Last year was our first school-wide use of Schoology as an LMS. While our first year was overall a great success for adopting the new LMS platform and upgrading from Moodle, we identified a few areas that we wanted to rethink for this coming year. One of the biggest conversations we had throughout the year was about calendaring of class events and assignments. Schoology lets students see a calendar view of all of their courses, which students reported was very helpful for them. Unfortunately, the tool isn’t very granular, and it presents all types of assignments and activities as equal on the calendar. We wanted a way to differentiate calendar entries so that students could look at a daily view and be able to prioritize based on the different types of activities that they’d see.
It’s unfortunate that we have to do this manually– the ability to create an assignment within certain categories, and have those categories reflected on the calendar, would make this whole issue disappear. Even better would be a tagging system which would allow teachers and students alike to tag activities and build context around them ( planning for “Homework,” “Reading,” “Needs Extra Time” and “Individual” for example, would be very different than “Project,” “Brainstorm/Planning,” “Skype”, “Tim”). Modern task management systems are rich in context tools such as tagging or smart search.
This speaks directly to one of my large concerns about measuring the health of our LMS and digital tools– balancing and optimizing our information streams so that students can learn to manage digital communication without becoming overwhelmed and ignoring the information that teachers and the school are providing. Seeing a list of activities dated for the next day, for example, could be useful for a student who is skilled at prioritizing and triaging their workload. For a student still developing executive function skills, it could be too devoid of context to be useful. Furthermore, in-class activities may be tagged with a date, which would make them appear on a calendar as “due” the next day, when they have yet to be assigned (and aren’t meant to be done from home). To help us make our calendaring information more useful, Christina Serkowski headed up a faculty focus group at the end of last year and built out some recommendations. Based on those, we’ve come up with what we hope is coding system for teachers to use when entering activities onto the calendar.
|Type of Activity||Example|
|Homework (whether to be submitted online or not). Create as Assignment, and title with “HW.”||HW: Read Chap. 2|
|In-Class Activities (Schoology-based activities to be done in class, e.g. discussions or timed writes). Only necessary if activity requires Schoology– in-class activities that don’t require Schoology don’t have to be calendared. Create and title with “IC.”||IC: Draw Mindmap of Paper|
|Quiz or Exam (if offline, i.e. not using Schoology Quiz tool). Quiz denotes formative/small, while Exam denotes summative/major. Create as Event, and title with “QUIZ” or “EXAM.”||QUIZ: The New DealEXAM: Cell Function|
|Special Events (Field trips, guest speakers, etc.). Create as Event.|
|Announcements/Reminders. Use Updates feature.|
Hopefully, this will allow a student to look at his or her calendar for any given day and see more immediately the relative importance and workload of the different entries for a day. That, in turn, will support good time-management and planning skills.
Do you observe a need for this kind of organization in your LMS? Have you tried to differentiate types of activities in your calendaring system? What do your students report about prioritizing or task management with your LMS?