How I Use It
I developed a homework assignment through Actively Learn, and I was surprised at how well received it was by students. You create layers to the assignment, so I was able to create questions (multiple choice or free response) that were embedded as the students read. My students loved that the questions stopped them and made them think, and they also liked that they were embedded near the content corresponding to question. As well as creating questions, teachers can also put notes to videos, websites, definitions in the side marker. I used this to add review for terminology students might need for the questions, for example, links to videos about irony. I also used this to put my thoughts to model my own thinking to the class. The students can also flag parts of the text they do not understand and annotate the text on line (they can decide to submit their comments to the class or keep them private). For my classes, they loved the questions as gateway function, and they also loved seeing the other student responses, but they would rather be anonymous to each other. Actively Learn allows you to change these features in the settings menu. I would make sure to get it running in the classroom. You have to make sure they have paragraph numbering on, they know how to flag, and you make them familiar with the rubrics and how you will grade them on the assignment.
Actively learn requires little set up, and I didn't find it time consuming to create an assignment. The data received was perfect. Even in the free version, I could see which students were struggling, I could see which question each class struggled to answer effectively, and I could assign and receive feedback easily. The students asked more questions because they could see which questions they did not perform well on. It led to great discussions of each chapter. Some drawbacks I found were to be careful how many questions you embed into the assignment. You have the choice of bulk grading as a function, but then you miss out on the great feedback that can inform your instruction. At times the program did "think" a lot. The paid version requires you to go through hoops just to get a meeting to consider a purchase, and while most districts may be able to afford the price for the paid, I found it to be expensive for our school district. I believe you would gain access to how your students perform by standard, which would be awesome. The free version has tons of promise, and I will continue to experiment with it throughout the year.