Firstclass out, Gmail in

Jerry Chen, Contributing Writer

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, PDS made a major change in its online communications systems, shifting from exclusively using FirstClass to using a learning management system, Schoology. The new system organizes course pages more effectively, simplifies assignment submissions, and provides a personalized homework calendar.

However, a complete transition was not ideal for students due to a feature Schoology lacks: the ability for students to email each other. Schoology’s emailing system interface strictly limits communications to between students and faculty. The lack of student-to-student contact heavily hinders Schoology’s function as a mainstream form of communication. Many clubs and student initiatives do not require the direct consultation of a teacher and have worked perfectly well on the FirstClass servers. Students and teachers have also found that using FirstClass and Schoology simultaneously was too tedious, and contradictions between the two applications can create confusion.

Lower School Technology Coordinator Carol Olsen reported that starting in the fall, PDS plans to keep using Schoology, but will replace FirstClass with Gmail, a service with a well-integrated user interface and an easy-to-use mailing system. In addition, Gmail is already integrated into many of our daily lives, so switching may reduce the number of services people need to check. “Many staff members and students are already using Gmail which should help the training go smoothly,” said Ms. Olsen.

According to Ms. Olsen, faculty will be trained to use the new system during the end of the school year, and students will be instructed on how to set up their new accounts in June through an explanatory letter. So, just like Blackberry devices and Myspace, FirstClass is soon to be a thing of the past.