Edmodo Challenger #2 – Schoology – UPDATED

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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.

Communication

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.

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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.

Assignments

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.

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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.

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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.

school35-2011-10-30-13-09.png school36-2011-10-30-13-09.png

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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.

school38-2011-10-30-13-09.png

I wish that Edmodo would implement some of these features because I do think that Schoology has it figured out right now concerning this.

Other Features

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.

Conclusion

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.

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
This entry was posted in Edmodo challenge. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Edmodo Challenger #2 – Schoology – UPDATED

  1. Andrew Sinclair says:

    I have used both Edmodo and Schoology with my high school classes, grades 9 to 12, and there is nothing that Edmodo can do that Schoology can’t do better. The fact that Edmodo does not have a grade book with weights and categories makes it pretty much useless for me as a high school teacher. It might be ok for elementary or middle school, but for me Edmodo’s inability to provide grade feed back in anything but the most simplistic form (everything thrown into one big pot and averaged out) is a deal breaker. Schoology is also much more aggressive with it’s development. It gets better every week. None of the drawbacks mentioned, even the ones that haven’t been “striked out” yet, are in fact true.

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment, especially one so passionate. It is true that you cannot weight grades, but at my school we have a separate gradebook program that does our official grades and it has weighting. So, this part was not nearly as important. I do put all mt grades in Edmodo and both to provide more transparency and to have my students help catch any mistakes I may have made.

      Also, at the time of writing this post (October 2011), my school (K-12) was looking for one LMS to use. We wanted something that was simple, that could be used in elementary, middle and high school and as low as third grade. At the time, Edmodo was simply easier to set up and use for such a young age. For teachers in high school, they really only wanted something that could house all their resources, assignments and give the students and teachers a portal to communicate outside of class.

      Also, Edmodo has apps-lots of them like Schoology. They also have Google Drive integration-like Schoology. Edmodo can also schedule and roll out assignments, tests and make quizzes-like Schoology. So despite the improved grading system (which my school does not need) why should I or other Edmodo users switch to Schoology?

      Another thing, you say that the drawbacks I mention are not true. Which ones would you be referring to? While this is a blog and I am no means a professional journalist, I do strive to get it right. While I am definitely giving an opinion in this post, I do try to back it up with accurate information and images. Remember this post was written almost 2 years ago and as you have mentioned, Schoology is very aggressive when it comes to development. Perhaps it is possible that the drawbacks I wrote about have been improved since the post was published? Just maybe?

      At any rate, if you could list the specific points that you are referring to, my readers and I would be very grateful.

      Patrick

  2. Ms. Math says:

    Your article touched on several of the key difference between the two systems and after being updated for accuracy I felt it conveyed the raw information that I needed to make my decision, so thank you. However, I’m actually quite puzzled that Edmodo still “edges out” Schoology on a feature for feature comparison. I would argue the reverse. Perhaps you just prefer Edmodo because you have become accustomed to it and the students like it and are familiar with it. This is certainly a fair observation, but on a sheer feature to feature comparison, Schoology seems to be the clear winner. It appears to provide the social aspects of Edmodo and even goes beyond without being clunky like other LMSs. I have actually never used Schoology but have played around with Edmodo and was disapointed with the inability to set up courses for reuse, or the ability to time the release of content in a repeatable way (and this complaint comes more than a year after your initial review – so not much has changed in that time to progress Edmodo in this direction either). When I read a product comparison, I find it most useful when the conclusion is based on comparing the features rather than a personal preference. I would say that the challenger wins this one (at least for those that have not yet made a commitment to one system or the other). But again, thanks for aggregating the basic features in an easy to digest format.

    • Ms. Math – thanks for the great comment. You are right, Schoology does have more features than Edmodo, but I find that Edmodo’s ease of use and intuitive layout is easier for teachers and students alike. I’ve had this discussion with a few different people at different schools and in the end if they’re still on the fence I tell them that they really can’t go wrong with either choice. Edmodo and Schoology are both great at what they do and I am sure that people will be happy with either.

      As for setting up courses and time releasing assignments/projects/posts, Edmodo had a recent update which added that feature and it works pretty well. I wish Edmodo had a beefier gradebook option and I also wish their library wasn’t such a chore to use, but overall I find it very versatile and it meets my needs easily.

      Also, at my school (K-12) we wanted a LMS that was consistent from elementary all the way through high school. With that in mind it became clear that Edmodo was the way to go. At either way, thanks for the comment and let us know which you chose and what you think about it.

      Patrick

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  4. Chris Harris says:

    Jeff,

    One thing I haven’t been able to establish is how many students are limited to enrol in a course and how many courses can a teacher set up. Other than that I think it’s a great site. I think the quiz section is easier than Edmodo and the grade collector looks better.

    • Hey Chris,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am not 100% sure here, but I don’t think there is a limit on either of your questions. I think you can pack as many people in a class as you want and you can create as many classes as you need.

      Yep, I like their assessment options much more than Edmodo and the grade collector is more powerful, but for ease of use and flexibility I like Edmodo better right now.
      Patrick

      • Chris Harris says:

        I went back to Edmodo after I posted that comment and played around a bit more. I am tending to agree with you about Edmodo being better. Schoology are having an interface upgrade over the weekend so it will be interesting to revisit them on Monday.

      • An interface update huh? I know they just updated their iPhone app yesterday or the day before. It will be very interesting indeed. I’ll be sure to pop over there on Monday to see how it looks. Thanks for letting me know.

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  7. Patrick,

    Thanks for looking into Schoology. You bring up some interesting points, and I would love to chat further. Just a few clarifications:

    1) Schoology is free and will always be free in the same way that Edmodo, or anything other service is. What separates Schoology is that on the large-scale implementation side, there are features and functionality that you can pay for. Please note that none of these features are even offered or possible with other tools, and none of these features add or take away from the learning, content management, or social aspect of Schoology.

    When a school uses Schoology, the school controls the user account. This is important because often administrators want single sign-on, integration with a student information system, or even just the seemingly simple ability to actually create/delete users and not rely on them signing up on their own. These features are not possible in Edmodo, since the user who signs up owns the account, not the school. Schoology has incredibly powerful configurable settings, and that is one reason why we have so many school and district clients.

    2) As mentioned in earlier comments, students can absolutely post to the course update feed, but this is disabled by default (it can be enabled in the course settings). That said, looking at teacher suggestions and responses, we are going to be turning this on by default in the near future. Thanks for the suggestion!

    3) The file limit you mention is on a per upload basis, not aggregate (which we do not limit). This is because we allow users to select multiple files at once to upload in a single upload. On a per upload basis, we limit the user to 1GB and/or 100 files. However, this does not mean you cannot keep uploading files. It just means that we stop you from uploading more than 1GB in a single upload. This is because the browser generally maxes out at 2GB per upload, and often connections will break for people with slow connections. Having a smaller number means that we can be reasonably sure that failed uploads are not due to connection problems. In comparison to other services, such as the challenger you mention, their limit is 150mb per upload. This is clearly not a deal breaker, but I thought I would clarify.

    4) The real power from Schoology is that Schoology is an actual learning management system. This means that you can add or create content, and that you can organize it how YOU want it to be displayed and released. We give you a feed an update notifications for convenience, but you are not limited to them as you are in other platforms. For instance, you can organize your course content into folders at the beginning of the year, and time release them so that students are automatically granted access on certain dates. This means you can focus on the communication and collaboration aspects moving forward, and not worry about content discovery and creation during the year.

    4) As both you and Doug Vass mention, access to other communities and an increased focus on the PLN are great additions, and you will see big movements here in 2012.

    Thanks for the review. I suggest that you stay tuned as we have exciting announcements over the next few months, and I think you will be thoroughly impressed with the improvements and enhancements made in 2012. Feel free to email me at any time, my email is jeremy@schoology.com.

    -Jeremy Friedman
    Founder & CEO, Schoology

    • Jeremy,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment I always appreciate them. I have updated the post concerning the errors you pointed out and am happy you did.We definitely want to be accurate here at IT Babble.

      The first mistake I wrote was about the option to enable students to post was right under my nose and I simply missed it. I’m sorry about that – there is no excuse on my part. Also, when concerning the upload, I am sure that I saw on your FAQ that there was a limit to 100 files, but I clearly misunderstood that to mean a total amount of files and not on an individual basis, so thanks again for correcting me.

      I am also happy to hear that Schoology.com will be beefing up the Personal Learner Network (PLN) aspect in 2012. On Edmodo, it is something that I use often and find it invaluable. I am sure your users will be extremely happy with the ability to easily connect with other professionals outside of their school/district.

      One item that really caught my attention in your comment was the mention of a student information system. Is it a powerful system like Admin Plus where administrators can do scheduling, record and monitor behavioral problems, learning disabilities or student achievements and compile grades from one year to the next? If so, that is very exciting and I would like more information. Admin Plus is a very old, unintuitive system that is difficult to navigate. The promise of something better is always exciting.

      This information certainly makes Schoology.com an even stronger platform then I gave it credit for, but I am still sticking with Edmodo. Here is why.
      You mention in your comment that Schoology has the power to create/delete accounts. While it is true that you cannot create a student account for your students in Edmodo; my question is why would you want to? It is so easy to join a class with the group code (on Schoology and Edmodo) that creating student accounts seems counterproductive. I’ve had to create accounts for a class before and it takes a lot of time. I think the people at Edmodo considered this feature, but ultimately abandoned the idea because it is so much easier for students to create their own account and join the class (all in one process like Schoology).

      You also point out that Edmodo cannot delete these accounts. This is also true but teachers, schools and districts can delete them from their group(s). When that is done all their information concerning those group(s) is deleted. While the student could still log onto Edmodo, they could do little else. So, I think it’s not a huge advantage.

      Ease of use is another characteristic that must be addressed. Schoology is easy to use and learn, but Edmodo is even more so. It is easier to make groups (classes). It is easier to make assignments. It is easier to manage students. Schoology does have all these features and more (Dropbox and GoogleDocs integration and better assessment tools and assignment options) but the ease of use is an aspect that cannot be overlooked when working with LMS and I think Edmodo has you beat for the time being and in my opinion this is a very important characteristic of learning management systems.

      Piggy-backing on the ease of use, I find that Edmodo is a bit more flexible when you think of K-12 classrooms. I can see elementary teachers using Edmodo with their third graders because it is so easy and straight forward for the students. With Schoology however I think the interface maybe a little too difficult to navigate and too many options for some elementary students. If a school had to decide a solution from elementary to high school, I think Edmodo would better fit that need. That being said, if I were to look at a professor in university, I would probably expect them to use Schoology over Edmodo for its powerful tools and options and its many options.

      Since I am a middle school teacher working at a K-12 school and write about educational technology geared mostly for those teachers, I am (for the time being) endorsing Edmodo. Schoology.com is pretty special and you can bet that we will be visiting it again from time to time to keep our eye on it. We look forward to what you have planned for Schoology in 2012 and we wish you the best of luck.

      Patrick Cauley
      IT Babble

  8. Hi Patrick, thanks for a great review although it seems like you haven’t fully “reviewed” Schoology. This can be one problem with just picking something up and testing it a few times but not really “using” it in a class setting. You can in fact allow students to post to the updates page, create discussions and upload links/files to any courses. You can even make a student in your course have complete Admin rights to the course so they can “manage/teach” it. The default of course is set to just the teacher having all those permissions but it easily changeable under Course settings. Check it out. I think once you play with it in detail you’ll find it totally kicks Edmodo’s butt. The freedom and flexibility, especially the inbuilt quiz function and integration with Google Docs makes Schoology 1st place by a mile. The only real cross against it is that in the free version students can no longer message each other directly or create a blog within schoology. Personally the latter doesn’t bother me because I think platforms like WordPress, Posterous, Edublogs et al are all great tools that students should learn to use in addition to any LMS/CMS. I hope that they integrate Schoology with one or more of this blogging sites in future. With the former issue (Student to student messaging) I think there is a monitoring / bullying issue they are trying to avoid here but I imagine with a school admin account (which every school can get one for free) then you can probably monitor it.
    I’m still trialling Schoology as an LMS and have used Edmodo before I discovered it too. I’d like the PLN focus to be easier in Schoology but with that being said it is not something I have spent much time pursuing as yet. I find my PLN via Twitter and LinkedIn to be powerful enough and I can only imagine the Edmodo or Schoology network users are a subset of that.

  9. j_ashton says:

    Thank you for the information. One of my responsibilities is to facilitate professional development. I am looking at Edmodo and Schoology as a way to increase collaboration and provide pre and post session support. As a bonus, I hope that the utilization of this type of application may encourage participants to implement it within their learning environments as well.

    Looking at both options, Edmodo and Schoology, do you feel that one would be more effective then the other for the facilitation of professional development?

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment. I’ve got even more to review and the list keeps growing a little as more platforms are brought to my attention. When comparing Edmodo and Schoology I would go with Edmodo for a few reasons. 1) It’s free and will always be free. 2) While the classes are a “closed garden” the teachers have access to communities that will allow them to collaborate with other teachers from across the country or world. It’s an invaluable resource and has helped me develop my PLN personally. As far as using it as a platform for PD, I think it will be ideal. 3) It’s easy. There’s no real training involved you just use it. 4) Have teachers join your class early and that way they can preview the materials and discuss ahead of time. Just an idea.

  10. Joshua Koch says:

    Hi Patrick,
    Nice review, very thorough. After talking with the rep, I was upgraded to an admin account. I haven’t been able to locate the feature yet, but perhaps there is a way to allow student communication through permissions. I’ll let you know if I find it. I was wondering if Edmodo linked with Google Docs, and now I know. Maybe they will add that feature. I’m going to head back and check out your review on Edmodo.
    Thanks for the work!
    Josh

  11. PikiFriends says:

    Thanks for this nice review. It looks like a really good tool, but it makes me wonder if they’ll get in trouble for copying the look and feel of Facebook. Do you think it’s an issue?
    Also I was trying to figure out who made Schoology with no luck. Does anyone know who’s behind it?

    • Thanks for stopping by again Jeffrey. How are things over at pikifriends? Anyway, I can help you a little bit with who is behind schoology. I looked them up on crunchbase.com. Here is there profile. It doesn’t give a lot of information but a little bit to get started. http://bit.ly/tcqqUJ

      I don’t think they’re in any danger from looking like Facebook. Especially since of Facebook’s new upgrades and changes.

      • PikiFriends says:

        Thanks Patrick! PikiFriends is doing well, thanks.
        I checked out the Crunchbase link, and then found 2 of the co-founders on Linkedin. They’re young guys, fresh out of college and may be on to something. However I think the difficulty in finding out who made Schoology isn’t a plus, I would hope for more transparency for a tool that deals with sensitive personal info of students.
        Edmodo’s “about” area is great, they want people to see who they are and where their support comes from. Hopefully Schoology can do something similar, it makes educators feel more confident.
        Have you heard of the new tool coming out called OpenClass? It’s a joint venture b/w Google and Pearson. I would love to hear your take on that when it’s released!

      • Jeffrey,
        OpenCourse I will look into it for sure. Especially with two powerhouses connected to it. I do agree with you about the transparency with Schoology. I’m sure there are no ill wishes there, but a little more info on the founders and their philosophy can’t hurt either. Yeah, I love the people at Edmodo. Jeff O’Hara (co founder) is active on the support forum answering people’s questions. Seeming someone like that doing “grunt” work is very reassuring and just one reason why I think they’re the “champ” right now.

  12. Jeff Meister says:

    Great post. I teach Digital Communications and Computer Essentials at a charter school in Buffalo and I’ve been using Edmodo for just about anything I can think of. I haven’t tried anything else, but I have taken a peek at Schoology at their site. I can’t say that I love Edmodo’s grade book. It’s a little quirky. Nonetheless, Edmodo has worked very well. I’ll check out Schoology a bit more and maybe try it out with a class starting in January.

    • Jeff,
      Thanks for stopping by too. As you can tell I’m a big fan of Edmodo. I also wish their gradebook had a few more features and I’m not a fan of their library system either, but I love the way that students can freely communicate with each other in the class. Keep reading IT Babble for more Edmodo Challenge goodness.

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