QuickHAC: Past and Future

In the past decade, students, parents, and educators alike have witnessed the increasing proliferation of technology in schools. One of the biggest developments is the ability to check student progress online. Now, instead of anticipating a periodic report card containing a few numbers or letters representing the entirety of one’s self worth and future potential, students and parents can view a detailed report of how a student is doing in school at any time.

As a former high school student, I have seen just how much students rely on this gradebook system to keep them updated on their latest grades. I have also seen the stress and frustration that comes whenever the gradebook goes offline or the interface changes.

By developing QuickHAC, the team and I wanted to overcome these shortcomings and provide students a more robust and reliable user experience that encourages hard work while discouraging obsessiveness. Features like checking grades in the background and notifying students when their grades changed made staying on top of one’s grades easier and made compulsive grade checking essentially obsolete.

Students have had an overwhelmingly positive response to QuickHAC. During the past semester, more than 2,000 weekly users across two school districts have enjoyed QuickHAC. These users include many amazing, hard-working students. The phenomenal rate of adoption of QuickHAC among these students show that grade-conscious students want a modern user experience beyond what districts currently provide.

Educators, too, have also spoken out about QuickHAC. In October 2013, several staff in the ITS departments within Round Rock ISD schools even went so far as to promote QuickHAC to all students at their school through their student emails. This prompted the biggest ever numerical growth of the QuickHAC user base, pushing weekly user counts well over 1,000.

My vision for QuickHAC was that one day, QuickHAC will have no reason to exist because students will have access to modern and intuitive user interfaces directly through their school districts. I wanted to witness the day when students can get notifications about new grades on a mobile app provided and supported by the district, and see their grades in the browser in a format designed to be easily readable. I hoped that QuickHAC would show districts that there is room for improvement, opportunities for educational technology to go beyond ‘somewhat usable’ and be enjoyable.

Apparently, this was not the case. Over the summer, both of the districts once supported by QuickHAC have dropped GradeSpeed as their gradebook. QuickHAC relies on GradeSpeed because it provides the grades in a particular format that QuickHAC can read. To support the new gradebooks will mean rewriting a significant portion of QuickHAC. In addition, we have been working on a significant upgrade to QuickHAC that includes a drastically improved user experience and better codebase. The simultaneous completion of both of these tasks would mean a significant investment of time and energy.

Unfortunately, as I have moved on from high school into college, QuickHAC is no longer as relevant to me as it was before. I certainly want to continue working on QuickHAC, but I cannot guarantee that it will be working again soon, or even at any particular date in the future. College provides so many new opportunities that I’m not sure this is worth it for me anymore. Thus, as of now, I cannot guarantee further support for QuickHAC. Tristan is working on an updated version to work with the new RRISD website, albeit with no anticipated release date.

However, I cannot emphasise how much of a learning experience this has been for me and the team, not only in writing code, but in creating and maintaining a project, collaborating with other developers, listening to what users want, and designing a robust user experience. Thank you for the thousands of you who have allowed me to impact on each of your lives, even if in a small way.

Even if QuickHAC doesn’t live on, I still think there’s hope for students who want a better experience with the gradebook. For all of the aspiring developers and computer scientists in high school or middle school right now, this is an opportunity to shine. If you have a vision that the gradebook experience can be improved, and if you have the aspiration to try to achieve it, you have the ability to make a difference. Or maybe you have a different idea for integrating technology into education. If so, by all means pursue it!

All of the QuickHAC source code is on GitHub under a permissive licence. You can study it and see how we approached the problem, or you can fork it and make it better (and I will help you if you want to do this). Or, you can create your own approach. Who knows, maybe it’ll be even better than QuickHAC!

Personal projects look great on college applications and provide important learning experiences that cannot be found in a classroom. And even better, you can change your community and make people’s lives better. Technology in education desperately needs innovation. Pursue your ideas, make a name for yourself, and change the world!

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