Students react to the switch in online platforms: New HOL prompts mixed responses

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Students react to the switch in online platforms: New HOL prompts mixed responses

Senior Jaewoo Bang navigates through the Schoology interface to view his English assignments.

Senior Jaewoo Bang navigates through the Schoology interface to view his English assignments.

Senior Jaewoo Bang navigates through the Schoology interface to view his English assignments.

Senior Jaewoo Bang navigates through the Schoology interface to view his English assignments.

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As students settle themselves back into another year on the hilltop, there is one major difference which no one can ignore: the beloved Hackley Online (or HOL) has changed. The alternative, a two-part system consisting of programs called Veracross and Schoology, has become the main functional interface for Hackley School to better optimize the back-end, technological side of the school. The overhaul affects all facets of school life, for both students and teachers.

Mr. Erich Tusch, a head administrator within Hackley’s technology department, explained the differences between the two systems. 

“Veracross is a Student Information System (SIS) – a platform that is designed to store, maintain and manage student data including addresses, parent/family information, athletics, teacher/student scheduling, progress reports, report cards, transcripts, school calendars, etc. Schoology is a Learning Management System (LMS) – a platform that supports communication between teachers and students/parents, sharing learning resources and classroom information, and providing tools for teachers such as a digital gradebook, ad hoc reporting, and the ability to post learning resources and assignments employing a variety of formats and media,” Mr. Tusch said.

Upon its implementation, the new system has not been spared from debate about whether its interface and features are easier to use. Even so, there is a justification for the switch that students may not be aware of since they are not exposed to the back-end aspects of the systems.

“The decision to switch was initially prompted by the fact that the former product suite was no longer meeting our needs at the administrative level – specifically, the Student Information System (SIS) component,” Mr. Tusch said. “Since our previous SIS component was integrated with the previous LMS (classroom) component, we were in a position in which we needed to find a new learning management platform as well.”

Students are still familiarizing themselves with the new systems. “Schoology has certainly been an adjustment for all of us students so far. It’s been a bit more confusing in the assignments section, as you can only view all your assignments through the calendar section, and the individual class topics pages are tougher to navigate,” senior Neil Singh said.

There have been, however, some positive reviews of the new system. “Schoology provides an engaging platform that incorporates all aspects of a student’s life at Hackley. For example, it includes clubs, sports, assignments, and even more activities than the old HOL did,” senior Madeline Zuckerman said, highlighting the platform’s additional opportunities.

One of the other main points of contention about Schoology among students is whether it seems scattered or organized. “I think it’s annoying that everything is not in one place and that Schoology doesn’t give you the option to put in your progress on assignments,” junior Ben Kirsch said. Senior Obi Nwokorie agrees, explaining how he prefers to view all his homework in one central location, which he believes Schoology prohibits.

From an administrative standpoint, Schoology has displayed some clear advantages. As Mr. Tusch explained, “the platform supports a wider array of media options than did OnCampus. It integrates well with 3rd party platforms, e.g., Turnitin, something OnCampus did not do well at all. Its integration with the Google Suite far surpasses our previous platform, and any other platform we reviewed. The platform can be navigated using a mobile app, something that was important to both parents and students.”

Teachers are also adjusting to the switch, but the feedback is mixed. Mr. Christopher Loomis, history teacher and 12th grade dean, noted that “Schoology’s interface is generally a lot easier to use than the old HOL, and its compatibility with Google is a huge part of that.” Even so, he liked the “one-stop-shop” aspect of the original Hackley Online. “The old HOL had an integrated calendar that showed teachers the drop days for our classes, which meant that posting assignments was nearly fool-proof. Schoology doesn’t currently have that capability, which can be annoying, but not something to lose sleep over,” Mr. Loomis said.

The switch from HOL to Veracross and Schoology has changed the way students, teachers and administrators operate on a daily basis by creating an entirely new space to operate and interact with one another. The new dual system should become more familiar as the year progresses, as many of the same features from HOL are exhibited on these programs with different formatting and design. Only time will tell if these programs will live up to the legacy of Hackley Online.