Both Wheaton College undergraduate and graduate students can begin using Schoology, a replacement for Blackboard, as early as the start of this upcoming summer semester. Schoology is a learning management system (LMS) that Wheaton College has partnered with to improve online cloud services for students like accessing grades and checking assignments.
Schoology is a widely used K-12 education service, and Wheaton College is one of its first few collegiate clients. Chief information officer Wendy Woodward reassured The Record that Wheaton’s partnership with Schoology is “a tremendous opportunity to really shape the product to meet our institutional needs” despite the fact that Schoology has little experience serving the higher education market.
Faculty will gain access to Schoology on April 4 and can start testing the new LMS resource while participating in training sessions to familiarize themselves with its features. Its enhanced user experience and improved stability is expected to make Schoology a popular success.
Woodward explained that when she joined Wheaton a year ago, concerns regarding Blackboard were something she noticed and planned on resolving. Students noted that completing simple tasks were too complicated and sharing content with classmates was difficult. Storing personal documents and managing a personal portfolio was not a feature offered by Blackboard as well. It became apparent that finding an LMS which included these capabilities would improve the students’ learning experience.
Junior Lauren Boughner is one of the students in a stellar astronomy class that is experimenting with Schoology. She noted that it’s now easier for students to find and see their grades due to a new convenient layout. Students in the class and even the professor have compared Schoology’s streamlined appearance to the popular social media website, Facebook. Boughner didn’t have any concerns with the new software and admitted that it “seems like it may make life a little simpler for students.”
After working alongside the Technology and Informations subcommittee and Academic and Institutional Technology (AIT) with feedback from other students and faculty, a process was developed then enacted to find a solution.
An LMS selection committee consisting of both faculty and students researched various options and received feedback from students in order to decide the new software. Canvas by Instructure and Brightspace by Desire2Learn are some of the LMS providers that were considered but failed to meet the committee’s full expectations. Schoology and Brightspace were the finalists, and both companies were invited to campus to answer questions and explain how their products could meet Wheaton’s technological expectations. Key factors that contributed towards picking Schoology includes the company’s “eagerness to partner with Wheaton College,” positive feedback from faculty who used the product and “extremely positive references.” Woodworth also mentioned that “the move to Schoology was not a cost decision.”
Although there are a few features that Schoology does not offer, like student journals, AIT is confident that a smooth transition will take place transferring content and information from Blackboard to Schoology.