If you ask most students and instructors what they think of Learning Management Systems (LMS), you're probably going to get one of two responses: "What's a Learning Management System?" or "I really hate the system we have to use." (Typically, there's a company name attached.)
And while it would be nice, I suppose, to do away with the administrative tasks - the syllabi, the assignments, the quizzes, the discussion forums, the grade calculations and the like - that are normally handled by such systems, that probably isn't going to happen any time soon. So in the meantime, many schools are spending a lot of time and money to provide these tools to teachers and students, most of whom are decidedly unhappy customers.
Schoology is a startup that seeks to address many of the pain points of the LMS: Schoology is easy to use. It's free. It offers data portability. It encourages communication and collaboration with look and feel of contemporary social networking sites rather than the bulletin boards of circa 1996. But it isn't simply a social networking tool. Schoology provides the functionality of its big name competitors - Blackboard, Moodle.
Emphasizing Communication, Collaboration, and Ease-of-Use
Most LMSes isolate students in their particular courses. And once that class is over and once a student has graduated, the information contained there - notes, lessons, assignments, discussions - are lost. Schoology blends a social networking interface with learning management tools, so that teachers and students (and parents and administrators) can communicate and collaborate on academic issues.
And while social networking still has a long way to go to convince many schools that it is safe and secure, Schoology offers detailed privacy controls so that class information can be shared with just a class, with an entire school, or with other schools and students working in similar content areas. Teachers can create structured content - lessons, quizzes, for example - and share this information via the familiar look of a status update and news feed. So this way, both students and teachers can not just participate in a class, but can build social learning networks.
Building a Tool for Students and Teachers, Not Just Administrators
While Schoology offers the features of other more well-known learning management systems, it is clear that the startup doesn't just see administrators as its clientele. This is a system that, yes, administrators will like, that teachers will like, and most importantly perhaps, that students will like and use.
An iPhone app is in the works, and thanks to a robust API (and a smart founding team who understand from their experience as students and TAs what a struggle the LMS can be), Schoology will also be able to help schools migrate their content from their legacy learning management systems.