Five Simple Ways to Turn Your Schoology Course into a Community of Practice

project based learning examples
Contributed By

Dylan Rodgers

Content Strategy Manager and Editor in Chief of the Schoology Exchange

Five Simple Ways to Turn Your Schoology Course into a Community of Practice

Posted in Pro Tips | February 25, 2014

We joined Dr. Bill Brennan and Dr. Alec Couros recently in exploring learning through the eyes of young students. What we saw was kids learn very differently on their own than they do in the classroom. 

In short, connected generations have developed into "communities of practice"—i.e., people around the world connect with each other and share what they know via social media. This global shift has some powerful implications, that I won't go into here. You can check out "Students Don't Learn the Way You Think They Do" for more details.

In this post, however, we'll focus on putting the theory behind "communities of practice" to work in the classroom.

First of all, anyone who uses Schoology already participates in a community of practice, whether they call it that or not. The platform is designed to facilitate a collaborative culture. But what if you wanted to take it to the next level? What's really possible with a platform like Schoology? The answer might surprise you. 

My favorite example of what's possible is Destination: Sunshine, a global weather project put together by Jennifer Symington from Liverpool, Australia. If this short video doesn't get your mental cogs turning with creative excitement, I don't know what will. 

Now a project like Destination: Sunshine requires quite a bit of planning, as you can see. So if you're looking for simpler ways to leverage active community learning, check out this insightful blog written by Marlo Strout and Ben Demott, two sixth grade Humanities teachers in Sudbury, MA: Our LMS Encourages Student Independence (And Interdependence)

I also put together the following list of examples to get you started quickly:

Five Simple Ways to Turn Your Schoology Course into a Community of Practice

Breaking News Updates

By giving students the permission to post updates in your course (Course Options > Edit Privacy/Course Settings) you have a great way to encourage students to engage in social learning.

This feature seems pretty cut and dried, but what if you made it a little more creative and fun. For example, you could break your students into groups, each group with one computer, tablet, or smartphone. Have them record and post their own breaking news story illustrating what they learned from their homework.

Learn more about using course updates.

Acting Up with Grading Groups

Grading Groups provide educators with a fantastic way to encourage collaboration and project-based learning. Under the Members tab in the left menu of your course, you can easily split your students into groups based on any criteria you want. 

A great way to use Grading Groups is for class presentations. Create an assignment, for example, where each group chooses an act from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, submits a written synopsis, and then directs and stars in their own interpretation of the act.

Find out how to use Grading Groups.

Interactive Media Albums

Media albums are perfect for creative projects and documenting class experiences (such as field trips and labs). Students can upload media of all kinds and comment/critique each other's work.

What if you had students begin a science lab, say the classic vinegar and baking soda experiment, and document the process through different kinds of media? Students periodically check their experiment, record its progress using digital media, upload this media to the album, and discuss everything as a class via comments.

Find out how to create a media album.

Year-Long, Shared Discussions

Schoology Discussions can be shared between multiple classes, opening the doors to collaborative learning across age gaps, academic disciplines, and geographic barriers. One discussion can also be open for the whole year, making it a valuable resource for continuous peer support and practice.

For instance, you could connect your French class with another class in France—or another French class in your school if you prefer to stay local. Students can then discuss the language and even post pictures or record mini presentations as they help each other with pronunciation and vocabulary. 

Find out how to share a discussion.

Teaching Ownership Through Student Completion

Schoology's Student Completion feature is an excellent way to give students the freedom to learn at their own pace, track their progress, and guide them through your lessons step by step with minimal direction. It also helps students take ownership of their learning, which has been known to increase engagement.

One great way to leverage Student Completion Rules is by setting up a lesson with these two elements—an open-ended assignment and a support discussion. To boost creative and critical thinking, make the assignment one where students can choose how they complete it (e.g., text, image, video, class presentation, etc.). And to get your students working together, you can leave the discussion out of the completion rules, so they can post questions and ideas to support each other at any time.

Find out how to use Student Completion Rules.

Can you think of other ways  you can turn your Schoology courses into communities of practice?


Images by Mick Baker, Vancouver Film School, Jinx!, Michael Coghlan, and rosipaw in descending order.

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