Actively Learn vs. LightSail

Here at Actively Learn, we encourage students to take into account the author's bias when analyzing a text. In weighing ourselves against LightSail, we are obviously not an impartial jury. However, we're often asked how we differ from LightSail, so here is our take. 



LightSail offers robust independent reading tools that rely on Lexile as the primary method to provide texts and measure student growth. It evaluates students to figure out their reading level and pairs them with "just right" texts that students can read with great accuracy on their own. These texts have embedded assessments to track student progress by Lexile levels. LightSail recommends new texts based on the student's reading ability.

LightSail is a great resource for time-strapped ELA teachers who want demonstrated Lexile growth using a diverse reading library from which students can read independently.


Actively Learn

Actively Learn offers a comprehensive reading platform that relies on interactions between students, teachers, and texts to drive learning. Our approach is to let the teacher guide curricular reading, promote student collaboration, and cultivate intrinsic motivation to read. We allow teachers across subjects to implement best practices for improving reading comprehension.

Actively Learn is a great resource for teachers across subjects who want their students reading texts more deeply in a social learning environment and exploring high quality nonfiction on their own.


Summary of Key Differences



‍Students discussing a text in an annotation thread in Actively Learn. 

The emphasis on collaboration drives deeper learning.Actively Learn enables students to read challenging texts with scaffolding. Our goal is to have students thinking deeply about texts that are relevant to their coursework and of interest to them. We want students to discuss the ideas in those texts and to construct knowledge by making connections across ideas, challenging assumptions, and thinking critically. 

The leveling promoted by LightSail limits deeper learning by focusing exclusively on multiple-choice assessment. The construction of knowledge, the development of communication skills, and writing growth are not emphasized in the LightSail model; students read so that they can choose the right pre-created answer and advance to the next Lexile level. 



Here at Actively Learn, we don't believe that a focus on assessment and Lexile measures encourages lifelong reading. We want students to read because they see value in the text, discover new ideas, and have the opportunity to share their insights with their classmates. This is why our focus is on collaboration and learning as opposed to mere assessment.

Students who use Actively Learn look forward to class reading because they can interact with their teacher and classmates. They can debate, ask questions, offer insights, and engage with their scholarly community. 

LightSail motivates students through ongoing assessment. This sort of extrinsic motivation gets students to read, but it misses the purpose and pleasure of reading. Furthermore, points-based rewards have been shown to produce only temporary results: in the absence of assessment, students conditioned to read for a Lexile grade see no reason to engage in a text.



‍We allow teachers to upload their own content.

Actively Learn believes that the choice of text should be determined by relevance and interest rather than Lexile. In order to expand the selection of texts that are available to teachers and students, we allow our users to import their own content into our platform. If there's an internet article, PDF, or Google doc that students will find compelling and that supports the material they are studying, they should be encouraged to read it rather than being limited only to leveled texts.



While LightSail provides only ELA texts and current events, Actively Learn encourages deep reading across the curriculum, including science textbooks and primary source documents for history. Because we believe that annotating, collaborating, answering thoughtful questions, and checking for understanding are essential to the reading and learning process, we want students to integrate those practices into all of their subjects and deepen their learning across the curriculum. 



Because of our emphasis on content knowledge as the backbone of reading comprehension, our questions are directly tied to the specific themes and concepts found in the text. You will never find a generic question like, "Which of the following sentences best summarizes the main idea of this article?" in our instructional content. What you will find are questions that are written by educators who are familiar with the works and want students to dig deeper into the ideas presented. 

‍An example of a contextually relevant question in Actively Learn.
‍An example of a comprehension question in LightSail. 


Teaching great content depends on a teacher's ability to engage students in discussion, make connections across ideas that are meaningful to them, and provide effective feedback. We think that teachers know their students best and should have ultimate control over how they teach. This is why we give teachers the option to create their own instruction within Actively Learn, use our pre-created content, or modify anything they like to suit their instructional goals. We've found that the teacher's personalized instruction does a better job of driving student interest and aligning to the objectives of a particular course than generic pre-created content.


With LightSail, teachers are limited to the instruction created by the application. They can choose to turn the assessments on or off, but they cannot personalize the embedded assessments or align them to the specific themes of a given course.


Is Actively Learn right for you?

To learn more about our benefits, check out the homepage. Also find more details on How It Works and overview videos in Resources. Or create a free account and see how we help you make learning meaningful for all students.