A major challenge in secondary education is identifying students that are at risk for dropping out. There are a number of indicators that help identify students at risk, but it is difficult and often ineffective to manually track each student on an individual basis. Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte needed a web application that would automate the tracking of these indicators and allow educators to more quickly identify the students who are in greatest need of help.
The first step of the process was to lay the groundwork for an easy-to-use application. We used sketches, whiteboard drawings, and wireframes to establish the navigation, flow, and general structure of the application. Rather than getting bogged down with issues of aesthetics, we intentionally kept the work rough at this point. We were able to quickly create a system that would allow educators to upload student data and view charts and visualizations.
It was vital to make this a responsive web application so that Risk Calculator could work across a variety of devices and screen resolutions. This eliminated the development cost of multiple applications running on different operating systems.
For Risk Calculator, we created a unique visual identity. This included a logo and a system of user interface elements that made the application both user-friendly and unique as a product. A key aspect of this identity was color. Color was used to help distinguish different risk levels. We used a standard green to red scale—red and orange signifying areas that needed attention—green and yellow signifying areas of less concern.
With the form of the application established, the next step was to build it. We created detailed specifications so that the functionality and visual language of the application could be maintained as it was developed. We utilized SVG icons so the research tool looked good across device types and screen resolutions. Risk Calculator was built as a single-page application using the Backbone and Laravel frameworks connected to a MySQL database back-end.
Risk Calculator is a powerful research application that enables educators to help students graduate. This was accomplished by leveraging design and cutting edge technology to do the heavy lifting.
Backbone, Laravel, MySQL