When is enough, enough?


Image courtesy of Keattikorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, I’m writing about when is it time to ditch a product and move on. I’m not talking about a single teacher deciding that they’re going to stop using Glogster and do blogging. I’m talking about a school wide product here that most teachers probably use. It is a gradebook. So read on and then leave a comment about when you think enough is enough.

Last year we used a program that I really dislike – Gradequick. Now my distaste for this program runs deep and rather than rehash that old wound you can read all my rants here and here on IT Babble. Just on a side note, be sure to check out the comments. There are many and they are as good or better than the posts.

So this year we have switched. The company we are using also makes our student information system (as is the case for many schools). For those of you unfamiliar with the term student information system it basically boils down to a giant database that stores all your schools important information. All student records, contact information, past grades, current grades and so on. These systems are quite intricate and usually feed the hub of information that their proprietary gradebook draws its information from.

The problem this year is that the gradebook we are using is brand new and to say there are a few bugs would be an understatement. Here is what we are dealing with:

  • Teachers having difficulties entering grades
  • Grades disappearing (though this seems quite rare)
  • Issues with the gradebook displaying properly
  • Teachers unable to change data once it has been entered
  • Grades temporarily miscalculating
  • Our administration and counselors can’t look at an overview of an individual student’s performance

The company behind it has been working hard to make it better with updates nearly every week, and been in steady contact with us through email and with their tech support but this has been going on since the first day of school and as we get closer to the end of our first semester administrators are a little nervous – as am I. The problem here is that changing grade books in the middle of a year is a giant pain in the ass. It requires learning a new system, working out problems with that system that may initially be unknown and intimately it is a risk.

For example, on paper, testing a new gradebook in small numbers may yield promising results, but there may be that handful of problems that makes you slap your head and say ArrrghhhHHH! Why did we switch?

If you do it at the end of a school year you have more time to investigate, try it out, get to know their tech support and talk with real users of the product. So I needed a way to determine when it is time to change.

I know there is no perfect answer but I’ve been looking into ways to determine when to switch. When is it “too serious” a problem to justify the change. Instead of a rubric or some way to quantify the choice-I’m taking a simpler approach and decided to ask a series of yes/no questions.

  • Does it impede teachers from doing their job?
  • Could it potentially harm the future of seniors at our school?
  • Could it harm the reputation of our teachers/administration/school?
  • Is incorrect data of even one student acceptable?

When you boil it down to such simple questions it is hard to justify sticking with the product wouldn’t you agree? Unfortunately this is not up to just me. There are a lot of other people that need to be in the loop and make the decision but when you approach it by asking questions on how it affects the end users it becomes much clearer.

I have no doubt that this company will eventually work out the kinks and bugs but the needs now are not being met.

What do you think? Leave those comments below – I love ‘em.

Patrick Cauley

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