FETC 2010: Online Learning Communities

2859_echalkeChalk, which sells online communication and collaboration tools to connect K-12 communities, unveiled its newest release, eChalk 10.0. The software features enhancements designed for more effective communication among school leaders, teachers, students, and parents, including a web site layout manager, free parent accounts, and redesigned web mail. Thanks to a partnership with PropellShops, the online platform also includes built-in “school stores”: fundraising sections in which school leaders can choose items for sale and set prices.

it’s learning, a global provider of learning management system (LMS) software that began selling to U.S. schools early last year, demonstrated its fully hosted online platform for delivering individualized instruction. What distinguishes it’s learning from other LMS providers, said Jon Bower, president of the company’s U.S. division, is its underlying technology that can take a “flat” course file that a teacher uploads and convert it automatically to a hierarchical file that can differentiate, or personalize, the delivery of course content to individual students or groups of students. (Teachers must tag the content appropriately for this to occur, Bower explained.) With it’s learning, each student receives an Individual Learning Plan, and the software monitors students’ progress, showing them how they are doing with their work. Reports also show administrators, teachers, and parents where further instruction or intervention is needed to help students master the content.

School systems now can use Skyward’s K-12 administrative software to facilitate one-to-one computing initiatives, the company said. Recent additions to Skyward’s software suite, such as Student Access—and its Online Assignment feature in particular—can complement a district’s laptop program well, said the company. Today’s students work with a variety of online applications, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and the Skyward Student Access program harnesses that familiarity by incorporating features of the social media experience into the student’s educational environment. Students have the ability to review and complete assignments online, make course requests, read and respond to messages via a message center, use a custom personal calendar, eMail school personnel, respond to teacher surveys, and more.

The Online Assignment component of Skyward’s Student Access module provides an online portal for students to complete teacher-generated assignments, quizzes, or tests. Once they complete their assignment, their work can be scored automatically; these scores instantly appear in the teacher’s gradebook, and students can get immediate feedback on how well they did. While this feedback helps students identify areas where they need improvement, it also creates an in-depth data repository to help teachers and administrators identify where individuals or groups of students need additional instruction, Skyward said.

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