ALL NEWS

Meet the companies behind virtual learning: Canvas and Schoology

Oct 6, 2020, 7:57 AM | Updated: 8:07 am
back to school learning...
(FILE PHOTO)
(FILE PHOTO)

    (CNN) — Millions of students across the country wake up and start their school days by logging in to one of two online learning management systems: Canvas or Schoology.

It’s how teachers take attendance, how students submit their work and where parents check grades — and yet another thing families have had to adapt to in the new Covid remote reality.

Canvas and Schoology have emerged as the dominant players in this new elementary education world, thanks in part to money from Congress’ broad $2 trillion aid package that was set aside for schools.

Canvas struck deals with 10 states over the summer, including Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa, providing the service to each of their districts. In April, the number of Canvas users logged in at the same time peaked at 2.2 million. This fall, that number has skyrocketed to 6 million.

At Schoology, the transition to virtual learning drove up usage by 400% at the start of the pandemic. It saw another 600% increase after the state of Texas used the federal aid money to offer the service to all districts over the next two years.

“In March, we saw an overnight switch,” said Hardeep Gulati, the CEO of Schoology parent company PowerSchool.

Benefiting from the scramble to go remote

While Canvas and Schoology are new additions into the daily lives of many households with elementary children, both platforms have been around for about a decade.

School administrators say the systems are crucial for keeping students learning at home and in the classroom. Over the past six months, districts have scrambled to get everyone connected — and to make sure their new systems were secure and easy enough to use for teachers and stressed families.

Schoology is designed specifically for the K-12 sector while Canvas is used by K-12 and college students. They integrate with Zoom and Microsoft Teams for live instruction.

Canvas, which is owned by Instructure, was created in 2008 by Brigham Young University students frustrated with their own school’s online platform. Earlier this year it was acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

The company made layoffs during the acquisition process, but Instructure CEO Steve Daly, who started in July, says it’s ramping up to meet the new demand. This fall, the number of emails and calls from users looking for help with the program are triple than what the Canvas team expected.

“If everybody shows up at school and can’t get into Canvas, that would be really bad,” Daly said.

PowerSchool, which owns a suite of other services including systems for school HR and student registration, bought Schoology in late 2019. The company has hired 50 more people since March to help support Schoology.

PowerSchool and Instructure, both private companies, declined to say how much revenue has grown during the pandemic.

But it’s likely that millions of taxpayer dollars have gone to the two. Market analyst and consultant Phil Hill says that learning management systems like these charge between $5 and $10 per K-12 user.

Canvas and Schoology aren’t the only two players in the game, but Hill said they have the most to gain this fall as some schools are all virtual, some are hybrid, and others are teaching in-person but want to be prepared to shift online.

Canvas and Schoology had about a 20% and 15% share, respectively, of the K-12 market, before this fall, according to Hill. The other top services, Moodle and Google Classrooms, are open source and can be used for free.

Competing against Google

Teachers, familiar with Google’s other products, sometimes opt for Google Classroom regardless of whether their districts told them to or not. Some schools, like one in Alabama, decided in September to use Google Classroom rather than train teachers on Schoology, which the state provides.

“In K-12, a lot of teachers want Google Classroom,” Hill said, “but it’s not a full learning management system.”

Still, students and parents would have also welcomed something a little more familiar. Many schools had special training sessions for parents and posted instructions online. Roselle Public Schools in New Jersey tried to troubleshoot problems on Facebook during the first week of school. “This link didn’t work for my daughter,” posted one frustrated parent, adding, “Tomorrow will be the 3rd day my daughter can’t get into Schoology.”

But ensuring that all students have access to an equal education during the pandemic was one of the reasons states like Texas decided to spend aid money from Congress on a two-year contract with Schoology.

“We really wanted to make sure there was no barrier to accessing a learning management system, to make sure our districts with a large number of low-income students don’t fall behind,” said Lily Laux, the deputy commissioner of school programs at the Texas Education Agency.

She said that throughout the spring, the districts that seemed to be having an easier time with the transition already had a learning management system in place.

The move could save local school districts $40 million over two years, according to the Texas Education Agency. About half of the state’s 1,200 districts have signed up with Schoology or are close to doing so. The state also used funding to make sure students had their own devices and could connect to the internet.

Administrators at the Coppell Independent School District in Texas say using Schoology has made it much easier to adapt to the new reality. Students there spent the first few weeks at home this fall before transitioning to a hybrid model.

Teachers and staff are using Schoology to track engagement for both the in-person and virtual learners. Plus, teachers across the 18-school district can share recorded lessons and Schoology-tailored assignments.

“It is still new and there are challenges, but it would be an even bigger struggle if we didn’t have these systems in place,” said Angela Applegate, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Coppell.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that PowerSchool has hired 50 more people since March to help support Schoology.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

A west valley police car is pictured. Police are investigating a hit and run...
Mark Jones

Fire in West Valley City home contained to one room in basement

A fire inside a West Valley City home Friday was contained to one room in the basement, according to fire officials on scene.
20 hours ago
Authorities in Washington County are investigating the discovery of the body of a 36-year-old man e...
Mark Jones

Staff member at school in southern Utah arrested for alleged sexual abuse

A 22-year-old staff member of a school in southern Utah was arrested Thursday by the Washington County Sheriff's Office for alleged sexual abuse.
20 hours ago
President John F. Kennedy signs the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Cente...
Curt Gresseth

Is forcing the homeless into treatment the answer?

NYC Mayor Eric Adams has announced a program that involuntarily treats homeless people in "psychiatric crisis." A BYU psychologist weighs the New York approach against the ethics of patient autonomy.
20 hours ago
NBA Ice Buckets...
Devin Oldroyd

NBA fans invited to show “ice in their veins” at NBA Ice Buckets challenge

The NBA and Utah Jazz invite you to play NBA Ice Buckets, a free-to-play indoor basketball shooting challenge at Trolley Square.
20 hours ago
Both Utah rail workers and Utah farmers expressed relief that a threatened rail strike was averted ...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Union Pacific, Utah farmers, relieved threat of strike has passed

Union Pacific Railroad representatives said claims about days off, made by workers threatening to strike, were outright false.
20 hours ago
Police in Moscow, Idaho say that a person listed on the lease of the house where 4 students were fo...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Mallika Kallingal, CNN

Moscow police say 6th person on lease isn’t involved in Idaho homicides

The four Idaho homicide victims were found stabbed to death on November 13 in an off-campus house in the college town.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Meet the companies behind virtual learning: Canvas and Schoology