EDITOR’S NOTE: This new column gathers reviews of tools for virtual learning. Most reviews are gathered from commonsense.org/education, including “Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Learning” Before deciding on any software, consult your ed tech team and assistive tech (AT) team to make sure whatever used is compatible with assistive technology.
Edmodo (Grades 4-12)
Edmodo is a free Facebook-like learning management system and is listed on commonsense.org as one of the best learning and classroom management tools for virtual and distance learning, along with Schoology.
- Pros: Small learning curve for anyone who uses popular social media, as well as robust community and support.
- Cons: The user interface is very busy for learners, especially with ads, and it could use a rubric tool and better collaboration options.
- Bottom Line: This free platform allows for teacher-monitored classroom communication but lacks excitement.
As reviewed on commonsense.org, Edmodo gets 4 out of 5 stars. See the full review for details.
Schoology & PowerSchool (Grades 5-12)
Schoology is a web-based learning management system and is associated with PowerSchool, a student information system. Individual teachers can use the Schoology Basic package for free. The Schoology Enterprise subscription, which includes support from a PowerSchool team, is not free, but due to the COVID-19 crisis, billing is delayed until July 2020.
- Pros: Flexible options for assigning and assessing work.
- Cons: It can be a little overwhelming to first-time users not familiar with this style of LMS.
- Bottom Line: To make the most of Schoology, you’ll need some ramp-up time and great tasks and assessments, but it can offer rich learning and collaboration experiences.
As reviewed on commonsense.org, Schoology gets 4 out of 5 stars. See the full review for details.
Google Classroom (Grades 3-12)
Google Classroom is similar to a learning management system and is available as a website, Android app, and iOS app.
- Pros: Easy-to-learn interface; integrates with lots of apps and websites; seemlessly share, collect, and grade G Suite documents.
- Cons: Integration with student information services is still in development; no standards-based grading options.
- Bottom Line: Google Classroom is a great way to manage and organize learning, though teachers who need more features may need to look elsewhere.
As reviewed on commonsense.org, Google Classroom gets 4 out of 5 stars. See the full review for details.
Kiddom (Grades K-12)
Kiddom is a hybrid grade book and standards-based personalized learning management system.
- Pros: Partnerships with companies like LearnZillion, CK-12, and Newsela give teachers access to ready-made lessons and resources.
- Cons: The lack of collaborative or social features may disengage students, and the one-at-a-time grade entry process may frustrate teachers.
- Bottom Line: An excellent option for monitoring individual progress toward goals, but teachers will need to be deliberate when selecting and assigning content.
As reviewed on commonsense.org, Kiddom gets 4 out of 5 stars. See the full review for details.
Additio (Grades K-12)
Additio is a learning management system with built-in communication that makes it easy to customize groups of kids and adjust the data you want to see for each student. Integrates with Google Classroom. It is free to try.
- Pros: By using its Groups feature and integrating with Google Classroom, it’s easy for teachers to see student progress and keep families informed.
- Cons: The number of features and the lack of design polish mean teachers will have to tinker a lot to get up and running.
- Bottom Line: Being able to access lots of customizable data, group students beyond classes, and communicate easily with families gives teachers a clear picture of each student that they can share.
As reviewed on commonsense.org, Additio gets 4 out of 5 stars. See the full review for details.
Notes on other systems
- FreshGrade (Grades 3-9): A cross between a grading program, eportfolio, and LMS, it is easy to use and communicates instantly with parents and students. But according to commonsense.org, it lacks tools for accessibility such as voice narration and text-to-speech.
- Otus: (Grades K-12): Offers extensive features and options for classroom management. But according to commonsense.org, laborious data entry and high learning curve may intimidate some teachers.
- Microsoft Teams for Education (Grades 6-12): According to commonsense.org, it offers many options for integrating learning, but does not include tools for parent communication, efficient assignment submission and management, or adequate grading capabilities.