Every semester I get into productive/organization mode. I start looking for ways to simplify my life, especially the school and homework parts of it. At the beginning of this semester, I did some research and found a few different programs designed to help students keep track of their assignments. This was mostly in honor of my new computer – I wanted to be able to use it as much as possible, so I figured I’d keep my assignments and other related information on it. Since my MacBook is a lot smaller than my old PC notebook was, I knew that I would be more likely to bring it to class with me, and therefore would have the ability to keep my life organized on it. (I also make extensive use of iCal and its ability to sync to my iPod for everything outside of school, but that’s another story.)
The program that I finally downloaded and used is called Schoolhouse. At the beginning of the semester, I copied all the information from my syllabi into its database. It has places to put all sorts of information, including the names and email addresses of professors, which then syncs to Address Book, and allows you to weight all the assignments. This was the feature that I really appreciated. Once the end of the semester comes, I’ll know how much failing that one minor quiz at the beginning of the semester really affected my grade. Each assignment is labeled as a certain “Kind”, like Quizzes, Exams, and Projects, and each “Kind” can be weighted according to how much it will count toward your final grade. You can have as many kinds as you want. Each is custom labeled and weighted.
Once your kinds and weights are set up, you can go through and enter all of your assignments. When you do that, there are options for giving the assignment a start date as well as a due date, so you know that project that’s coming up hasn’t technically been assigned yet, so you don’t have to work on it yet. Or something like that. Each assignment also has a priority level – not important, important, and very important.
One of the aspects of this program that could be very useful for large projects (I just haven’t had very many of those this semester) is the Task List. Within each of the assignments you create, another tab shows all of the Tasks you have to complete to finish the assignment. Each of these tasks can be given its own due date, whether that be a professor’s due date for the first draft of a paper, or your own date that you want to have that first draft completed.
Each assignment and task also can incorporate a list of Partners, with names and email addresses. The Partner lists are searchable, so you can find Dan from your biology lab a little bit faster. This list also syncs with Address Book. Partners and professors can be emailed directly from inside Schoolhouse, using the little “Email” buttons that are all over the interface.
The final tab associated with each Assignment is the Files tab. It allows you to search for a file on your computer, and link it to the assignment so you can find it whenever you need it.
The only problem I have had with the program so far is that it seems a little buggy. I added a course to the course list at the beginning of the semester, but as it turned out I’m not taking that course. When I try to delete the course, though, the dreaded Mac “beach ball” shows up and the program stops responding. I have to Force Quit and restart it. There have been one or two other times that the program stopped responding or did something else weird too. I have emailed the developer, asking for advice on this problem, and will post updates on how that works out. This problem didn’t start until recently, so it worked very well for a couple of months.
Except for the problem I mentioned, I feel that Schoolhouse is an excellent way to keep track of assignments and grades, and may mean I actually know what grades I’m getting before they get posted online at the end of the semester.
Schoolhouse is freeware, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger or later, only.
Update: No response from the developer. I’ll be looking into another option for next semester. The commenter below, Alex, is right. In the Get Info pane, select the option to “Open with Rosetta”. After I made this switch, I never had another crashing episode.