eChalk: An All-In-One LMS and Website Platform Just for K-12
John Aiello, CEO & Daniel Watts, Co-Founder and Chair
eChalk’s mission is to develop simple, intuitive tools to support the ways K-12 teachers are using technology in the classroom today. “Schools have reached a critical mass with technology that makes truly transformative classroom models a possibility now,” says Dave Milne, Vice President of Product and Technology. “Our goal is to support emerging models for teaching and learning such as flipped classrooms, bring-your-own-device or 1:1 initiatives, and blended learning.”
To that end, they have built a new LMS focused solely on the K-12 experience. That means paying attention to things like privacy, security and ease of use, and focusing on the features that are most useful for K-12 teachers and students. “Some LMS platforms are really just a homework drop box and a social news feed. Other systems are full of all kinds of bells and whistles designed for higher ed and distance learning, but are overcomplicated for a K-12 environment. The challenge is to find the right set of tools to support the things K-12 teachers actually want to do, like flipping the classroom, online lesson delivery and content sharing,” says Laura Sammons, Director of Marketing for eChalk.
eChalk was an early pioneer in education technology. The company was founded in 1999 to respond to emerging needs for school websites, student-safe email and classroom communication tools. Since then, they have continued to expand their product capabilities, and currently have one million users in more than 2,000 schools across 37 states. Two years ago, they decided to do something dramatic: retire their legacy product and build a new platform from scratch. “We realized that to meet emerging needs, we had to start over. The new system is built using cutting-edge technology infrastructure and modern best practices for user interface, design and functionality. It’s a flexible, modern platform that we will be able to continue to build on and adapt as technology and classroom practices change,” explains Milne.
An LMS should improve teaching and learning and enable classroom practices that aren’t possible without it
Supporting the move to mobile is a big focus for the company. “A lot of existing systems were not designed with mobile access in mind. Some companies get around this by building a special mobile app, but this often looks different and has less functionality than the desktop version. “We are building truly platform-agnostic applications that can be used and access from anywhere,” says Milne.
eChalk lets teachers create and manage assignments, deliver online lessons, and manage and curate content for their classes. In eChalk Learn!, teachers can create step-by-step online lessons that combine video, documents, text, images and simple assignments or assessments. They can also create lesson plans that can be shared with co-teachers. The LMS also includes:
• Class and section management tools
• Assignment management tools
• Online discussion tools
• Class news feeds and calendars
• A class resource library
• Personal calendars and tools
With eChalk, you get an LMS, a website and content management platform, and group communication and management tools all in one place. Sammons explains, “In the K-12 environment, school is much more than a collection of individual classes. Teams, clubs, the School Board, the PTA, academic departments and professional learning communities are also important parts of the school ecosystem. We pull everything together in an easy, mobile-friendly application that includes everything you need, all in one place!”.
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