Ultimate Space II

galaxyWe’ve spent a year evaluating our current use of SharePoint sites, and considering a move to SharePoint Portal, Moodle, Blackboard, Blackbaud NetSolutions, VBulletin, and other online space tools and services.

Our current SharePoint sites are good for individual courses and teachers, and they are powerful when fully utilized. When I taught a film and video course, the SharePoint handled writing assignments, proposals, and calendar, as well as web-versions of the student’s video drafts and finished projects. Parents in particular reported that they liked seeing the student’s work through the site, as well as the content we were working on.

However, our SharePoints are all individual sites. There’s no portal for a student to see all his courses at once, or to have a unified calendar. We’ve created SharePoints on demand, instead of for all courses, for we knew that participation may fluctuate.

We’re strongly considering EdLine as our next step. Edline is not a full replacement for SharePoints, and it doesn’t have online teaching tools yet (like discussion areas or chat or…), but it does provide an interesting hosted solution. If we can sync our SIS data with it on a regular basis, it can create and manage individual course sites for us and calibrate teacher, student and parent access. This type of automation is a big deal for a 100% participation, since the changes in classes is pretty severe at the start of the semeters.

Anyway, other systems have this as well, but Edline is a supported, affordable, off-site solution. We like that the online sessions are fully encrypted, and that we have the options for online grades, student store billing reports, unified personal calendars (all classes for a student, possibly sports), and the possibility of comments throughout the semester for students and parents.

So, we may still need a different system for picture galleries and online discussions, perhaps temporarily or long-term, but for communication Edline seems like a system worth considering. Some teachers might continue using SharePoints for those features, or Moodle, or VBulletin, but the central and uniform system could be Edline, which leads us forward on other goals of information management, contribution and protected access.

Interesting and intricate issues, all.

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