By Teachers, For Teachers
Move over Moodle, there's a new player buzzing on the online education scene.
After hearing about BrainHoney, a new online course software site, I was impressed with how easy it is to use, the drag-and-drop curriculum connections, and the fact that it's FREE!
To learn more about BrainHoney and how it stacks up to the competition, we talked to the man behind the software: BrainHoney developer and marketing VP Dr. Mark Luetzelschwab.
What sets BrainHoney apart from other online course software (i.e. Moodle or Blackboard)?
BrainHoney focuses on enabling outcomes-based, student-centered, individualized instruction in the classroom, hybrid, or online instead of just managing course activity.
Good instruction starts with defining outcomes, developing measurement, then aligning your activities to the outcomes and the measurement – and that is exactly the process we make easy to do with included state standards, drag and drop alignment tools, and multiple ways to assess progress including many varieties of assignment models and online quizzes – all aligned to the outcomes. We focus on helping the teacher identify which concepts have not been mastered (as opposed to sorting kids by grades). In addition, we also integrate standards-aligned content that can be previewed and dragged onto the syllabus instantly.
BrainHoney is considerably more efficient for instructors. While other systems require instructors to spend a fair amount of time navigating to assignments to grade or review, BrainHoney is designed around a workflow model that queues up required actions and steps the teacher through them. Most online instructors never leave the dashboard when grading. Grading is done quickly and easily. Every opportunity we had to remove a step, we took it. Teachers who have used all major LMS systems in the past say that BrainHoney is worlds ahead of anything else because of our efficiency and refuse to ever go back to the old way
BrainHoney is easy to integrate with enterprise systems. BrainHoney is based on a Web 2.0 cloud services model that enables data from other systems to be exchanged in the background. In layman’s terms, it enables you to align all of your activities around desired learning outcomes instead of just the activities that BrainHoney facilitates. Because of this, we can continue to focus on the core components of learning and not spend all of our time adding low impact features. Other systems (like Bb/Moodle) have much longer feature lists; we focus on enabling and tracking effective learning.
In short, we don’t really fall into the LMS category – its much more of an integrated learning environment that has all the core components of instruction – outcomes, assessment, and curriculum.
If you had to describe BrainHoney with three words, what would they be?
Next Generation Learning ... Or .... Student-Centered, Outcomes-based, Effective. Just plain awesome
How can teachers use BrainHoney to differentiate online lessons?
There are two primary strategies for using BrainHoney for differentiated instruction, though many others are easy to implement.
Individualized Path: in this model, the teacher aligns all of the online content and all of the assessment items to the standards (very easy to do in BrainHoney), then creates a pre-test for each module or unit of instruction that is also aligned to standards. Depending on how well the student does on the pre-test for each module, the student gets a longer or shorter module. Students that do well get excused from most items, students that do poorly have to complete all of them. Grades, interfaces, etc are all automatically adjusted.
Individualized pace; BrainHoney makes it very easy to manage lots of students working at their own pace. Because it uses a workflow model optimized around the dashboard (instead of a flat gradebook), it makes it as easy to keep track of hundreds of students who could be anywhere in the course syllabus at any given time. BrainHoney alerts teachers and students if they fall behind their intended pace; each student can be assigned a different amount of time to complete a course.
The two methods, of course, can be combined to create a completely self-paced, customized course.
Are you a teacher? If so, how have you used BrainHoney and what is your favorite feature on the site?
No – I spend my time listening to teachers and administrators and translating their needs into product function.
What is the core business of the Agilix company? How are you able to provide this resource free to teachers?
Our ultimate goal is to ensure that every student in the world has the opportunity for an individualized learning experience. We provide the resource to teachers for free since we believe that no teacher (or student) should be denied access to these standards-aligned, instructionally-sound tools. We charge administrators for the ability to aggregate results across teachers, to integrated with enterprise systems, customize the look and feel, or for premium content.
What is the advisory board’s role in the development of BrainHoney?
Each advises us in different ways, from business advice, new market opportunities, forward-thinking teaching and learning models, and advanced technical techniques. We have a very strong board that includes Clayton Christensen (Author of Disrupting Class), David Merrill (world leader in online education), David Wiley (world leader in open educational resources), Mark Resmer (Top 100 IT Professional) and others.
What was the biggest struggle in developing BrainHoney?
Choosing what feature to add next. While we have already taken a quantum leap forward, I have a lot more ideas on how to make it even more effective, efficient, and easy.
What is the difference between the free service and online courses through site licenses?
Integration, customization, premium content, schoolwide reporting, administrator dashboard (allows principals, etc to review teacher progress, drill down into gradebooks, etc). The free version is focused on enabling an individual to teach a number of people, the paid version is more school-based
In your opinion, what role will online learning have in the future of education?
Its an equilibrium of virtual schools and hybrid schools. Virtual schools will serve increasing numbers of students who are actually sitting in school buildings and traditional schools will use online learning to reach kids at home (who are sick, don’t do well in the school environment, etc) or even reach kids in their schools who need additional flexibility in their schedules. Is anything lost in this trend toward online learning? The risk is doing the same thing online (which we see a lot of – people replicate old models of teaching online). If online learning is used to help individualize instruction aligned to desired outcomes, the impact will be huge.
You can try BrainHoney for yourself by visiting their website and signing up for free.