There are a growing number of free platforms available online that allow teachers to extend their instruction, lessons and projects beyond their classroom walls. While teaching onilne may suggest an environment with little interaction or personalization, when a face to face classroom setting is supplemented with an online component, students often become more engaged. An increased connection to the class and improved learning is due to enhanced communication, access to class materials and increased collaboration by turning the classroom into an extended community online.

While traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) were difficulty to manage for teachers and to navigate for students, a new style of online learning systems are emerging that combine the look, feel and interaction of social networks along with the functions teachers need for educational purposes. Online learning platforms such as Edmodo and Schoology have the familiar feel of the social networks that students are already using for personal use. However, they were specifically created for educational purposes and provide a secure environment managed by the teacher not available on open and public social networks, while still allowing for interaction within the class.

Basic features of online learning platforms include:

  • Discussion Forums
  • Documents & Resources can be uploaded
  • Video can be embedded
  • Assignments: submitted & graded
  • Class Announcements

Free Online Platforms

Edmodo: A free and secure online learning environment that provides a robust number of features for educators. Teachers can quickly and easily create a new class and students can sign up for Edmodo accounts without even entering an email address. Once a class is created, a ‘class code’ is needed for students to join the class. Within Edmodo, teachers have the ability to create discussion questions, post assignments and resources, and create small groups within the class for group projects. Edmodo also includes a gradebook component that allows students to submit work directly within the platform. Edmodo has an extremely familiar appearance to online social networks that students pick up quickly.

Unique Features:

  • Multiple teachers / instructors in one class
  • Smartphone application
  • Teaching Community: find teachers within Edmodo who teach similar subjects
Edmodo demo video

Schoology: A combination of a Learning Management System (LMS) and a social network, Schoology provides a familiar and intuative platform that feels much like traditional social networks. With a free account, teachers can quickly create a course and begin adding course content: weekly lessons, tests, quizzes, assignment dropbox, announcements, discussion forums and uploaded documents.

Video introduction to Schoology

Twiducate: A private social networking site for educators and classrooms, Twiducate provides a platform where only teachers and students within the course can view content and interact within the course. Once a course is created by a teacher, students are invited to join the course by the teacher when the student is entered into the class roster.