Clunky academic support

Manage classes, students, and assignments, but beware of a confusing user interface and some design flaws.

Perhaps nothing--except salaries--speaks to the second-class status of teachers in America like the software we give them. While the rest of the world enjoys at least Windows XP-level GUIs, more often than not teachers barely rate Windows 3.1. Gradebook Power, sadly, is no exception.

Teachers can set up classes, add students to classes, set grading scales, create assignments, record grades, manage attendance, and design seating charts. Compared with paper records, Gradebook Power may be an improvement. But the confusing design, strange naming choices, and cramped interface make any lead very slight indeed.

The application overall is poorly designed and unattractive. Often the windows are cramped, even when expanded to full screen width. When adding student names via a spreadsheet-like form, for example, the column headers are too narrow and letters are sometimes cut off. And with no import option, teachers must manually type in the names. Elsewhere, you may come across unlabeled, disabled drop-down boxes; drop-down boxes that sit ambiguously between two lines of text; and buttons associated with the wrong text label. More seriously, you may find yourself tearing out your hair when you shut a window and realize the application will completely fail to prompt you to save.

Gradebook Power's wordy and thorough Help file provides answers, but the time creating it would have been better spent giving the UI a re-design and simplifying the process.

We weren't so nice to our teachers back in high school. Let us therefore make reparations now. Please, Ms. Janssen, do not download this application. Look to something else--like a college-ruled notebook--for help in managing your classes.

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