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Sorry Edmodo... Switching to Schoology

Written By marsono on Monday, December 17, 2012 | 8:45 AM

Dear Edmodo,

I'm switching to Schoology. I'm so sorry... I appreciate all you've done for me, and I'll never forget you. And, unlike the Taylor Swift song - we might just get back together if you change/update. But right now Schoology has so much to offer me that you don't: easier workflow, advanced quiz and discussion features, a clean layout.... I hope we can still be friends.



Post Update: Wrote this post on 2-24-2013 with more info on Schoology vs. Edmodo...

For the past 2 years I've been an avid user of Edmodo - a web-based learning management system (LMS). I've relied on it it for everything from managing learning environments for my 4th and 5th graders to supporting my graduate students in the university classes I'm teaching.

However there were some downsides: the "wall" or "newsfeed" became cumbersome. Its cluttered interface made it difficult for my students - whether 9 or 29 years old - to find assignments, messages and quizzes. Additionally there was the age-old iPad issue of workflow. How would students turn in the digital creations made on their iPads? Thanks to iOS 6.0.1, iPad users can now attach videos and photos from their photo roll to websites by clicking on "file" icons (the same icon that would access your hard drive folders on a computer). Another great update: users can also open content from one app (such as PagesKeynote or Numbers) in another app (such as Edmodo or Schoology) -- see the photos above. This was amazing for turning in work! However, in Edmodo, this work is simply saved into the student's "backpack" and they must go through a few more steps to actually submit it. As such, the workflow was awkward for many students with processing issues/delays and they became frustrated.

Furthermore, you couldn't file share in the opposite direction through the Edmodo app. For example, if I sent my student a PDF of a graphic organizer through an Edmodo assignment, they couldn't then open it into another app. There was no "open in" or "share" button available when it was previewed. If I wanted them to open the document or PDF, I had to go through the web interface.

Finally I decided to give Schoology - another web-based LMS - another try. I had experimented with this site when it first came out - just a few months after Edmodo's release - but found it confusing to use and too expensive (they originally charged for some features that were free on Edmodo). However on this most recent go-around, I noticed that not only are all the features I need free, but also found that there are more features than Edmodo. I've been experimenting using it with some groups of students and sharing it with the teachers whom I coach. Today I was working with colleague Linsey Rose, and found that Schoology may just be the answer to many of my iPad needs! Below are some brief findings:

  • Workflow Solutions! Schoology offers a free solution to turning in digital content from an iPad that is easy to use! Like the Edmodo app, the Schoology app allows students/participants in a course to submit Pages docs, Keynote presentations, Numbers spreadsheets, PDFs, videos, pictures and more. However, when they open the Keynote, doc, PDF or spreadsheet in Schoology it allows them to directly submit it as an assignment. One-step submission! Amazing! So imagine: Kids can create a Keynote and easily turn it in to an assignment on Schoology. Then the teacher can open it on his/her desktop, give feedback and give it a grade if need be. 
  • Advanced Quiz Features! I can embed video and pictures into a quiz. Not just thumbnails or a link to a video or picture, but actual videos and actual pictures. I don't need to upload to a library first - I can attach a video or picture as an answer choice or part of the question directly from my hard drive on my computer. Wow. I've always dreamed of differentiating assessments with multimedia, and now I can! 
  • Cleaner interface! There isn't a cluttered news feed when kids log in. They can see recent activity, but then they click on their course and immediately they can see a clean, simple list of their assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc. (See photo above)
There are more great features such as course analytics (see which students logged in when), advanced discussion features (grade discussions as assignments, see who commented when in a timeline, allow students to directly reply to one another), and the ability to take attendance. I have just begun digging into this alternate LMS, but thus far like what I see.

Some downsides to Schoology:
  • You can't create small groups within a class/course nor can you send assignments to groups students. (However, you can send assignments to individuals.) We are getting around this by creating assignments named "Group 1 Polygon sort" and "Group 2 Polygon screencast" etc. and empowering kids to click on their group's assignment. 
  • When you get to the district level - i.e., you want an entire district to use Schoology - it begins to charge and can get costly. I haven't encountered this myself, but in speaking with colleagues, I have heard this is a barrier.
For a quick overview of the Schoology iPad app, including some of the features above, check out this video. Also this is a great post on the Schoology app updates and features.

To others using Edmodo and/or Schoology - what do you think? How do these two learning management systems weigh in for you?

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