TED and Me

Technology, Education, Design and Me.

Schoology, OSS, oh my …

with 3 comments

Go figure that, after submitting my MET assignment (see previous post), I would discover alternatives to the “traditional” CMSs (Blackboard) and OSS CMSs (Moodle).

A new form of CMS in the market is the Social CMS, which I believe to be following the infrastructure of online social networks like Facebook. The example I’m talking about is Schoology.

From their brochure:

Schoology has created a course management system built on a social network. While current course management systems utilize some social network features, Schoology has taken a unique approach by first building a social networking platform and then adding in the essential course management tools.
A social network provides objectivity, allowing searchable profiles for users, groups, courses, assignments and schools. Instead of interacting with just an interface or website portal, users can interact with dynamic profiles, greatly enhancing the learning experience.
Schoology provides students and educators with all the  essential course management tools, including an online gradebook, student roster, course assignments, school events, class attendance, user management and online report cards. These tools are seamlessly integrated with Schoology’s social network to create the ultimate digital and interactive educational environment.

Schoology seems to be taking into account what I expressed early: Web 2.0 technologies need to be considered as competitors/alternatives among the more “traditional” CMS.

Good. But I’m still not convinced. The infrastructure still seems to be restrictive, limiting pedagogy. True: they’re going with the online social network trend; and, yes, communication and collaboration opportunities seem to be seriously taken into account. But what about being able to incorporate other online technologies, like Second Life, animation-making tools, or wikis. It seems, in this case, that a CMS is just a CMS. Students and teacher are restricted to a set/narrow pedagogical approach within 4 digital walls.

Do we really need another confined digital learning space? Or should we find new ways to harness the affordance of digital technologies for learning.

Written by seanmcminn

October 24th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

3 Responses to 'Schoology, OSS, oh my …'

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  1. Sean,

    I could not agree more with what you say in this post.

    We are in early stages of development–having opened the doors to individual teachers and professors only two weeks ago.

    You are spot on with regard to incorporating other online technologies. We have been working on an API to allow developers to build custom apps to integrate with Schoology. Similarly, we are working on ways to integrate various other technologies through widgets.

    The problem we have been noticing is that while it is convenient to be armed with an infinite toolkit, having a variety of tools accessible does not always lead to a better product. We believe the fatal flaw in other systems is that they try to overextend themselves. By offering every imaginable feature, it can lead to an interface that is unfamiliar and difficult to navigate. Our goal now, and always, will be to create an efficient platform that can leverage a variety of technologies, while remaining easy and simple to use.

    If you have some free time, I would love to speak further to discuss your ideas and opinions.

    Jeremy Friedman

    Founder & CEO, Schoology
    o: 212.504.2913

    Jeremy Friedman

    29 Oct 09 at 7:13 am

  2. Jeremy,

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your reading and commenting on my thoughts. And I am glad that you did not take my post as a complete disregard of your product. I’ve registered with Schoology, and, once I find more time, I will mostly like explore it in more depth.

    I completely agree with you that having a variety of tools can, and often does, complicate things. Ease of use is extremely important, especially when you want to convince the unconverted teachers that using educational technologies sometimes has benefits.

    I’ve been slow to respond to your comment, and I’m sorry about that (I have a few projects on the go at the moment). But I would be more than happy to speak with you further to discuss ideas and opinions.

    I think an API to allow developers to build custom apps and widgets are good ideas. Things to watch out for are Google Wave, which may change the way people share and collaborate online, and WordPress, which seems to be fairly effective as a CMS when using the group function of blogging (see https://blogs.ubc.ca/etec522sept09/about-2/ for an example).

    Things are changing, rapidly. I think we are moving closer to a stage where synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration are blending or converging. Multi-modality is another issue; how is learning affect by this? Social networking just seems to be a part of the greater issue. So the problem may not be providing all the necessary tools (they come and go); instead, the problem may be about how to enhance a learning environment, taking advantage of the affordances of online applications, and understanding how people learn online.

    I’m sure you’ve thought of this, though. But perhaps what is also needed is more teacher training, examples, rubrics targeting educators who are unsure of educational technology and, more specific, Schoology. Providing case studies of how a product can be used and how it addresses learning needs may be helpful.


    Sean McMinn

    3 Nov 09 at 12:34 am

  3. Have there been many developments since these two comments?

    I’m aware of the OpenUniversity’s SocialLearn, and have been using the limited functions of Facebook and Moodle with some success, but I’d love to know what else is doing well.

    Ray Taylor

    Ray Taylor

    4 Jan 12 at 9:02 am

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