Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Free Blended Learning: Edmodo & Schoology Part 1

This Fall I began a pilot using Schoology with one of my five classes. The other four classes are using Edmodo, which I have been using for the past three years. These two platforms are provided free of charge and provide free apps for iOS and Android. At first glance, the features of the two programs are very similar and, without running a pilot, I would not be able to truly appreciate the differences.


Summary of Findings

After about six weeks, I am finding the Schoology software is exceeding my expectations. Student participation in online discussions is up, I am able to follow student involvement more easily, the gradebook is slightly superior, and the organizational features are making my life easier. So far, I have only two complaints. One is in the integration of Google Docs (available on both platforms), and the other is that district-wide participation does have a cost.

Edmodo on the other hand is a tad simpler and I find that for classes with minimal blended learning, may be ideal. It has a simple to follow group setting and allows for easy subgroups. There are lots of cool features like quizzes, polls, and good Google Docs integration. There is no dedicated 'discussion' feature, but simply creating a post and getting students to reply worked well for me for years. 

As my use of a blended learning model has increased, my needs in an online platform have evolved. My reasons for piloting Schoology boiled down to two key factors:
  1. Provide a better online discussion experience
  2. Create a more organized approach to blended learning
Discussions example example

I cannot sing the praises high enough for the Schoology discussion.

  • First, it is threaded. This is a must that I have been waiting for in Edmodo, and it just doesn't seem to be coming. This feature is a huge factor in increased student participation. Edmodo provides a simple stream of comments similar to Facebook attached to a post. With Schoology, students are responding directly to me and directly to each other. They have back and forth debates, they offer new links to one another, and teacher participation does not need to be high in order for them to be engaged.
  • Second, is the teacher experience after the discussion. 4 great features of the Schoology discussion for the instructor:
    • Individual Highlighting - Choose one student from a drop down menu and then their posts throughout the discussion will be highlighted, making it easy to see how much they say, how many times, and with whom they interact.
    • Grading & Commenting - Grading for the discussion is built right into the discussion page. No need to have two windows open, or using a paper grade book. Simply click a button to the right of the post, give a grade and leave a comment on student participation.

    • Comment Timeline - In Edmodo I often use the "Notifications" window to see the most recent replies to discussions. After being clicked once, the list disappears. The Comment Timeline is a permanent feature at the bottom corner of the discussion screen in Schoology. Click the arrows to navigate through a discussion as it evolved. This is very helpful in finding all student participation in a threaded discussion. There is no need to search for the most recent posts.
    • Gradebook integration - Discussions are automatically entered into the class gradebook in Schoology. If a student has participated in the discussion, a little icon appears. Cool! If I commented on the student's participation, a different icon appears. 

In Part 2 of my comparison, I will walk through the organizational features of both programs. Subscribe to my blog, Edtech Tidbits, and you won't miss a thing!

Chad McGowan is a high school technology teacher and professional development specialist in technology. Over the past 16 years, Chad has taught a variety of math and computer courses for grades 7-12. Since 2000, Chad has been guiding other professionals, pre-k-12, in educational technology. Follow Chad on Twitter @ahstechteacher and through this blog.


  1. Thank you for your comparison. I'm working on trying to compare Schoology vs. My Big Campus (Lightspeed) for my school district. Thank you for the feedback on Schoology.

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