Dr. Cate Loes

Belmont University
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The difference between Schoology and other LMSs is “just night and day; they’re not even in the same category.”

 

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How Dr. Cate Loes Rode the Wave of Change via Her LMS

At Belmont University, the digitization of her classroom into a fully blended learning environment has even given Cate more meaningful insight into her students’ learning experience.

In the past, embracing technology in the classroom had been a double-edged sword for Dr. Cate Loes, Assistant Professor of Management at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Over 12 years of teaching, Cate, who admits she’s not terribly computer savvy, has on occasion faced a fear of the unknown.

However, knowing that efficient use of technology could heighten the teaching and learning experience for both herself and her students, she had always tried to utilize her school-provided learning management system to create an engaging digital learning environment. But Cate consistently ran into problems with these LMSs, finding them too complicated to use, frustrating, and reminiscent “of a computer mainframe.”

Then, in the summer of 2013, another faculty member at Belmont introduced Cate to Schoology, and she immediately dove in. Cate started slowly by piloting the LMS in one of her summer graduate negotiation courses. In part, Cate had an initial reluctance towards Schoology’s collaborative environment because she was worried about students’ ability to share their work and the possibility of increased cheating. But after a pilot program, Cate’s concerns were soon laid to rest. She “just decided [she] was going to go full force,” Cate recalls.

With nearly 150 students in her management classes each semester, Cate knew wide-scale integration of the platform into her daily routine would be a challenge. She also grappled with lingering concerns from her previous negative experiences with other LMSs. But Cates says the difference between Schoology and other LMSs is “just night and day; they’re not even in the same category.”

By the start of the 2015/2016 school year, Cate had fully integrated Schoology into every aspect of all of her classes—“all of my coursework is on Schoology,” she says. From attendance to assignments to hosting all of her correspondence with students on the class’s page, Cate has turned Schoology into her all-in-one hub for all her academic needs.

This digitization of her classroom into a fully blended learning environment has even given Cate more meaningful insight into her students’ learning experience. She tracks her students’ academic progress using various metrics, such as how much time they spend on Schoology and how many assignments they engage with.

Benefits for Both Cate and Her Students

Despite her early concerns about evolving to the open and collaboration-oriented learning environment supported by Schoology, Cate has been able to move all of her assessments online and was quickly satisfied with the results. Because everything was digital, it became easier to create tests that pulled from a massive pool of questions, making it less likely that her students would encounter the same questions more than once.

Not only did this quash fears of cheating, but it also meant students were being more accurately evaluated based on their understanding of the material, not their memorization skills. “Students are getting the grades they deserve,” Cate says. Overall, this has improved Cate’s ability to accurately assess and track her students’ progress, allowing her to shape her teaching to make meaningful gains in grade improvement.

“As much as we think that online testing is going to be an entrée into cheating, it certainly hasn’t shown that way,” Cate added. “That’s given me a carte blanche to go full force and promote this to everyone. That one component alone has changed things for me.”

For Cate, being able to use Schoology so inclusively came at an important time. As class sizes increased due to growing enrollment at Belmont and a glut of transformative changes to the higher education field began to make their presence felt on campus, Cate saw that a shift in pedagogy would be required to set students up for success.

Cate saw that the future of higher education would require a shift in approach if it were going to set students up for success.

“With all the changes in higher ed, the evolution of our class sizes and our campus, I was finding ways to make my life easier and this seemed like a good opportunity to do that.” Things like having the ability to match photos of faces to names on her class’s Schoology course have been a small but important steps in trying to accommodate such large classes while maintaining her own rigorous teaching standards.

Aside from the benefits for Cate, her students have also responded positively. On this point, Cate notes the importance of integrating face-toface learning with technology in the classroom in a way that made sense. She has gone beyond flipping her lessons to finding practical ways to heighten her students’ learning experiences. And for her students, “there’s definitely no question that Schoology is much more preferred over really anything else.”

Sharing the Good News

With so much success now three years into using Schoology, Cate has started to introduce the platform to other faculty members around campus. While she has, however, encountered reluctance from instructors, their fear is almost universally rooted in a desire to hold on to legacy technology simply because of its familiarity, casting aside any consideration of its inherent flaws. But seeing the gains she’s made herself, Cate has been an advocate for Schoology for the simple reason that it’s made her and her students’ lives so much better. And those who have made the transition are seeing gains as well.

Investing in a new technology can often be difficult. That fear of the unknown is real, and in a major university setting with thousands of students’ educations on the line, there’s little room for error. For Cate, though, adopting Schoology has not only eliminated her concerns but also opened new possibilities for integrating technology into the classroom that were inconceivable only three years ago. Because of that, Schoology has earned a spot in Cate’s courses for the foreseeable future. “Schoology makes me so happy,” she says. “It’s just easy.”

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