A student scrolls through Schoology to gather homework assignments. According to Arlingtonian‘s survey, of 343 students, 41 percent of UAHS students use Schoology’s calendar feature more than any other function.

District-wide site faces inconsistent use across UAHS

by Katie Zhao and Sophie Yang, ’19

Schoology: it’s a common thread running through every student’s day. From assigning homework on the calendar to hosting class discussions, each teacher uses the site in a slightly different way.

It is also a relatively new site that teachers have been required to use since the 2015-16 school year, and it’s generally regarded as more convenient and user-friendly. The site boasts a Facebook-style feed and integration with Powerschool, elements that gave it an edge over Canvas and BlackBoard when the administration was choosing a district-wide site.

The Drawbacks

Nevertheless, using Schoology doesn’t come without drawbacks. While students often use it to piece together a homework “to-do list,” this becomes an issue when teachers utilize the site in different ways than their students, something sophomore Olivia Buck notices.

“[Schoology] is good for doing assignments, but [some] teachers over-rely on it,” Buck said. “They just always assume that we’re checking it 24/7, which we’re not.”

Schoology logo. Photo courtesy Schoology.

Some of these differences are caused by Schoology’s wide range of functions. With several ways for teachers to post assignments — on the calendar, in a PDF, as a Google Drive link, within a discussion or buried in a folder — students often scramble to locate assignments.

According to UA Associate Superintendent Kathy Jenney, the administration has noticed this issue. Along with encouraging teachers to use Schoology, the school board has pushed guidelines on how to list assignments.

“[Schoology] should be the one place everyone can find information,” Jenney said. “We probably haven’t done enough to keep revisiting and reminding people.”

Most notably, these guidelines include using the “materials” section to upload all class handouts and creating due dates as “events” on the calendar. Doing so, Jenney believes, will allow parents and students to effectively work together on homework.

Schoology should be the one place everyone can find information . . . We probably haven’t done enough to keep visiting and reminding people.

Associate Superintendent Kathy Jenney

Math teacher Jeff Silliman said that Schoology’s varied use may be a problem for students.

“From a student perspective, I can see that being a little bit confusing because ‘two of my teachers put it here, one of my teachers puts it here, three put it here,’ so the idea is to get it into one place eventually,” Silliman said.

Why the Differences?

Despite students’ hopes for more standardized Schoology use, there are a multitude of reasons why teachers lean different ways on using the site. Several teachers have expressed annoyance at the site’s limited capacity for dealing with equations and formatting. Some rely much more on Google Classroom or the groups function.

Junior Andrew Shapiro prefers Edline — one of Schoology’s precursors — noting the number of clicks teachers need to post to their classes.

“[Mr. Chandler] said to post to all his classes, it’s 27 clicks, which is a lot of wasted energy in my opinion. Edline just always seemed easier to me,” Shapiro said.

A Daily Tool

Still, Schoology’s benefits are far-reaching. History teacher Betsy Sidor remembers using Schoology several years ago to keep up lesson plans with an AP U.S. History student traveling abroad.

“I had a student for the first semester who was in Paris. I used Google Drive, but I would post the link on Schoology . . . and he kept up nicely with everything we did,” Sidor said. “I like the fact that if a kid’s interested, they can find a copy of whatever we’re doing.”

Some believe that while Schoology has certainly brought benefits, its relevance outside the classroom could be improved.

“The tool is there. It’s really for students mostly, but we can’t force them to use it,” said Silliman.