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We are designing an app for middle school teachers that will help them take attendance and view student attendance trends.



1. Attendance

This app is targeted toward teachers and group organizers, however its features and interface make it appear to be geared more toward college instructors or businesspeople. This app allows users to import groups from their address book, customize the status (absent, tardy, etc) fields, send emails to students, and keep track of students' grades. The customizability makes this app good for power users, but the richness of features--combined with a confusing navigation and interface--might make this app difficult for beginners. We hope to design our app to have simple features and zero learning curve. Also, we plan on including attendance trend visualizations over time, a feature lacking in this app.

2. iGrade for Teachers

iGrade is geared specifically for teachers, and its colorful interface and varied grading options make it seem like it's directed toward elementary and middle school teachers more so than high school teachers or college instructors. This app is mainly designed for entering students' grades and analyzing their progress in a class. It also keeps contact info so the user can get in touch with parents by phone or email. What attendance features it has seems to be limited to manually entering in total absences and tardies for each student, rather than aggregating daily tallies as our app will do. The interface on iGrade is easy to use and navigate, but the graphic design is a bit juvenile. The direct email/call features for contacting parents or students is a nice feature that we could incorporate into our app for use in scheduling attendance-related parent/teacher conferences.

3. Attendance IQ

Attendance IQ is a simple, powerful app for keeping track of attendance for classes, meetings, sports practices, or any event where attendance is relevant. This app is geared toward any user who ever needs to record attendance, which of course includes our target user group of middle school teachers. There aren't any extra features in this app besides attendance-recording (such as grade books, etc), but there are many easily customizable options within this singular tool, such as customizable statuses (like tardy, sick, etc), and the ability to add people to rosters from your contacts list. This app does allow for viewing data on attendance trends over time, but it does not provide any graphical visualization of this data. Admittedly, this app contains most of the general functionality that we had hoped to achieve in our app, therefore we may tailor our app even more toward the specific needs of middle school teachers, by adding features such as behavior tracking (see summary below for more details).

4. Work Log

Work Log is an app designed for freelancers who wish to keep track of the exact hours they have worked. This app is basically a stopwatch that links elapsed time to a billing rate, and organizes and aggregates work hours by date or by client. This is not an attendance app for teachers, however it does incorporate precise time data and log it over longer time periods. Functionality like this can be used in our app by logging exactly how late a student is to class (provided that the teacher marks the student present the moment they enter the room), as well as using the current time of day to set the default screen to the roster of the current class period. Also, the calendar views in Work Log might be good prototypes for similar displays in our own app for viewing a student's monthly attendance records at a glance.

5. Educate 2.0

Educate is another all-in-one app for teachers. Like others of its kind, this app has more features than necessary (web bookmarks, voice memo recorder), which, combined with an ugly user interface, results in an intimidating and uninviting app. One nice feature, however, is the ability to sync with google docs (presumably for grade logging). The app claims to have attendance records capabilities, however it appears that this is not a dedicated feature and is lumped in with the google docs syncability feature. Our app is more dedicated to attendance records, and so has very little overlap with this app's functionality. We are looking into the feature of syncing our app with a school system's computer records, but in lieu of this the google docs syncing might be a practical alternative.

6. TimeLocker

TimeLocker is an attendance app for teachers that relies on a companion website to store all of the class and roster data. This app appears to have the same target user group as our app. The reliance on a website makes this app somewhat time-consuming to use, although on the other hand setting up class rosters is likely easier to do on a computer than on the iPhone itself. This app requires a login and password to use, which, though useful in guarding against mischievous students, in practice could become a hassle for teachers who have to record attendance in a hurry. The methods for recording time in/time out of students (as opposed to a straightforward present/absent/tardy) are difficult to use. The worst part of this app though is the graphic design. The colors, fonts, and general layout is ugly, juvenile, and makes the app come off as unprofessional and cheap. The main relevance of this app to our own app is that it is an example of how bad interface design decisions can cause an app to fail.

7. School Connect

School Connect is a school records and attendance app geared toward students and parents rather than teachers. This app is designed to sync with a school's student information system, so that parents and students can keep tabs on a student's grades, due dates, and attendance records in real time. Although the target user group for this app does not overlap with ours, this app accomplishes a main goal we have for our app, which is to synchronize with the school's information system. Ideally users of our own attendance app would be able to upload attendance records and download class rosters directly to and from the school's student information system at the tap of a button. Perhaps we can learn how to do this by studying School Connect or by contacting its developers.

8. SchoolAxis

SchoolAxis, like School Connect, is an app for parents which displays grade, schedule, and attendance data for a particular student directly from the school's student information system--in this case specifically the AERIES student information system. This app again does not overlap with our target user group, however it has a lovely, simple interface that we may wish to learn from in designing our own interface. The highlight of this is the days-at-a-glance view of student attendance. This displays the student's attendance records for each period of each day, in scrollable list format.

9. SchoolDoc

SchoolDoc is a German-made app that is an all-in-one tool for teachers. It has a simple design that appears easy to use, and has the novel feature of tracking time-sensitive events, such as overdue permission slips from parents. The two reasons this app should not compete with ours is that it costs $19.99 and that the entire app appears to be written in German. This app also fails to show attendance records over time, a feature that we intend to implement in our app.

10. Teacher's Pick

Teacher's Pick is an app that helps teachers create random groups for students to work in. Though not an attendance app, this app does have a simple, straightforward interface that lists the students in a class along with their status (in a group or not in a group). The status can be toggled with a tap. This is very similar to the design we have in mind for part of our attendance app, only instead of toggling between "in a group" and "not in a group," we will be toggling between "present," "absent," and "tardy." In addition, we have discussed adding a feature to our app for creating randomized groups, so this app could be one to look at as a model for this particular feature.


The features we had originally planned for our attendance app included:

  • functionality limited just to attendance taking (less is more)
  • targeted toward middle school teachers
  • clean design
  • attendance trend visualizations
  • time-based functionality
    • automatically setting home screen to the current class period
    • recording how late students are based on the time they are marked present
  • syncing data with the school's student information system

Most of these features can be found in the existing teacher-targeted apps outlined above. However no existing app offers time-based attendance functionality or graphical visualizations of attendance trends. Also, the only apps that can sync with actual school student information systems are designed for parental access to view student information, not for teacher access to record student information. Some features that apps had that we may want to copy include storing of parental contact info for one-touch calling or emailing, customizable attendance statuses, and randomized group generation.

One app, Attendance IQ, had very similar functionality to our original idea. Though Attendance IQ is missing a few desired features, it is similar enough to warrant looking for alternative functionality of our app to set it apart in the marketplace. In particular, there is nothing about our existing app design that specifically targets middle school teachers over other teachers. (This lack of specificity also exists in the market at large, and so a more specific target user group would set our app apart immediately.) One possibility for specificity is to target a specific school or school district. For example, King Middle School in Berkeley uses a very organized system for recording students' in-class behavior, and this data is linked to attendance and recorded at the end of each class period. Putting this system in an app could streamline the teachers' jobs and provide more accurate records of student behavior and attendance as well. The Berkeley Unified School District also uses one standard student information system, called PowerSchool. We could make our app specific to BUSD users (and other PowerSchool users) by allowing our app to sync directly with that system.

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