I’ve posted before on Schoology, a Learning Management System (LMS) with social networking features. This post follows up by identifying some of the challenges facing the new LMS, and the startup behind it. I focus on Schoology as an LMS for educational clients (as opposed to enterprise clients) on the basis of its current testimonials.

The first challenge is awareness. Decision-makers, such as university information technology officers, need to be aware that there is an LMS called Schoology and that it offers social networking features. The LMS market is crowded enough that achieving awareness may not be easy.

The second challenge is articulating the importance of social media in an LMS. Students already have access to social media, in the form of Facebook, Twitter, etc. Is the LMS enhanced by including another set of social media tools?

The third is making the case that a new LMS is required in order to integrate learning management and social media. If those making the LMS purchase decision consider social media important, they are likely to communicate this to Blackboard and other incumbents. Schoology already includes social features, and hence has a head start, but the lead may not be insurmountable.

A fourth challenge relates to Schoology’s credibility. There are two aspects to this. Is Schoology, a new LMS, as well-developed in terms of features and robustness as established solutions such as Blackboard? Does it execute the basics, such as setting up courses and enrolling students, as smoothly as systems that have been used for these basics for many years at many institutions?

The other aspect of Schoology’s credibility challenge relates to Schoology, the startup, rather than to the LMS it offers. It is a fact of entrepreneurial life that many startups fail. Even startups that succeed often do so by being acquired, thus making their founders and investors money. But will the firm that did the acquiring continue to support the product, or did it make the acquisition in order to reduce competition or redeploy the talent of the acquired company? This is a concern often raised in the LMS market, especially in the light of acquisitions by Blackboard.

The above is rather unbalanced, as a list of challenges without discussion of how Schoology intends to overcome them. Rather than make this post longer by adding what I think Schoology is doing, or should do, in the light of these challenges, I’ll contact the Schoology folks to see what they have to say.

I’ve recently been developing some WordPress training. This in partly in order to offer and deliver such training in the Washington DC/southern Maryland area – and beyond. It’s partly because I’m taking classes in Instructional Systems Design at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Here’s my Design Plan for a WordPress Beginner Course (pdf).

Planning a PTA Website

September 7, 2010

I just got back from the first PTA meeting of the school year at Highland Elementary School, where my daughter Maddie has just started first grade (and where my son Max is likely to start kindergarten next year). I wasn’t able to make any PTA meetings last school year.

One of priorities for the Highland PTA is getting more parents involved. I see a website as a means toward this end, in that it would be available all the time, while real-world PTA meetings can never be. The site would also make involvement easier for some parents able to be involved anyway, but who might want to get or provide updates between meetings.

Were I to set up the site right now, my priorities would be as follows.

  • Provide updates on PTA activity. Some updates might be meeting-based (reminder of meeting, here’s what was discussed, etc.), some between meetings (we’re weeks away from the next meeting, but what do you think of this?).
  • Solicit input, especially from parents and teachers who are not able to attend meetings at the school. No time is good for everyone: this morning’s 9am meeting was well attended, but still must have excluded many families.
  • Be multilingual, or at least bilingual. The Highland community speaks many languages, with Spanish and English being particularly prominent.

I’ve done some searches on terms such as PTA website. There’s a lot of stuff out there, including:

  • PTA sites at the national (US) and state (MD) level.
  • A PTA website builder site. First reaction: the nonprofit side of my brain says that it seems expensive; the for-profit side sees an opportunity in the PTA website builder business, if my pro-bono efforts at Highland go well.

Now,to solicit input on PTA websites. I’ll send out a few emails. But if you, dear reader, have thoughts on PTA sites, please share them here, especially if they include links to successful PTA sites.

Textbooks on Kindle

July 18, 2008

One of the barriers to adoption of the Amazon Kindle is its price. One of the things that makes it seem expensive is surely the price of books. For example, I usually buy paperbacks at $10 or less, so >$300 seems huge. But the Kindle might be particularly attractive to people who spend a lot on books.

College students certainly spend a lot of books. Textbooks for a single semester often cost more than a Kindle. Hence I think that Mike Arrington and others are right on the money when they identify college students as natural Kindle users.

The trouble is, college students don’t have much choice when it comes to textbooks. The professor usually chooses the textbook for the course from what the publishing firms offer. The incentives to the prof and the firms don’t always align with the best interests of the students.

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