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Focusing on the future of learning

S-Logo-on-whiteSchools committed to meeting the needs of today’s learners are finding the answer in Schoology. It’s a new breed of LMS that more than meets the Future Focused Learning recommendations of the Ministry’s 21st Century Reference Group, writes Lee Suckling.

Schoology is an online learning and classroom management system with social networking at its core, used by more than 7.5 million users around the world. With an easy-to-use interface similar to familiar social networks, it successfully overcomes a problem faced by many legacy LMS solutions: achieving critical mass of use, crucial in achieving widespread adoption and acceptance.

This innovative solution is enabling teachers at schools across New Zealand to organise their lessons, track and mark assignments, engage with students, and connect with other classrooms. And being cloud based, it’s available to every student and teacher, no matter their location or device. Early adopters of those successfully using Schoology in New Zealand are Woodford House and Howick College.

Providing easy access to content

“We used to have Ultranet,” said Robert Douglas, Howick College’s Director of IT. “But teachers found it too clunky; too difficult to use. We wanted something that was drag and drop.”

Woodford, on the other hand, was completely new to learning management systems.

“We looked at other schools using Moodle, Ultranet, and KnowledgeNET, and they had to use them in combination with things like Google Docs, email, and Dropbox,” explained Principal Jackie Barron. “Rather than three or four different cloud-based systems, Schoology’s appeal lies in it all-in-one capability. Instead of using different systems at the same time, it has seamless integration for all of them.”

Schoology was chosen by both schools because of its interface.

“Teachers were rapt with how easy it was to use,” said Douglas.

Barron added: “With Schoology there’s a really low hurdle for buy-in. You don’t need to be tech-savvy to use it.”

Collaborative and equitable

Howick uses Schoology as the back-end for ‘HowickNet’, a branded learning management system with its own URL. “It’s just a very minor skin on top,” said Douglas. Similarly, Woodford has branded its Schoology interface as ‘Woodbook’.

The Hastings school seeks to encourage and engage students for both individual and collaborative learning. Likewise, Howick’s mission statement is to equip individuals for lifelong learning. The implementation of Schoology assists in making students at both schools proactive and efficient learners.

High-quality digital content

Schoology is a ‘one stop shop’ that combines notices, events, messaging, electronic assignment submission, and all classroom resources. It aligns schools’ digital technology goals with all devices and IT infrastructure, because it is cloud based.

“Before Schoology, we used multiple different channels for different content,” admitted Douglas. “The Schoology mobile apps are on both iOS and Android platforms, so it’s always where the student is. We’ve had to have a lot of discussions around boundaries, because otherwise we have students messaging teachers at 11pm, expecting replies!”

The system is delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS), meaning it is constantly upgraded with new features.

Woodford has not encountered any problems since launching Schoology in April last year. In fact, the system has helped the school overcome other issues.

“At the same time as launching Schoology, we began a BYOD programme,” said Barron. “We had some issues with devices, but the usability of Schoology made things easier during this time.”

Investing in a positive outcomes

Perhaps most importantly, Schoology meets the Future Focused Learning recommendations of the Ministry’s 21st Century Reference Group – and facilitates others.

“The best part is its ability to allow teachers to organise,” concluded Douglas. “For all classes, it’s a repository for everything they use, backed up into the cloud.”

It also robustly tracks everything teachers and students are doing for easy monitoring within the curriculum.

“As students submit assignments, teachers can electronically track them, grade them, and monitor them against the New Zealand Learning Objectives. Although Schoology is a worldwide service, it has already been localised to embrace the New Zealand curriculum.

“We’re not teaching them to use specific software, we’re teaching them to use tools.”  

Lee Suckling writes for INTERFACE Magazine.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Ultranet’s ‘drag and drop’ page editor and new virtual classroom targeted at simplified and easy-to-use content management is currently being piloted by 80 schools and will be available on general release at the start of 2015.

 

 


Schoology-logoSchoology is an LMS and social network for schools that makes it easy for users to create, manage, and share academic content.

schoology.com


GCT_logoFind out more

Schoology is available in New Zealand through Glenn Cook Technologies.

For more information email schoology@glenncook.co.nz or contact National Sales Manager Jon Spokes on 021 883 309 /
06 878 7636

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