Online Learning Platforms

Over the past month I have been researching online learning platforms and looking for ways to support our school as we move forward with our iLearn initiative. We use technology extensively in our learning programme to transform our student’s experiences. The next step is to now consolidate what we believe is best practise in teaching and learning and to then provide a suite of digital tools which support this. The following graphic explains what I think are the key pieces of a future learning platform.

Learning Platforms - ideas and inspiration.002

Our Curriculum Team and IT Director Ben Morgan, have been distilled these ideas into the Principles to Practice document.

Essentially, we would like to find a learning platform, (or several closely linked solutions) which ideally supports the five aspects teaching practice (Planning, Delivery, Assessment, Recording and Reporting). For example we want to find online curriculum mapping and assessment tools that are effective, easy to use and part of every teachers day-to-day practise. We also need to find curriculum delivery tools that allow for flexible progression and support differentiation. While there is no utopia product just yet, we are beginning to find tools that might match our philosophy.

Overview of UWCSEA Teacher Practice v3 (3)

Click to enlarge – developed by Ben Morgan and UWCSEA Curriculum Team

The Wishlist

The following presentation is a collection of screenshots from a variety of different online platforms. These highlight some really nice tools, which would support both our teachers and students. These are products such as Desire2Learn or Canvas and then some assessment and curriculum planning tools such as ActiveGrade and Infomentor. We currently use StudyWiz as our online learning platform and have done so for the last seven years. Overtime we have probably out grown what StudyWiz offers in comparison to what many new second generation platforms offer. Two platforms standout by being more socially orientation, especially Edmodo and Schoology, but I am not convinced on their functionality and what lies beneath the hood.


I am interested to see what other schools use and if they are happy with their solution. Most schools would have separate platforms for the delivery of curriculum to students, for online mark books, and for curriculum mapping. It would be interesting to see if some schools have found a mix of products that link and talk to each other.

6 thoughts on “Online Learning Platforms

  1. Clint Hamada says:

    Hi Andrew,

    It’s funny that we are going through the exact same process at my school at the moment. As a matter of fact, we just concluded the last of our investigative demos today and are in the process of narrowing down to a short list of 2 or 3.

    We’re in a slightly different position as we are currently in the process of developing and refining a bespoke Student/School Information System that will (eventually) handle functions such as attendance, curriculum mapping, assessment recording and reporting. We’re finding that many of the LMS solutions have some or all of this functionality built in and we need to determine how we as an organization will deal with any overlap of services. Our ideal solution would integrate bi-directionally with our SIS, allowing this data to be collected in the LMS and then flow to the SIS, or allowing the LMS to pull data (such as standards and learning outcomes) from the SIS. That said, I’m not really holding my breath!

    Of *my* shortlist (not the official one), I find myself torn between an LMS whose focus is on content (Haiku) and one whose focus is on connections (Schoology). I truly can see merit in both modes of thought. We will need to drill deeper into the organizational benefits of each platform rather than just the individual ones.

    Might I suggest one change to your “Key Aspects” diagram? I might be picking nits, but I think it is important to connect Assessments directly to Portfolios. I think this will highlight the importance of formative assessments (that probably would not be entered into the gradebook) as a measure of growth to be included in your portfolio solution. (By the way, how are you cracking *that* nut?)

    • Andrew McCarthy says:

      Hi Clint,

      Fascinating that both in the midst of the same process. Sounds like we are a little behind you. This week we are doing a big sharing back session and will then look to drop the list down to two options to trial more throughly in classes.

      Similar to you we have developed an in house College Information Management System which deals with attendance, timetabling and reporting. My current thinking is that we have two additional systems; one for curriculum mapping and the grade book idea which links closely to our standard and benchmarks and then a curriculum delivery tool like Haiku for student and teacher interactions. I agree that there is lots of overlap between solutions but there is no one tool that does everything…. well a few claim in their marketing. You really want to pull data between these systems, such as the written curriculum and standards or the assessment data from marked work to pull back into the assessment gradebooks.

      Infomentor along with ActiveGrade seem to be the most impressive assessment tracking tools, but both are really teacher centric tools and currently work with either UK or Common Core curriculum. Gets tricky when you want to add your own curriculum.

      The LMS markets still seems ripe for another competitor to find a better balance between connections and content. The Haiku interface seems dated and now that most other systems are integrated with Google Apps it seems to have lots its edge. Desire2Learn looks dreadfully 1990’s and other startups like Teamie need longer to mature. My favourites are probably Schoology and Canvas, with Canvas being better suited to us as a HS option and to hopefully manage, larger, more complex courses and for the slick grading and assessment tools.

      Anyway lots to ponder and its exciting to be planning ahead. I think most schools struggle to pull together a set of online teacher tools (curriculum, assessment and delivery) that are useful and effective. Will see how we go !


      • Rik says:

        Hi Andrew

        Your post is really useful and we’re going through a similar process at ISP here in KL.

        I sound like I’m on Haiku’s sales team (I’m not) but their integration into Google Apps is excellent. SSO and full domain admin, and proper docs integration. With the recent updates you have a lot of control over the template of individual courses, or skins you choose to make available.

        I’m not sure Haiku will be our choice – I setup and managed it at my last school in Manila and it was (is) very successful – but it’s certainly up there. We are shifting SIS too this year and are looking at the whole picture, including our main school website. One thing I can share is that we’ve decided against Schoology. I can share more details on this if you like.



      • Andrew McCarthy says:

        Thanks, glad to have kicked off a discussion. I have always known about Haiku and their tight integration to Google Apps, and for us this will be a pretty major consideration. We have gone a long way (perhaps) too far down the road of using Google Drive to share resources both between teachers and also back and forth from students to maybe Haiku will be a logical step. Do you see synergies with Hapara or different tools for different purposes (Hapara for tracking, assessment, aggregating and commenting and Haiku more for the formal curriculum)

        Keen to hear Clint’s thoughts on Haiku as seems high on his list. Keen to hear your thoughts on Schoology… hard to find many international schools that use it. DM is you like to anm (at)

  2. Stacy Stephens says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have so valued your thinking on this as we actually selected an LMS systems last year and as we move to SBGR I think we have made a big error in our selection (we should have done 1 first then the other). I am not sure how what we have (Veracross) will actually be able to work as we move to this new system and in my role (with very little invested in the new system…curriculum not tech), I just want to scrape it and find the “right” systems for SBGR. We are heading down the road of investigation, but with the current investment in our systems, I fear I am…and the teachers are in a situation where we will just have to figure it out and make the best of it (not ideal and ultimately leaves no one satisfied).

    I salivate at the idea of a fully integrated system or as Clint says…with less techie talk on my part :)…systems that can at lease speak and communicate with each other.

    One aspect of a system of curriculum mapping, that I don’t see as a part of most of these systems, is the ability to analyze curriculum vis a vis standards, types of assessment, etc. In my work some of the most powerful sessions I have had with teachers is using data from our curriculum mapping system to really dig deeply into assessment variety, conduct a gap analysis etc. I would love nothing more than to “ditch” Atlas, but my dream system is a slick Google Doc with analysis tools to help us dig more deeply into our curriculum, alignment, and assessment practices though the use of data.

    You want want you do to be alive for teachers and I think the best way it linking mapping work to instruction, assessment, and reporting.

    Love the thinking and the conversation with my 2cents worth!

    • Andrew McCarthy says:

      Hi Stacy,

      Glad that I was able to kick off a discussion. Agree that the curriculum mapping part seems to be the most underdeveloped in most systems. Perhaps the computer designers can muddle their way through the rest but you need to some good educationalists to develop a meaningful curriculum mapping, assessment and audit tool. We had a webinar with the UK/Swedish/Icelandic company called Infomentor this week and they seem to be the current leader in this area.

      We currently use Google Docs in a pretty slick manner for a lots of curriculum stuff, but it is not a database you cant do much more than filtering to see what is happening and where the gaps are. We are at the end of what Google Docs can do so will leave it to the big boys and the tech upstarts to find us a solutions.


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