Schoology Implementation Process

Starting in January of 2014, the Office of Instructional Technology determined there was a compelling need for an electronic workflow system that would complement the cloud production tools available with our electronic gradebook and student information system. Below is an overview of our research and timeline followed by the District-wide utilization of Schoology for the ELA Performance Task.

  • Content/Learning Management System Research

    JANUARY 2014

    Modesto City Schools had been actively utilizing Edmodo as a classroom content management system (CMS) to distribute and collect electronic assignments. Edmodo was a good first step towards a truely digital interface between teachers and students, but it lacked a rich feature set and did not have a gradebook sync with PowerSchool, our Student Information System (SIS). We looked at the features the classroom orchestration resources available in Blendspace to help augment Edmodo. Again, this was lacking the SIS interface we wanted.

    MARCH

    At the same time IT was looking into an electronic workflow process, the District’s plans for a digital high school were rapidly materializing into reality. IT met with the Grace Davis High School administration in March to discuss options for a Learning Management System. Possible LMS options included – GAFE, Canvas, Edmodo, Schoology, Brainhoney

    Topics under consideration:

    • What is the easiest starting point for the low-end users to transition up from?
    • What is going to be the easiest for the students to access?
    • Which productivity tools and LMS are going to benefit students the most in their career and college future?
    • What is going to be the best option for parents to monitor?

    MAY

    IT compiled a list of desired LMS features and compared Edmodo, Google Classroom and Schoology.

    JUNE

    Google released the beta of Google Classroom. IT ran several test classrooms and determined it to have a better electronic workflow system than Edmodo. Google Classroom overview classes were offered and were quickly filled. While it was an improvement over Edmodo, many features were lacking.

    JULY

    IT conducted various webinars and communications with Schoology and Canvas. IT created a list of desired LMS features and compared Edmodo, Google Classroom and Schoology. (See Chart)

  • Selection and Implementation of Schoology

    7/25 GoToMeeting with Schoology. In attendance Mike Coats, Senior Director Ed Services; Mike Rich, Digital Davis Principal; ITS and IS staff. Determined that this would be a good project to have some of the techy teachers at Davis pilot 1st semester and expand to entire site Enterprise at 2nd semester.

    7/29 Ed Services directs PD trainers to demo Schoology free version during planned PD for 8/4

    8/5 (AM) IT sends memo to principals with overview of Schoology and plan for Davis pilot.

          (PM) Ed Services sends email to principals announcing the purchase of Enterprise Schoology for all High Schools effective immediately.

    August – Paperwork processed and web resources developed. Train-the-trainers plan developed by IT. Each site directed to provide 2-3 teachers/staff plus one Admin for training.

    9/22 First Train-the-trainers meeting. Goal set for Enterprise activation on 10/13

    10/13 Email sent to all high school staff with implementation process instructions. Schoology Enterprise fully functioning on 10/15.

    January 2015 Schoology is purchased for grades K-8 to bring the entire district into the enterprise version.

  • Schoology Training

    Once the decision was made to implement Schoology, IT did a training needs analysis which covered the following important considerations:

    • Goals
    • Most Effective Training Techniques
    • Budget
    • Time allocations
    • Implementation deadlines

    The decision was made to prepare training materials including documents, screencast videos and outside resource links to be used in a Blended training effort. Each high school was directed to provide a team consisting of 3 staff members (teachers and/or classified) and a site administrator for a Train-the-trainers session. Jill from Schoology plus IT staff provided a full day of hands-on training. Site admin were required to provide site implementation plan utilizing their new site trainers. A budget was set up to cover after hours training assistance that these new site trainers could be paid from.

    A rich online library of training resources was developed at www.mcs4kids.com/schoology as well as a Group and a Resources within Schoology. Practice courses were created and populated with training resources for every site for the site trainers to use with their staff.

  • Getting the Message Out

    News of the Schoology implementation rapidly spread across all secondary sites as a result of the District-wide Language Arts Professional Development which included a demo of the Free version of Schoology. Emails containing details of the feature-rich LMS were sent to site administrators and subsequently to all staff. It was a challenge to stay ahead of the tidal wave of interest by those that had attended the PD and subsequent spreading of misinformation by those who had not attended. We had to clarify that this was an extra "tool", not another District mandate. 

  • Implementation Technical Challenges

    Issues with Sync between PowerSchool and Schoology

    1. We had a problem with the data preparation step due to NULL values in one of our Teacher fields (Sched_Scheduled).  Once that was resolved the Data Prep process went smoothly.
    2. We ran into a syncing problem because some of our Student Web IDs matched Teacher Logins. Student Web IDs in PowerSchool were randomly generated numbers. Teacher Login Ids are the Employee ID number. We needed to change the Student Web IDs to a unique number that the student knew and that wouldn't match Teacher Logins, so we reset all Student Web IDs to their Student ID number.  This resolved the syncing problems.

    LDAP Setup

    1. Because we don't currently have PowerSchool setup for Single Sign On, we had to map a field in Active Directory that contained the PowerSchool login accounts for students (Student Web ID) and staff (Teacher Login).  A job runs nightly to keep the AD field (ExtensionAttribute10) current.
    2. We created an AD read-only account for Schoology and entered that information along with the LDAP server address and port into the Schoology LDAP settings.
    3. Schoology turned SSO on and it worked.  Everybody logs in with their network account and Schoology uses the AD ExtensionAttribute10 field to link to PowerSchool.

    SSL Certificate Is Not Trusted Error

    In April we had to change our District SHA1 SSL Certificate. We replaced the certificate which was about to expire with a new, high-level SHA2 certificate. Users immediately reported that Schoology was no longer syncing with PowerSchool. Schoology Tech Support explained that they use https://www.digicert.com/help/ to check the validity of SSL Certificates.

    Digicert returned the following error: SSL Certificate is not trusted The certificate is not signed by a trusted authority (checking against Mozilla's root store). If you bought the certificate from a trusted authority, you probably just need to install one or more Intermediate certificates. Contact your certificate provider for assistance doing this for your server platform.

    None of the other SSL checkers had given us this error. Digicert is checking against Mozilla’s root store. We implemented a lower level SHA1 SSL Certificate and that solved the problem for now. However, Schoology will need to upgrade their system to accept high level SHA2 SSL Certificates.

  • District-wide ELA Performance Task via Schoology

    IT was approached to see if it was feasible to have students complete an online performance task (PT) in English Language Arts, grades 7-11.

    Here are the Performance Task parameters:

    ACCESSIBILITY – ON AND OFF-LINE All 7th through 11th grade students will be expected to complete this Performance Task in their English Language Arts class. The environment should mimic as close as possible a SBAC testing environment to familiarize students with the process. Students will prepare materials ahead of time in the classroom setting and bring those materials to the computer lab for the electronic response portion of the Performance Task. Students will complete the response to the appropriate grade-level writing prompt using Microsoft Word, saving to their Documents folder frequently. In the event outside Internet connection is lost, students should still be able to access their Documents folder and continue with the composition of the writing prompt.

    SUBMISSION TO SCHOOLOGY At some point in the writing process students will need to verify that they can login to Schoology and then should join the appropriate grade-level and site course. (The first iteration of this activity had the District create a PowerSchool course and all students were auto-enrolled into the correct Schoology course. In retrospect, this caused a considerable amount of confusion and won’t be a part of the process moving forward.) Once the Performance Task has been completed, students will need to login to Schoology, go to the Performance Task course they joined above, and Submit the assignment. Students may re-submit as needed. The need to keep assignment scoring un-biased and anonymous created a task monitoring flaw. Teachers were not able to monitor student submissions because they were purposely left out of the Schoology course so as to not have their names associated with their students during the rubric-based scoring process. One recommendation would be to have teachers be added to the appropriate Schoology course in the beginning as a Course Admin. Once students are ready to start submissions, students raise hands and the teacher or TA visually watches student submit and verifies the students’ screen says Submitted and checks off the student’s name on a checklist or roster. Or some other process. Teacher could walk down rows looking for the submitted button, etc.

    RUBRIC SCORING – ELECTRONIC AND HARD COPIES Once the submission deadline has passed, submissions are to be disabled in Schoology. Teachers will be removed from the Schoology courses. The rubric scoring team will then be formed, performance tasks norming will be completed and all submissions will be scored by teachers from other school sites. These teachers will not attempt to ascertain students’ teachers. During this process, any students that had to print a hard copy will have their performance task scored using the same holistic rubric as all other students and their scores will be entered into the Schoology gradebook.

    REPORTING – DISAGGREGATION and DISEMINATION of DATA The results of the scoring will be exported in .csv format from the gradebook. There will be a separate file for each grade level at each participating site. A script will then be run to convert the file into a document than can be uploaded into SchoolCity. Site and District admin will have access to disaggregate and disseminate scores as needed. Teachers can login to SchoolCity, analyze the data and do an export as they would for a benchmark. There are several options teachers can utilize depending on their preferences.

    • If the teacher uses Schoology they can assign the same performance task and have the students upload the actual document. The teacher can comment on the document and have students resubmit as needed. Teachers could then enter the SchoolCity scores into their Schoology gradebook.

    • If the teacher uses some other type of electronic document exchange, he/she can collect the original files for classroom discussion, etc.

    TIMELINE 1/30 Initial discussion with Tera Brant 2/4 Proof of concept discussion with Alma and Matthew 2/5 Meet with Thor, Tera, Jen, Tina

    2/10 Jim creates all Schoology courses and all Performance Tasks

    2/10 website created with directions and video

    2/11 Present to Principals

    2/12 meet with Sally, Robin and Marie to discuss PowerSchool ELA PT course setup

    2/13 Robin and Marie create PS courses

    2/12 ELA HS dept chair meeting

    2/17 Gradebook export details worked out with Schoology tech support

    2/18 Sally sent email sent to site data entry and admin

    2/18 Jim sent email update to site admin 2/19 ELA JH Dept Chair meeting

    2/23 PT starts 2/27 AM Internet down for over 2 hours – email sent out with directions