The Great Learning Management System Debate: Featuring Canvas, Schoology and Google Classroom

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With personalized learning at the forefront of many school initiatives, the use of learning management systems has become a hot commodity among schools. Coupled with a variety of added benefits, each LMS comes with its own positives and negatives. With so many choices on where to build your digital classroom, the questions often arise: “Why do I need a learning management system? And which one do I choose?”

Let’s examine three learning management systems aimed at personalizing learning and blended instruction.


Schoology LogoWhy consider Schoology?

Schoology is an LMS that has the visual appeal of a social media application like Facebook, which provides students with a platform they are comfortable in. Geared toward K-12 education, it provides teachers with the ability to create assignments, track student progress, collect student work, assign grades, and manage the classroom efficiently and effectively. Beyond the logistics, Schoology offers a wide array of customization and personalization, enabling the teacher to tailor each and every course they teach down to the individual assignment.

How does Schoology meet the pedagogy of today?

Schoology effectively supports students and teachers by creating a space that invites creativity, collaboration, and communication via online discussion boards, digital portfolios, and online resources. Blended and personalized instruction can be supported through the design of self-paced learning modules. Teachers can also implement elements of gamification rather easily as Schoology provides access to “student completion settings”, hidden folders or assignments, and a badge creation tool. All of this can be used to truly differentiate how and what, students access.

Why would students want to use Schoology?

Schoology helps students manage their classwork while staying in contact with teachers and fellow students at the click of a button. Students can manage assignment due dates, receive notifications, submit their assignments digitally, and interact with the learning material on their devices. For secondary students, the enhanced platform feels a lot like a social media application like Facebook, while offering a plethora of options to make it more than just a homework/classwork organizer. Schoology becomes a community for the school and helps students stay “in-the-know” with school events, club and team information, and more.

Example ways to use Schoology

  1. Teachers can create self-paced learning modules, digital playlists,  or “learning paths” that open and close upon student completion, giving students true personalized instruction to work at their own pace. This provides more time for the teacher to facilitate instruction and meet with students 1:1.
  2. Instructional coaches can create professional development courses or modules for their district teachers to accommodate anytime anywhere learning and keep track of staff accomplishments via the aggregated data and integrated badge creator.
  3. Schools can use Schoology for daily announcements or create “groups” for all of their sports and clubs that students can be a part of.

How does Schoology “play” with others?

Schoology utilizes built-in LTI integration that allows users to install a variety of apps from their app center. These include, but aren’t limited to: Google Drive, Turnitin, Respondus, Quizlet, Playposit and more! However, even if the tool you want to use is not located within the Schoology App center, users can grab the embed code from any tool they use and embed it directly into their assignments. This turns everyday assignments into interactive lessons with students able to interact with the edtech tool directly without clicking a link to go to the apps site.

Google Classroom

Why consider Google Classroom?

Google ClassroomGoogle has prided itself on its simplicity and Google Classroom is no different. Classroom isn’t a full-blown LMS. The simple “feed” lists all assignments on one page making it simple to locate and access class materials. Obviously, for school districts that live in the Google ecosystem, Classroom is a nice option. Similar to Schoology, Google Classroom affords teachers with the ability to create assignments, distribute work to students, and collect and grade assignments. The ease with which it is to upload and attach various documents from your Google Drive make for a great time saving and by “keeping it simple” one could argue that Google’s goal is to let teachers spend less time learning and creating digital content and spend more time facilitating student work.

How does Google Classroom meet the pedagogy of today?

One-size-fits-all teaching doesn’t work. Google Classroom affords teachers a quick and simple way to assign work to students to individual students or student groups. Teachers can discreetly send students who struggle with individualized assignments to practice with. The stream keeps everything organized for students who need a simplified program to manage their digital selves.

Why would students want to use Google Classroom?

For Chromebook using students, this just makes it easier on them as it can be accessed quickly and easily. For younger students, this is important. Google Classroom isn’t anything flashy but manages to get the job done in helping them stay organized and simply keep tabs on work that is due.

Example ways to use Google Classroom

  1. Teachers can quickly and easily deliver writing assignments to students while tracking their progress over time on the Google Doc while providing meaningful recommendations to the student in real time.
  2. Schools can use Classroom for work in PLC’s. These members can create a course as their “home” while sharing and delineating tasks among the group.
  3. Teacher can differentiate by tiering, grouping, or using Bloom’s to create a digital stream of assignments.

How does Google Classroom “play” with others?

Google Classroom uses API integration with edtech tools they have partnered with. There is no ability to embed edtech tools directly within an assignment. However, Google Sites (a great app to combine with Google Classroom) can. Classroom has partnered with edtech tools such as: GoGuardian, Pear Deck, Quizizz, NewsELA, Edpuzzle, and more! This allows teachers to push the content they create via these apps to their Classroom courses as links to the assignment.


Canvas LMSWhy consider Canvas?

Similar to Schoology, Canvas is built on communication between student and teacher. A fully customizable platform, Canvas affords teachers the opportunity to design a course that best fits their student's needs. Teachers can create assignments, submit grades, send notifications, and distribute work. Students can submit work, monitor their progress, and link their accounts to their other social media applications.

How does Canvas meet the pedagogy of today?

With no two students alike, the need to customize the classroom experience and free up time for teachers to better facilitate the learning is at a premium. Canvas makes waves in meeting the needs that are best for the teacher and their students and being able to engage with them inside and outside the classroom walls. Collaboration is simple with the small group's function, helping the teacher provide more frequent feedback as well as a built-in video conference feature.

Why would students want to use Canvas?

For students, being able to see and keep up with classwork and grades is a great benefit. The student submission feature tracks assignments, notifying students whether their work is on time or late. The clean interface will also help students stay on task and manage their digital selves more easily.

Example ways to use Canvas

  1. Teachers can use Canvas to create and manage a flipped classroom, affording students a place to interact with classwork while at home.
  2. Administrators can use Canvas to host notes and documents from general assembly meetings, beginning of year documents, school improvement panels, etc.
  3. Teachers can use Canvas to design self-paced learning modules to personalize instruction.

How does Canvas “play” with others?

Canvas works similarly to Schoology. Edtech apps are partnered with, such as Turnitin, Respondus, and Clickers. However, users can grab the embed codes from other edtech tools and embed the program into teacher lessons and student assignments to make the learning more interactive and engaging.

Regardless of which platform you decide to go with, each of the aforementioned programs gets it right in a number of ways and miss the mark in others. There are a number of features available on Schoology, Google Classroom, and Canvas that can be found on each of the platforms. The key to selecting the right one comes down to considering what exactly are your needs, what are the things you “can’t live without”, and how does it best meet the style of teaching and learning your school or district is looking to promote. The end result might just come down to the culture of your district and how you adopt the learning management system. The goal is to increase teacher effectiveness and student learning and each of these LMS programs can help guide you in the right direction. But in the end, it comes down to how they are used.

About the author, Nick Amaral

Nick Amaral is a District Staff Development Coordinator in NJ. As a dedicated educator, he is known for implementing technology and differentiating instruction in the classroom. In addition to teaching, he has been responsible for supporting teachers’ understanding and seamless integration of technology in the classroom, as well as designing engaging and thought-provoking professional learning opportunities that meet the needs of all teachers to help to create student-centered learning experiences.

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