Written by: Ben Atlas
While the networking system for student-teacher interaction has been in relative turmoil over the last few years, Schoology provides a ray of hope with its unprecedented simplicity. Implemented this current school year, Schoology is a Learning Management System (LMS) used to provide access to grades, announcements, calendars, assignments and a host of other tools for students, teachers and parents. The system’s simple interface, impressive track record and low cost make it superior to other systems used in the past. Founded in 2009, Schoology fused the concept of social networking with online interaction. Schoology’s defining feature is its Facebook-esque layout. Modeled after the hugely popular Internet giant, its intended audience will find it easier to use than its precursors at Gunn, such as Blackboard Academic Suite (InClass). Schoology has a messaging service nearly identical to that of Facebook’s, a similar notification system and a profile page for each course and teacher. Each course’s profile page gives the student some rudimentary information about the course and more importantly, hosts any number of documents the teacher posts online. Teachers are also able to alert students of any updates through Schoology’s own notification system. The teacher’s profile page also provides basic personal information as well as contact info. These features make it more appealing to students who are much more likely to use a more recognized layout. Regardless of the content, a website that is ultimately not used due to its lack of visual appeal or ease of access is of less worth than one of mediocre content but extensive appeal and extensive usage. Schoology’s track record and content are certainly at or above the standard past systems have set. Already encompassing nearly one million users over about 18,000 schools in three years, it has grown by an average of a third of a million each year, illustrating its growing popularity. This is similar to Infinite Campus, which boasts a growth rate of 330,000 new users per year. While Schoology’s effectiveness at Gunn is yet to be proven, its extensive track record seems prescient of success. Schoology’s growing popularity shows that it is meeting more educator’s standards than what an LMS normally entails. On InClass, users often experienced a deficiency of teacher-student interaction. Teachers almost never made personalized messages to a student or group of students. On Schoology, such action is the norm. A calendar is made out so that each assignment a teacher adds will be added to his or her students’ calendars. Students can even add comments on assignments, which can help to clarify any uncertainties about a piece of homework or other document. Since Schoology is significantly newer than other systems, it comes at a cheaper price. It costs only $500 to brand the LMS to a school district, which is nothing compared to InClass’ costs which exceeded $10,000. Given Schoology’s ease of use, proven track record, interactive nature and low cost, the budding company is a good investment for Gunn. It is able to simplify and almost sugarcoat concepts present in Infinite Campus and InClass through its cutting-edge interface. As a combination of social networking and learning management, Schoology integrates enjoyment and education into a single medium for student use.