Schoology.com was mentioned to me in a Tweet by a language instructor comparing it to Google classrooms. Prior to that I had no idea it existed, nor what it was. My interest was piqued because I am looking at ways of deploying MOOCs next year and because I am always looking at software that offers ways of delivering content with a minimum of bother for the students.
I was also looking at ways of being in control of my own CMS (Content Management System) rather than going through Blackboard, where creating a course is lengthy and involved. But really I had no idea how useful Schoology would be.
It will take me a while to mention all the positive aspects of Schoology. First of all it is very easy to create courses, and even more importantly, to invite students onto the courses. All they need to do is follow a link to the login page and be given an access code:
I would recommend going to this link rather than sending students through the main page, simply because in the context of a class it is much faster; taking them directly to the point where the ‘access code’ can be pasted: https://app.schoology.com/register.php?type=student
Once they enter the code they are asked for their name and and an email address, and thereafter appear as a Member on the specified course. You can create a seemingly unlimited amount of courses ( I have 6 so far, mainly for small group work), and each course has its own access code. There is no need to ‘invite’ students one by one to the course, nor have them be ‘in the same domain’, nor create CSVs with special headings. Students become Members by logging-in, which is very practical as compared to other systems.
I took a chance after that and created a Quiz within Schoology for a group of about 50 students (in French). Embedding video for the Listening Comprehension was a breeze, and could be embedded in both Instructions and Questions, thus sparing students to have to keep a separate window open just for the media.
The corrections system is great, since comments can be left on individual questions, and the marks are calculated for you both out of 100% and out of the total number of points you have allocated for the questions.
Having also marked some essay-type questions for another course, I also notice how the system for leaving notes was similar to marking systems such as Grademark TM, though with the invaluable advantage of being able to download student files for correcting them with Tracked Changes (Word), and uploading them for the student to get more detailed feedback.
My only, though significant problem, was that my students on the Quiz activity could not see the comments I had left them, which meant that they could not resubmit the work taking my corrections and comments into account.
What astounded me was that from the moment I had commented about Schoology on Twitter I was offered support and tips, via Twitter, by the Schoology team. I was in a bind with the comments issue and at a loss a to what I should do. Despairing somewhat I took to Twitter in a last-ditch-attempt to solve the problem via Schoology’s hitherto flawless communication via Twitter (!!!). The answer came back in time for students to make alterations before the next class.
Just in case someone reading runs into the same problem, here are the settings with the highlighted setting so that students may view comments:
Overall though I find Schoology to be a very helpful tool which responds to the complicated demands of Course management and creation. Features (not mentioned so far) such as the discussion panels and the group-making facility which are user-friendly and allow for students to create and share content spontaneously. Schoology is a technology that has brought time-saving to the forefront of their design. The ease with which accounts can be set-up, the focus on content-rich student productivity, as well as the astounding level of support have made this software central for many of my language learning activities, and I would highly recommend it to instructors developing their own courses on a freelance basis as well as those needing to palliate the pitfalls of clunky Institution-led CMSs