Next up in the Edmodo challenge is Schoology. The interface is clean, attractive and pretty easy to use. Getting started is pretty simple as well and they have a whole slew of features that are really helpful. Heck, even some of their features I like more than the Edmodo counterpart! That being said, Schoology does not quite beat out Edmodo, but it is definitely a worthy competitor. Read on past the break to get all the details of where Schoology falls a bit short.
Updated: I made a couple of mistakes pointed out in the comments (thanks Doug Vass and Jeremy Friedman). I’ve left the mistakes but they have been
striked out and the corrections have been made in italics underneath.
In short, Schoology is a great platform but I still feel Edmodo edges it out. Read on for the quick review and my conclusions. Oh, and leave a comment too. We love em here at IT Babble.
When you’re all signed up and into the workspace you are greeted with a pleasant looking screen. On the left is your primary means to navigate between your options (courses, greased, assignments, etc.). The far right has notifications and upcoming events as well as the courses you are in or have created (if you’re a teacher). The center section is where the teacher will post updates. Students unfortunately cannot post or even comment in this section with a free account. The top bar also has notifications, email, resources, etc.) It is nice and easy to navigate. Check out the screen shot below. As you can see it is very organized, easy to navigate and very pleasant on the old eyes.
What makes Edmodo so special is how easy it is for students to communicate with the teacher and with their classmates.
Schoology does a good job but the student’s cannot post to the main source of communication (right up front and center) with the free account at least. They cannot even send each other emails either. I guess that is a little more understandable as teachers may not be able to monitor that. Students can post to a discussion board (created by the teacher), on assignments (created by the teacher), and can email their different teachers. There needs to be more student to student communication of some sort. Think about project based learning, think of ongoing collaboration or organizing study sessions? This is the primary reason why Schoology doesn’t work for me and I won’t even consider it over Edmodo. This is sad because I’m going to tell you about some other features in Schoology that rock and would have made this decision a little more difficult to make. So don’t stop reading just yet.
I have to thank Doug Vass and Jeremy Friedman (comments below) for catching that this is not the case. Students can post directly to the class, it is just turned off by default. It is something I should have caught. In fact I even had a screen shot of the screen with the options (below). Sorry for the mistake. Jeremy (CEO and founder of Schoology.com) even promises that this feature will be turned on by default in the future.
This is where Schoology gets it very much right and the people at Edmodo should start taking some notes. Schoology’s way of assigning homework, projects, tests/quizzes is pretty impressive, easy, and most of all powerful. To make an assignment all you have to do is click on your course and then click on Add Materials. A drop down menu will appear and from here you can add an assignment, test/quiz . . . well you can see for yourself.
Easy enough and nothing to write home about, but it gets better. I’ll show you what it looks like to make an assignment. You get this dialog box with a bunch of options. You can change the scale from numeric to letter grade, you can set the factor (I imagine this is weighting). You can of course add files or a link and you can even set the assignment as a final/midterm. Nice features to be sure. You can also Enable Dropbox which lets the students turn it in through Schoology. The Dropbox is pretty awesome and this is where it gets really good.
When students are ready to turn in their assignment through the dropbox, it is pretty easy to do. They go to the assignment, which is posted everywhere so there is no way they could miss it, and click on Submit Assignment. The student now has a few options on how to submit the assignment. They can attach a file, create a file (a word processing program opens up), or they can chose a file from their Resources (a file they may have been working on and saved online). Another choice is to link your Schoology account with your Google Docs account so you can upload a file directly from there. Wow! I don’t know why Edmodo doesn’t have this yet-who knows maybe they’re working on it. Pretty cool though. Check out the pics below to get a better sense of the 3 options.
Now making a test is pretty cool too and much better than Edmodo’s new quiz option. Again you go to Add Materials and this time select Add Online Test/Quiz. Once that is done it is pretty straight forward. You can chose between six different types of questions (true/false, multiple choice, ordering, fill in the blank and matching). You can also add in text and page breaks for extra explanation and to set certain areas apart from others. Things that make this a bit better than Edmodo’s quiz option is that in multiple choice you can randomize the choices which helps cut down on cheating a little. Also you have support for LaTeX and an equation editor for those math minded teachers out there.
Once you’re done making the test you get some more options. Under the settings you can say when the test will be visible and for how long, you can give a time limit and some other nice features. Check it out below.
I wish that Edmodo would implement some of these features because I do think that Schoology has it figured out right now concerning this.
Of course grading is a feature. You can view their assignment (if they turned it in through the Dropbox of course) without having to download it. This takes some time. A simply RTF file took more than 5 minutes for Schoology to create a preview. That’s a little too long. In order to assign it a grade though you must first categorize the assignment when you make it (see the picture above). Once this is done you can easily grade and give feedback. Like any good grade book it keeps a running tally and does all the calculations for you. It is easy to view and students are able to see their grades right away.
They say they can print grade reports but they are little more than just Excel files with the information. It would be better to look at a students report from Schoology, take a screen shot and then send that home. It is far more informative and easier to see the breakdown of the grade.
You can also look at the analytics to see which student is logging on and making use of Schoology and their features. Just a neat little feature. Edmodo offers the same feature for entire schools or districts that sign up.
Sorry Schoology, you did not meet up to Edmodo’s challenge. The lack of student’s abilities to post updates to the class (on the free account) was a deal breaker in my book. Your interface is nice and focused, I love the features that you have given teachers when adding assignments or tests/quizzes. They’re powerful, easy to use from the beginning to the end of that process. I also like the Dropbox a lot as well.
File storage is also a problem. Maybe not so much for students but definitely for teachers. There is a limit of 100 files. I’m sure with an upgraded account you may get unlimited or a greater number at least, but I know that 100 files can quickly fill up over the course of a year or two especially if you’re teaching multiple classes.
This is another mistake, thanks again Jeremy for catching it. I misinterpreted their policy. You can upload up to 100 files at once. For example you can upload fifty PDF articles at once and then turn around and upload another 100 word documents. In fact, Schoology (like Edmodo) does not have an aggregate file limit for free accounts.
Schoology is a solid site (like Edu 2.0) but for the free account doesn’t compare to Edmodo. Not just yet. I’ll keep my eye on it though, I’m expecting big things from Schoology in the future. Check out Schoology yourself and let Omar and I know what you think.