10 June 2013

Alternatives to Edmodo

How cute, the students are metaphorically holding hands.
[Update 6-26-13: Since posting this only a few weeks ago, I discovered and switched to a new LMS called Canvas. See that post here.]

I just barely had my last day of school on Friday, and here I am on Sunday thinking about the next school year. Is there something wrong with me?

Anyway, previously I've posted about using Edmodo and all the success I seemed to be having. I'll recap some pro and con lists in a second, but let me say right here that I haven't yet tried any of the Edmodo alternatives I've promised in this blog's title. In fact, I'm mostly writing this post for my own use later as I consider switching.

Edmodo Pros
  • Teachers assign, students submit, teachers grade and leave feedback right in the website.
  • Embed links, videos, images, and give access to all other types of files.
  • Badges. They're all the rage these days.
  • Integrated quiz system.
Edmodo Cons
  • Mobile apps are finicky.
  • The 'wall' for both teachers and students can quickly become insanely cluttered with the various assignments, announcements, and posts, especially if students are allowed posting privileges.
  • Students can set up email alerts, but it's fairly limited. It would be nice to be able to customize alerts both to students and parents to more specific and useful parameters, such as when two assignments in a row are missing, or when the overall grade dips below a certain point, etc. This would be much more useful than simple alerts that there's a new assignment, or that your assignment was graded.
  • The notification center in the upper right isn't as useful as it should be. It should be very clear which assignments have and haven't been turned in, what the current grade is, recent scores, etc. Otherwise, only the most tech-savvy students will take advantage.
  • While you're able to embed videos and pictures, and you can create quizzes, you can't integrate quizzes into the videos or as a step within a larger unit. Quizzes are, more or less, separate from everything else.
  • No integrated rubric grading.
I'll stop there before I start daydreaming about the ultimate LMS for my purposes. The reason I'm led to reconsider Edmodo is this blog post I stumbled upon, which both introduced me to Schoology, but then the comments led me to the others. Anyway, here it goes: alternatives to Edmodo.

  • Grade with rubrics. This sounds great because the students would see a breakdown of a score, not to mention it can help the teacher avoid grading fatigue or bias.
  • Supposedly the mobile apps work pretty well (better than Edmodo, at least).
  • A better home screen, which clearly distinguishes simple announcements from assignments that have or haven't been completed.
  • Discussions are separate, rather than integrated within all the announcements and assignments.
  • Integrate with Google Drive to quickly transfer files (for both teachers and students).
  • No badges, however, and no small groups, which might be trouble for my rotation-model classes.
  • The lecture/assignment part looks neat. It goes full screen and takes you through the steps of whatever principle you're learning.
  • Unfortunately, it's owned by Pearson, which seems like a company that makes money off selling crappy educational supplies.
  • The main screen looks pretty cluttered, but also might be the most powerful, and it's also configurable.
  • (Premium) Deep customization of colors, logos, fonts, etc.
  • Different account types, such as teaching assistant, which perhaps means I could have them do the menial grading and such.
  • Has actual lesson authoring tools, not just a bunch of links and images you throw onto an assignment description.
  • Ooh, something called a "curriculum builder." That sounds neat.
  • It appears to be more of a premium service aimed at colleges.
  • Something about writing your own API, which, if I knew how to write an API, could mean that I could create custom notifications, such as "missed two assignments in a row," or "overall grade has dropped below B-."
  • (Premium) Custom login widget/portal, meaning students could log in from my own website. It's a small thing, and perhaps unnecessary depending on how much information I could actually put in Edu 2.0.
  • Online chatting with class members.
  • Premium plan is only $0.30/student/year.
Stay tuned. I'll create my mock students (Zach Morris, AC Slater, Kelly Kapowski, etc.) to try to picture how each of these works both on my end and on theirs, then next year I'll integrate one or more of these systems and return with a full report.

(Note: Moodle was left out intentionally because when I used it as a college student, I hated it. It was clunky, unintuitive, and downright awful. Looking at it now, it doesn't appear to have gotten much better.)

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