention toward. First, while Schoology works well for sharing information easily, it is in many ways a “closed system” that inhibits the degree of sharing that teachers might like. For example, if a student creates a video and posts it to Schoology, it’s only available on Schoology and not shared with the larger world or with parents.
Also, Schoology is designed like a digital classroom, with a teacher organizing information and moderating behavior. Students can be part of that class, but it is difficult for them to build out their digital footprint and social media relationships. Schoology works exceptionally well as a digital classroom supplement, but it lacks the raw connectivity that Facebook, Twitter, or other social media offer. Plus, once a class ends in school, it ends on Schoology, too. Students who interacted or posted work to a class lose access to it once that course expires.
As with all digital tools, you decide to what extent you want to integrate this into your class. Although there are a few drawbacks, the variety and usability within Schoology has served many helpful purposes, and I highly recommend it to instructors who are looking for a useful web tool to supplement their teaching.
There are, however, a great deal of other alternatives you should consider and tinker with before deciding that Schoology is the one for you—Edmodo, Blackboard Learning, Ning, Google Classroom, and Sharepoint are all great options.
Other teachers have have relied on social media tools within Facebook or Google+ to organize their classrooms. Nevertheless, make sure that Schoology is one of your considerations—there are lots of options out there to explore, but Schoology ranks towards the top, in my opinion!
Do you use Schoology? What do you like or dislike about it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.