June
08
2015

ALMA Solves Problems You Didn’t Know You Had (Like Smartphones and Tablets Did)

By Tom 0

You may have seen my friend, Eric Sheninger’s recent post, Finally, an SIS Worth Switching For. Eric and I are both on Alma’s Advisory Board and like him, I’m excited about this platform. As an SIS, it’s the best-in-class. Schedule a demo and you’ll see how much thought and attention went into designing the interface. Alma gives users an experience that’ll make teachers, administrators, students, and parents excited.

But let’s be honest—the way an app looks doesn’t always mean that it works. Alma solves several key issues that we have been enduring for years.

FEWER CLICKS MEANS TIME SAVED
We say with our mouths that every second in the classroom counts, but way too often tolerate databases and other software that require moving the mouse too much to get where we’re going. When you use Alma to do something incredibly familiar (like move from a student’s profile to the gradebook for one of their classes), it just feels like less work. This is because it feels like their design team has made every logical connection and placed links in precisely the right location relative to each other.

CONSISTENT LAYOUT MEANS LESS FATIGUE
From colors, to fonts, and even how much white space there is on the page, I can’t think of a better-looking app in the edtech the market in ANY category. This means that your eye gets accustomed to the way data is presented and there’s less of the “interpretation strain”. It’s like an analog watch vs. a digital one.

ALL THE COMMUNICATION YOU NEED AND NONE THAT YOU DON’T
Email has become the junk drawer. We’re comfortable with it, but that’s not necessarily right. And when you’re in the groove, grading papers, or supporting a family going through some challenges, you need to look at the info in the SIS, and communicate with the student, the parent or the team, then get back to the next task in the SIS, not get distracted by ten unrelated emails in your inbox just because you switched over to your email program for moment.

A #FUTUREREADY CURRICULUM APPROACH
With all the talk about “Teachers Throwing Out Grades” and the big shifts towards standards-based or proficiency-based grading, we need tools that allow us to wean ourselves off of traditional point-based grading. We need the flexibility to build curriculum aligned to learning targets and then see how each student is doing on each target. As education leaders, we need some way to see who is strongest at teaching which content areas so our professional development can be more productive. Alma’s standards-based tracking system is nothing but sublime. It’s a blue-ribbon winner by itself—that it’s integrated into the entire platform is exhilarating.

A REFRESHING LMS APPROACH
This is a growing edge for Alma as they reimagine what an LMS can be vs. what we’re all accustomed to. It’s like they’re building what Catlin Tucker wrote about in her blog, “My Technology Philosophy: LMS vs. Tool Belt“. This is breaking new ground by recognizing that there are tasks we want our students to do that are best done with tools made by other companies. But Alma wants to integrate them in so that the teacher stays in “assessing” mode, but keeps those assessments authentic. There’s nothing worse than forum posts that feel like it’s a school conversation and not a real one, or a text box in the LMS instead of a word processor. Stay tuned for more on this over the coming months, because it could be a significant shift from what we’re used to in this space.

SUMMARY
We’re used to a database being part of our school lives, from registration to state-reporting. Oh. I nearly forgot to mention. What the development team has shown me for Alma’s registration and state-reporting is just, well…I think you’re getting the point.

Sheninger was right. This is something entirely different. It matches all the other apps in our lives and surpasses everything we use in our schools. And they’re just getting started. But don’t stop with our impressions—request a demo today!

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