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It's no secret that Apple products go hand-in-hand with education. In fact, for many Generation Xers, an Apple was the first computer ever seen in their classroom (shout out to the IIe!). With regular discounts for teachers and students, Apple products are the perfect back to school gift. And once you get back to school, time to hit the books and keep up that GPA. And here's some apps to help you do just that.
Tapity's Apple Design Award winner, Grades 2, is an advance over its predecessor, Grades 1, and the app developers are looking at bringing even more functionality to this little app that could.
The Facebook f creeps our grades out
To begin with, Grades 2 is rock solid gorgeous (although the looming Facebook "f" on the open screen is a bit of a bad omen). A lovely light wood background and a nicely intuitive interface make it easy to get started. Plus, a few hip education types pop out of the woodwork to give you cool tips on working the app.
Thanks for the tip, dawg
Tap the + in the upper right corner to add classes, and once that's done tap a plus under each class to "Add Syllabus Item." Unfortunately, you have to add these either one at a time or completely tallied up (and this latter option will evenly divvy out whatever point total these assignment types add up to). But once you have a list, tap the little clock icon next to the name of your quizzes, exams, or what have you, and schedule a due date for your assignment.
No due date, dude? F'real?
Back on the classes screen, pull down the shade to see your list of upcoming assignments for the week. Unfortunately at this time, there aren't any alarms or push notifications so the feature is nice for an overview if not terrifically helpful. Again, it's free, so lacking features isn't really something you can complain much about.
Give us notifications, or give us death, lol j/k
Grades 2 shoots for a target grade of 90% (lowest A in many places) though this can be upped or lowered depending on your expectations and willingness to work. The app also features a GPA calculator, but it requires you to fill in the information, as opposed to autofilling it from the grades you add elsewhere. Hopefully, future versions will calculate and share that data.
Notifications aren't a problem when it comes to Grades TS Pro by Track & Share Apps, LLC, as we had plenty of badge counters (or “bage” as it was put in the app). The only problem we had was determining what the heck they were for.
No A for proofreading
In fact, we had difficulties figuring out lots of what Grades TS Pro did. Across the bottom of the screen are five buttons: Screens, Graph, Track, Share, and More. More delivered up a bevy of additional data points to track apart from your grades such as did you play games in class, did you have homework, did you take notes, did you pay attention, and did you study. All of this is interesting data, but how much some of it is directly correlative to grades we're not prepared to say.
Lots of data, but none of it well presented
Speculative nature aside, Grades TS Pro hopes to track every aspect and habit of your class attendance and track for patterns of behavior that map to patterns of grading. We think. Again, the app is light on explication and familiar landmarks. It is also has icons and commands that aren't incredibly illuminating.
We can edit this list, but only to change the order
You tap the calendar day to make a new entry and it starts with F as the default grade (not much faith there, Track & Share). Flick through to find your correct approximate letter grade. This isn't precisely helpful to determining percentages, nor does there appear to be a way to adjust the ratios. The fine grain graph of your grade development is hard to determine much from, whether in iPhone or iPad form.
It's all just the same small confusing screens mushed together
We also found it difficult to move from Graph to Track to Screens with any kind of information carry over. In fact, it didn't seem much like you were anywhere at all in the app, checking data here, graphing it there, and setting up some kind of screens somewhere.
Flick Grade Biology up or down to switch classes
When we closed the app, we saw it badged with a 6 count. What that six stood for we couldn't say. Was it due assignments or low performance in certain classes? We don't know. We hadn't entered any assignments because the calendar is just for tracking, not for planning. Maybe. We could turn off these badges, but a grade book app that doesn't even make normal sense should probably be avoided.
Sometimes there are apps you just know about the moment you open them up. iStudiez Pro from the iStudiez Team has such a pleasing interface that we knew they got it right from the first glance. The app can pull from your native Calendar app to organize your schedule (though you can turn this off or select which calendars it will use).
Nice integration of Calendars
On the iPhone, four screen buttons populate the app’s bottom, but packed into each of those individual screens are tons of functionality. On the iPad, they're laid out differently, though still just as beautiful. The app opens on the Today page which alerts you to your immediate obligations. Items pulled from the iOS calendar have a date pad icon, and when you add your own classes, you can set the iStudiez icon to one of 32 different types for easy recognition.
What is due and when?
Tap the calendar button to see your month view. It resembles the Calendar app's, but with more power. Dots on certain days mean events and can be color coded to match your calendar. Do you have an assignment coming up? That day of the week in month view will have a paperclip on it to remind you. Exams get little red flags. Tap on an item in the view pane at the bottom to see specific information about the class you've inputted elsewhere (time, days of the week, room number, notes, the instructor's name, and more).
Quizzes and exams on same days, boo hiss
The Assignment and Planner button are where iStudiez Pro really flexes its muscles. When creating assignments, you can set alarms and due dates, type a description of the work, and even add partners (which the app can pull from your iOS contacts in another nice piece of integration). All your assignments can be sorted by priority, course, or due date.
Pick your partner straight from your contacts or create a new contact
Planner lets you arrange your classes by semester, make an address book of your professors, and even schedule yourself some holiday time. Here you also set up your courses so you can do all the stuff we’ve already talked about. And you're not just limited to classes. Arrange a lab, a lecture, a study group, or add a category all your own.
Gorgeous calendar and just packed with functions
Of course, adding all this data on the iPhone is a bit tedious, but you don't always carry your iPad with you. Luckily for you, the developers will let you sync your data across devices so you get the ease of adding items on the big screen and the convenience of always having your schedule in your pocket. Heck, iStudiez is so feature rich, it might just replace your Calendar app.
Even when Grades TS Pro went big screen on the iPad it was still confusing, poorly laid out, and even more poorly explained. Sure, you can track a lot of data using this app, but the kind of people interested in this fine grain info are probably already good students. D-
Grades 2 rocks pretty hard for a free app. It's gorgeous to look at and easy and fun to use, but still rather limited in its functionality. Kick it up out of the freebie category and put a couple more designers on staff and this app could be a prime contender. B+
iStudiez Pro is that student who knows all the answers but doesn't come off as insufferable, is always ready to help out classmates, turns in work on time, does the extra credit, and brings in an apple for the teacher. Beautiful, fully functional, with everything you need in a class tracking app, iStudiez Pro feels like something Apple would have designed themselves if they'd set their minds to it. A+++