Group Assignments

Group Assignments

Evolving hypotheses

Teachers and curriculum specialists often assign group projects within their classrooms. Teachers use group projects as one of the tools to teach collaboration and other skills often associated with Personalized Learning. When in groups, students work with their group members collaboratively, and submit one final assignment or project together.

Teachers needed a way to create and manage these groups and group assignments within the Schoology platform. It was important for them to not only manage these assignments but to comment and grade for the group as well as for individual students.

Despite high demand from the community, Schoology did not have any support for groups or group assignments within the product, forcing users into workarounds and to use other features to reach their goals.


The Challenge

  • Schoology did not have a method to apply a single submission to multiple students.

  • The scope was limited, for technical reasons, to design the feature only for Schoology’s regular assignments, and not for their Learning Tools Interoperability (LIT) supported assignments (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, etc).

  • Teachers needed a way to automatically build groups from their student lists, as well as the ability manually override the generated groupings.

  • Schoology’s grading functionality didn’t provide a practical user experience for grading groups, forcing teachers and students to use manual workarounds.


The Opportunities

  • Create a workflow that helps teachers grade efficiently for large groups.  

  • Enhance workflows for teachers who use a variety of materials for group assignments (Schoology text editor, Google Docs, Microsoft word etc).

  • Increase instructor satisfaction with our grade book and assignments by allowing them to assign students to work on assignments in groups and to give them the ability to manage and grade submissions for the whole group.

  • Provide options for randomly creating groups as well as individually assigning them.

Initial Hypothesis

Since not all school have access to Google or Microsoft tools, but all schools have access to Schoology built in assignments, by implementing the Group assignments features in Schoology native assignment interface, we will get full utilization across all districts. We will know this to be true, when we see all accounts adopting the feature. How did we arrive to this hypothesis?

Since August 1, 2017:

  • Teachers at 2,069 unique Enterprise schools visited or interacted with a "regular" assignment, compared with teachers at 1,063 unique Enterprise Schools who had visited an LTI Assignment.

  • 249,000 unique teachers (free and enterprise) had interacted with a "regular" assignment vs 35,200 unique teachers who had interacted with an LTI assignment.

The data indicated that immediate reach of the feature would be much greater if implemented in "regular" assignments rather than LTI assignments.


What we didn’t know was why and how, so we dug deeper.
We conducted additional research to answer the following questions:

  • What happens once the group is created?

  • How do they manage group assignments today? Why?

  • Where do communications happen?

  • When would teachers create a group assignment?

  • How do they decide the groups?

  • What actions does the instructor need to perform in order to get a group assignment up and running?

We conducted a series of interviews and collected enough information to create context scenarios followed by high level user flows.


Surprisingly, a majority of our customers mentioned that they were leveraging Google Drive for group assignments in their current, manual workflows. They liked how Google’s collaboration features simplified their work. Many customers said that they wanted to continue to work with Google Drive and it would be a must for using group assignments inside of Schoology, as their district used Google tools for all communications. Many of these districts were the Enterprise customers who provided the bulk of Schoology’s revenue.

This was an ongoing conversation we were having with users, so we thought “does it make sense to build this without Google Drive?” Is our initial hypothesis incorrect?

We conducted some additional qualitative research to focus on the tools and the reasons why they used those tools.


What We Learned

  • 47% of users we tested on preferred to use Google Drive as their main group assignment tool. 29% would use the regular assignments and 21% would use a combination of Google assignments and regular assignments for different reasons.

  • Teachers liked using Google Drive, because the editing history let them track progress and collaboration, their students were often using Chromebooks and were already familiar with Google applications and had their own accounts.

  • Teachers were doing group assignments informally in the classroom. Students worked on an essay together on Google docs, or another sharing platform, but submitted a copy of the assignment individually through Schoology.

  • Students created a Google document and shared it within their group so that they could work collaboratively, answer questions and collect data. When they were finished, one person submitted it for the group.

  • Teachers gave a grade to one student in the group first, then went through the students within the same group and gave them the same grade in Schoology’s gradebook.


All this took us to a new hypothesis

Because most Enterprise and Enterprise Plus schools use Google or Microsoft tools, by implementing Group Project features in Schoology in the LTI, Google/MSFT interface, we will get full utilization on high revenue districts and ensure this becomes a selling point. We will know this to be true, when we see all Enterprise accounts adopting the feature and we see Enterprise Sales increasing.


Next Steps

  • Create new workflows that enable Google and Microsoft.

  • Design MVP and scope for the next school year.

  • Work with engineering and product to get on the roadmap for 2019.