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*Greenhouse is a closed community for members of Greenhills School
Greenhouse is a custom learning management system (LMS) with social media aspects built by Zengenuity for Greenhills School. Greenhills is an Independent school in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is home to over five hundred students 6th grade and up. The school wanted to create an online portal that provided a safe and controlled environment for its teachers & students to use in the classroom while also allowing parents to become more involved.
There are many different types of users such as:
As well as other community members involved in the school district.
Greenhouse is structured into three main areas - schools, classes, and groups. First, students are separated into either the middle or the upper school based on their age and grade level. Then, students and faculty are additionally assigned to their classes based on their schedules. All users also have the opportunity to join user-created groups based on their interests or the organizations they are involved in. Greenhouse currently has a wide variety of groups for different clubs, student organizations, study groups or group projects, as well as some fun groups for friends.
After looking at the different learning management systems available, Greenhills decided to use Drupal to create their own website for a variety of reasons.
• Teachers have the flexibility to change their class page as needed. With Drupal each teacher can organize their class pages based on their subjects and specific teaching styles by enabling the features they want to use. For example, teachers can assign and collect assignments, give online quizzes, and have their students write blogs or participate in forum discussions online.
• The ability to use permissions. User permissions can be set depending on the type of user. For example, parents can only see content that relates to their own children. The creator of a group (or the teacher of a class) can assign permissions specific to their group, such as how users join the group and who can and cannot post content.
• Ease of use and small learning curve for new users. Drupal is easy for users of all ages to navigate through the site even if they have no IT experience. Greenhouse is very user friendly since it is similar to social media sites.
• Easily updatable with new additions to the website. The ability for the site to be easily updated with minimal downtime is critical. Greenhouse must be able to evolve with the needs of the school district without disrupting the day-to-day usage of the site. Major updates are tackled over the summer.
Goals and Requirements
• Greenhouse has to be a controlled environment that is secure and complies with laws for creating online accounts for under aged children.
• Due to the sheer number of users needed there has to be an efficient way to create new accounts and update their relationships (i.e. Classes, Teachers, and Advisors) as schedules change or with a new semester.
• Each teacher should be able to organize their class pages based on their subjects and specific teaching styles by enabling the features they want to use and reuse assignment from previous years.
• Students must be able to create an E-portfolio for college applications of their best assignments throughout their high school career.
• Parents should have the ability to easily check up on their students’ academic progress throughout the school year.
• Greenhouse must be able to evolve with the needs of the school district without disrupting the day-to-day usage.
• Greenhouse is a safe, “sandbox” experience for its students. The students at Greenhills are able to create an online presence and learn about digital citizenship in a controlled environment. Any mistakes students make, such as giving out personal information or posting ridiculous comments, are used as teachable moments about the permanence of the web and won’t follow them around.
• Automatic updates of accounts and relationships. Accounts and relationships are not manually created. Instead, user accounts for the site are automatically updated from the school's administrative database using a synchronization script that interfaces with the Services module on Greenhouse. Any changes that occur to the database, such as when a student makes changes to their class schedule, are updated nightly so that the next morning, the student has access to their new class pages on Greenhouse.
• Students can easily put together an E-Portfolio. All assignments submitted through Greenhouse are saved so that students can create their own personal e-portfolio and writing samples of their best work to submit with their college applications.
• Teachers can roll forward assignments from previous years. Similarly, Greenhouse’s archive system gives teachers access to every assignment and resource they've ever posted. Teachers can search for previous content by class, title, type and date and then choose to re-post the content to any or all of their current classes. Greenhouse even automatically updates the assignment dates into the current year, saving the teacher from having to spend the time to recreate repeated assignments every semester.
• Greenhouse is mobile friendly. Greenhills has seen an increase in the amount of mobile access of their site by parents and students. To make it easier for mobile users to access the site, Greenhouse was changed to use a liquid layout when it was updated to Drupal 7.