It’s no secret that I love technology and social media. So it only makes sense that I was drawn to Schoology when a teacher showed me the simple, Facebook style design. This teacher had attended my co-taught teacher led professional development on Microsoft’s OneNote in the classroom. After she told me about the free version of Schoology and its ability to perform all of the functions that made OneNote my go-to source but with some additional benefits, I was sold. This past summer, I created Schoology courses for both my United States History and Economics courses. At the beginning of this school year (so long ago, right?), my school was looking for teachers to “test drive” two potential new student laptops and two Learning Management Systems (LMS). I volunteered immediately and claimed dibs on Schoology. For the first semester and a few weeks into the second semester, I was utilizing the free version of Schoology until the school paid for a trial of the upgraded version that was to sync with our grading system (PowerSchool). After months of using the program, I’m ready to provide an honest teacher review of Schoology (paid and free versions) for your viewing pleasure.
Let me give it to you straight. Use the free version. I’ve given the paid version too much of my time and the problems do not outweigh any of the benefits. Mind you, this review is based on my own personal experience and level of support.
The paid version was given as a trial to see how well it connected with two of the major programs that we use in our school: PowerSchool (our grading system) and OneNote via Microsoft Office 365. Let’s start with PowerSchool. *Note —> the following is about the PAID version experience.
The first major issue to arise was the syncing of accounts. If a student had already used a free username and account (as most students had), PowerSchool and Schoology created two separate accounts for them in the grade book for each class. I’m now three weeks away from the end of school and I’m STILL waiting for some accounts to be synced and/or students are losing access after accounts are “merged”. If a student loses their account, all of their work needs to be regraded. In essence for the paid version to successfully work, your students will have never had accounts or exposure to the program before hand.
In addition to merging accounts, we also discovered (2/3 through the school year) that the features for our grading system, PowerSchool, were not set up properly in Schoology. When this issue was originally discovered, it was through a pretty terrifying moment when MY ENTIRE GRADE BOOK WAS ERASED. Columns of grades were gone!
I spent hours regrading and putting grades back into PowerSchool only to learn through (another) training session with Schoology that PowerSchool can be synced from Schoology but it doesn’t report back changes, additions, etc… to Schoology from PowerSchool. Needless to say this “erasing columns from my grade book” fiasco occurred multiple times and I requested that they turn off the sync feature (I wasn’t able to do it from my account) so I didn’t wake up to any more Monday morning grade book gone surprises.
The paid version also included the app for OneNote via Microsoft 365 – this was one of the big pushes to try a paid version as we have many teachers who already use OneNote. Integrated is too strong of a word because it essentially opened up the OneNote desktop program when you clicked on the app. I would have expected a true integration of the program seeing as this is one of the piloted features for the paid version. Additionally, the paid version included the ability to plan across multiple teachers and integrate standards within lessons. Personally, these are features that I considered a perk but not a necessity.
Let’s chat about the FREE version and all of the wonderful features that you don’t need to pay for! Assessments that are customized and stored to create cumulative assessments in the future. Apps like YouTube and Khan Academy are built into the program. The entire Schoology platform is easy to manage and create content. One of the biggest draws to Schoology is the amazing discussion options, especially the ability to require a response before students can see other submitted responses. The Schoology app is free and provides another “no excuse” barrier. Having materials ready and accessible for all students at any time is the biggest factor for sticking with Schoology.
To summarize, based on my own experience with the paid version of Schoology, I’m sticking with the free version for now. For more information, check out their website. If you want to poke around my Schoology courses, email me and I will send you an invite. For the current Schoology users, are there any features from either version that you love, hate, or want to see improved?