Hopkins Students Balance Google Classroom and New LMS
Hopkins adopted a new learning management system (LMS) that, while universally adopted, is controversial in the Hopkins community.
Some features of the new website include the integration of the schedule, attendance, class pages, an assignment center, and grade book under a single program.
The Technology Committee, a group of students and faculty that recommends technology policy on campus, decided the new LMS aligned with the overall interests of the Hopkins Community. Director of Academic Technology Ben Taylor explained the goals include a “motion towards consistency in communication of assignments.” To this end, teachers now must include dates on assignment sheets, announce major deadlines, and online work in the calendar, and decide whether they will use the grading option. Taylor emphasized that teachers can continue to use Google Classroom, Hopkins’ previous
LMS: “We’re not saying you can’t use Google Classroom. We want...to be flexible and allow people to try new things.”
Math teacher Kathryn Chavez agrees, emphasizing that she can “take attendance, look up grades and assignments, and pull [the LMS] up on the board and teach kids how to use it. It’s all in one location and I don’t have to switch screens.” The experience is similar for some students, like Sophie Sonnenfeld ’21. She thinks the website is “an efficient way to keep all [her] information for classes, athletics, and school updates together in one place.”
However, some students, think Classroom provides the most unifying experience. Prairie Resch ’21 said, “As a school, we're already using Google Suite for our email and [D]rive, and everything is already connected to Google Classroom. With Classroom, students can make class posts, ask questions privately or publicly, and unsubmit work.”
Faculty and students alike complain the new LMS's lack of efficiency. According to Melchinger, “the website require[s] more time for me to program, and the results aren't 100% clear. I think the Assignment Center is keeping some of my students on task with more confidence. But we don't know if it's really teaching students to organize their time better.” Jenny Gidicsin ’21 “dislike[s] how inefficient it is to get to assignment sheets, especially on [her] phone.”
While the new website does have a notifications option, some suggest that Classroom better performed that function. Cameron Murray ’22 is disappointed “that the website doesn’t tell students which teacher made an announcement when an email notification is sent out.” Resch agrees, saying the website “is less efficient at communication than Classroom notifications.”
The LMS demands signing in multiple times before accessing materials. Resch explained the inconvenience: “If I close my computer for a time, I don't need to click at all for Classroom to get back to the page whereas I have to sign back into the website and navigate back to the page I was on.” Sonnenfeld explained a similar tedious process when logging in on a smartphone, saying she, “ha[s] to mess around with the Hopkins website on Google, then sign in, then scroll through everything to look for a class, and then click on links to find assignment sheets that take you through a million different Google apps.” She hopes, though, that “a way to download a Hopkins app” could help.
Additionally, Classroom offers a specific grading feature the new website does not possess, as Taylor acknowledged: “There is one advantage to Google Classroom which is very important to teachers. That's the ability to comment and look at your work, and for that not to be seen by students until they are ready to hand them all back at all at once.” Melchinger, who writes “a lot of coaching comments on papers, like[s] Classroom's functions for dealing with comments on Google-Docs.” He continued, “I want writing to be a conversation about improvement, not just a grade-judgment dropping into a spreadsheet. That's a benefit I don't want to lose, so I chose to stick with Classroom for papers." Despite these setbacks, many appreciate, in the words of Jack Kealey ’21, the “easy to use” format of the LMS. Chavez agreed: “It’s so organized. My kids can find whatever they want, unlike Google Classroom, where you have to cursor back and try to find what was posted. It’s not a running feed; it’s a big bulletin board that everything is pinned to.” Additionally, all of Chavez’s materials from last year transferred to her current pages; thus, she doesn’t “have to remake the wheel.”
Taylor explained an additional feature that teachers felt strongly about: the website’s access to support from the Technology Department. “I can’t go into other
teachers’ Google Classroom pages. We have to be able to have a physical meeting, which I think we all know how difficult that is to schedule. With hopkins.edu, I can go in and fix it.”
Among students, online access to grades was a popular feature of the LMS. Some, like Spanish teacher and Head Adviser of the Class of 2021 Marie Doval, now allow students to see their grades online. Although aware of “how it could perhaps create a little more anxiety,“ she reported that her “small sampling [of students] likes it.” Zoe Smith ’21 appreciates this function, suggesting that it actually reduces “some of the stress of getting an assessment with a not-so-great
grade back by making [her] realize how little of an effect it really has.”
Taylor, for one, who “can already see an appreciation for unification growing,” is hopeful that students and faculty alike will understand the website’s functioning better in the future. “Even if you don’t love the interface, with the way our schedule works, you need to go there. And the more time you spend there for other things, the more familiar students are going to get, [so] it’s going to become easier to navigate.”