A Learning Management System Owned by Students

September 27, 2018

When I first came to UCI as a student in 2016, the school just started the transition of its learning management system from EEE (Electronic Educational Environment), which was developed by the IT department of UCI, to Canvas, which was developed by a third-party company called “Instructure.”

Canvas is an excellent product that helps both instructors and students in achieving their goals. Instructors can post assignments of the courses they’re teaching on Canvas. Students can submit assignments on Canvas. Then instructors can view students’ submissions and give them scores, and students can view these scores in the end. Canvas also has a global to-do list where all the upcoming assignments of all the courses a student is taking are listed by their due dates so that students would have no reason to forget the homework their professors have assigned to them.

However, a lot of students complained about Canvas when it first got introduced. The reason was not that Canvas itself was useless, but that the attitude many professors had toward Canvas was quite indifferent. A lot of professors at that time either refused to register their courses on Canvas or used Canvas with EEE interchangeably. This left three pain points to students:

  1. Students had to check the scores of some courses on Canvas, but those of others on EEE.
  2. For some of the courses, students had to submit assignments on Canvas, but professors would post scores on EEE.
  3. Not all professors posted assignments on Canvas, which made it easy for students to lose track of their upcoming assignments.

Students were also unable to utilize some of the useful functions offered by Canvas, including:

  1. Quickly lookup all the scores they have gotten for a course.
  2. Get an expected grade of a course based on the scores they have received.
  3. Track upcoming assignments of all the courses they are taking.

Besides that, there were also some needs that many students had, which Canvas has the potential to satisfy but chose not to:

  1. See the highest possible grade they can get for a course if they do well on all the remaining assignments and exams.
  2. Get an expected GPA of the term based on the expected grades of all the courses they are taking.
  3. Track upcoming exams of all the courses they are taking.

To solve these problems, I created GPA.IO, a lightweight learning management system that prioritizes student experiences. It provides a centralized place for students to manage all their courses and offers additional functions that Canvas doesn’t have. On GPA.IO, a student can proactively add all the courses they are taking in a term, the assignments and exams included in them, plus the scores the student received. During the term, whenever the student receives a score for an assignment or an exam, no matter from EEE, Canvas, or some other channel, they can put that score into GPA.IO. As a result, all the scores of all the courses this student is taking are clearly organized in one place.

All courses in one place.

Like Canvas, GPA.IO shows an expected grade a student can get for a course, which is calculated based on the scores this student got for the past assignments and exams of the course. In addition to that, GPA.IO shows an expected GPA of the current term based on the expected grades and the units of all the ongoing courses. This expected GPA is displayed strikingly on the navigation bar so that the student can always have a sense of their performance so far. GPA.IO also shows the percentage covered in each course and the percentage the student has earned and lost, as well as the grade the student can get for a course if they get full scores for all the remaining assignments and exams, which serves as a goal that the student can work for.

The detail page of a course.

If the student provides the due dates of their assignments and the dates of their exams, the “Tasks” page will present the assignments and exams chronologically and clearly show the time left until each assignment is due and each exam takes place. The student can dismiss an item by clicking on the icon on the left side of it. If the item is an exam, it will automatically disappear once it is past.

The “Tasks” page presents assignments and exams chronologically.

With all these features, GPA.IO becomes a helpful tool that alleviates students’ pressure of managing schoolwork and gives students the motivation to study hard. It is already opened up to every student attending UCI and hopefully will reach a broader audience in the future.