By Sean Richards

Tags:

We recently sent out an email to a few of our Schoolbox clients to ask for their input based on the new Schoolbox mobile module. The email contained some screenshots of the platform currently in development along with some basic information and an overview of it’s intended capabilities. As you can imagine we received feedback and we felt it best to share the questions and our responses with the community.

Q: Just a bit of background to iOS — As everyone is aware that the iOS is a sandbox platform and from the screenshots in the PDF it demonstrates that the Schoolbox Mobile is on the “consume” side of the LMS as I have not seen any “creation” aspect to Schoolbox the LMS side, in the sense of students contributing to the Class via the Dropbox or submission of assessment. Is this going to be options in the Schoolbox Mobile?

Christopher Cohen: Thanks for your response regarding Schoolbox Mobile (SBM). As the lead front-end developer and as I’ve contributed heavily on the user experience  of the project, it’s always nice to see some interest and feedback. As you noted, SBM is currently consumption based. As SBM is being developed and tested on a number devices, this is not just because of iOS constraints.

Our main target platforms are Android and iOS, but SBM is also being tested on Blackberry and may be released for Windows Phone 8 when it becomes available. As such, some functionality such as downloading and submitting documents will depend on the platform limitations, which unfortunately we cannot do anything about.

The actual reason the first release will be read-only, is you can’t edit a book if you can’t read the book first. As such we’re trying to get as much useful information displaying as possible so we are able to launch SBM, before adding editing capabilies. Nevertheless we fully intend on porting as much if not all of Schoolbox’s functionality into the mobile version, and this certainly includes the ability to add and edit items, and access and submit files where the device permits.

Sean Richards: SBM  is a mobile web app, not an iOS app or other native mobile app. It will be accessed via the web browser on each mobile device, so it works in basically every mobile device. It’s also just round one, so it will get better with feedback and people using the system.

James Leckie: Mobile devices are not necessarily very good at making content, except photos and video at the moment.  In the future we hope to support uploading photos and video.

Q: The screen view that is in the PDF outlines the views of the news and class information in a format that suits a mobile device. Does this warrant a a mobile specific version of  Schoolbox? Could this not be achieved by the accessing the same information through the view of the Safari Browser, which then presents to the students a standardised approach to the Schoolbox LMS?

Christopher Cohen: Ultimately most of Schoolbox will be available through Schoolbox Mobile, with Timetable, Calendar, Subjects, Groups, and Due Work slated for the initial version. The Schoolbox web application is not optimised for mobile devices, hence the development of a specific mobile interface. The mobile interface is heavily optimised for small screens and slow connections, and caches all content for offline access. So not only can a user access everything in their Schoolbox on their mobile devices, but they can do it faster, with less clicks, and even when not connected to the internet.

James Leckie: We understand mobile is the future for information consumption so we wanted to make sure students had information available on their devices. The difference between the web app and the mobile app is that the mobile is specifically designed for touch.  So we take advantage of user interface elements that can use touch based gestures making a more usable experience and natural experience for mobile users.  We also taking advantage of the always on quick to access nature of the phone to provide access to basic information in your pocket without loading up your computer or browsing through a complicated navigation system.

Q: How about integrating Whiteboard options like Blackboard has that enables students to collaborate with teachers through a whiteboard space?

James Leckie: We have been investigating some solutions and it’s definitely something we are interested in moving towards.

Sean Richards: We’ve been looking at whiteboard options too recently and really like this concept as a future asset to SB. The calendar is also currently being completely re-written to support integration with a range of calendar formats.

Christopher Cohen: I know it’s an idea that has been tossed about previously, so its certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for the future. All ideas we get are considered, so please do keep us informed of any features you’d like to see in the future.

Q: Can the functions of the Calendar be extended to cater for students to have the options to create their own calendar events with reminders and email options — so the LMS becomes also a “College organiser” or “College Diary” that will go well with student and having their mobile device / BYOD as an integrated device for College life

Christopher Cohen: Students can, I believe, already add events and we’ll be working on trying to simplify and encourage this kind of behaviour through the SBM interfaces.

Q: We feel more development could go into the existing Blog Module in the Schoolbox web app. This could include adding photos so that when commenting on a blog post, additionally to the names of users, their photo is displayed next to the comment like Facebook. This may be more in tune with the current culture of the student mindset and hopefully will make them use the system more.

Matt Sambell: As lead creative working on SBM and the 12.5 web application I can confirm that we are adding user profile pics to the 12.5 desktop release. These user profile pics will be for news article authors, user activity within feeds, as well as used to create more graphical user ID Cards that will see user pic along with their name. The desktop interface designs for 12.5 are in development and once we launch 12.5 later this year we will begin to bring these interface improvements across to the mobile app. The mobile app will be first launched without profile pics (I think at this stage, cannot confirm) and have them added shortly after.

James Leckie: Students can currently create their own events. We are looking into notifications and how to make them more visible.

We hope this has helped answer some of your questions about what we’re trying to achieve with SBM, and please submit any further suggestions or ideas you have as we continue to develop this new asset. Feel free to comment below!