Goodbye FirstClass, hello Schoology

Vivek Kasubaga, Staff Writer

PDS has been making some noticeable changes to our primary learning management system. Schoology, a system that allows for assignment and grade notifications, as well as discussion boards and homework calendars, is supplementing our primary form of scholastic communication, FirstClass.

As Schoology is being introduced, many students are adapting to the change reluctantly. “FirstClass just seemed so much more simple to me,” said senior Peter Klein. Although Schoology has a more organized platform in which teachers can upload assignments, students still find it needlessly complicated to navigate. “I like how Schoology has notifications. What I don’t like is that Schoology doesn’t notify you about your “notifications,” said sophomore Max Miller.

Although many agree that FirstClass is a much simpler email and conference system, a great number of students and faculty are enjoying the technology and features Schoology has to offer. Schoology, for example, allows for class materials, such as handouts and homework sheets, to be easily posted and made accessible to students. Schoology also has a calendar feature, which helps students to better prepare for class and plan their time. Many teachers also like the ability to post grades on Schoology, which was not available on FirstClass.

The decision to use a new learning management system was made nearly two years ago. “We put together what we call a pilot group of 15 to 20 faculty members from the Lower, Middle, and Upper School, from all these different departments. We wanted the group to be an authentic cross section of the PDS community, so we get every vision and every department felt like its voice was represented,” said Head of Upper School Jason Robinson. Teachers were taught to use the system over the summer, and students were required to attend a Schoology training course recently. “When all teachers are posting assignments to the Schoology calendar next year, I believe students will see how powerful a tool it can be,” said Upper School history teacher Lauren Ledley. After attending the seminar, many students feel that it has become easier to submit assignments and post to online class discussions.

Though Schoology seems to be carrying most of the weight, FirstClass is still being used. “Schoology will eventually take over some of the functionality of the conferencing system, but for now, we’ll be using them simultaneously,” explained Chief Information Officer Jon Ostendorf. “While Schoology does not replace the email communication function of FirstClass, it offers a whole toolbox of useful features for both teachers and students,” said Ms. Ledley.

Expect to see a lot more of Schoology in the future. Although during this initial pilot year, PDS has seen a combination of the two management systems, in the coming school year, Schoology will dominate. Until we replace its email capability, FirstClass will not be going anywhere, but readers should get accustomed to our newest system, as it is here to stay.

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