Scholaric Infrastructure Upgrade

I am planning on a major infrastructure upgrade - the planned date is Saturday, November 23rd at 9:30 PM Central Time.

Due to the complexity of this upgrade, Scholaric will be offline for at least an hour.

I will be backing up the database and restoring it to a new one, doing configuration changes, rolling out new code, and pointing the domain names (DNS) to the new servers.  Good times.

Please be aware that the DNS changes can take hours to roll out.  During this time, the old Scholaric will produce a maintenance message, even while the new one is up - so it's possible for your browser to be pointing to the maintenance-mode Scholaric even while the new one is available.

New with this upgrade - the leading www. in the URL will now be required.  If you drop the www, it will redirect for you (that is, if I configure it correctly :).

When complete, a new, faster Scholaric will be in place, and it will be time to start improving the service again.

Happy Planning


Finishing one Year and Starting a New One

Finishing up a year and starting a new one is a tricking thing for a planner to handle.  Some families like to plan ahead and get that next year entered, while they are in the current year.  Others like to finish this year, close it out, and plan over break.  Still others don't want to even think about next year now.  Just take that break, and plan year just-in-time.

However you want to handle it, it's important to understand how Scholaric works, and what not to do.

First, what not to do.  Do not delete last year's lessons.  Do not delete last year's courses. Do not delete last year's period.  Do not change the dates of your current period.

These are all destructive actions, and prevent you from seeing the prior year's data.  This is bad, you need to preserve your records over time.

As for what you should do - there are five steps:

Add new courses

This is done by clicking on the courses label.  When a course is added, it appears every week in the grid, whether you have lessons in it or not.  This means the new course will be visible in your grid for the rest of this year.

Plan the new year

Create your lessons in the new courses as you would for this year.  Don't forget the powerful lesson sequence syntax.  The new lessons won't show up in your current year's goals, report cards, or grade book.

Add a new period

Create a new period for your new school year.  When you do this, Scholaric copies your current period's goals, and grading settings, to try and save you time.

Set new Goals

Should you desire new goals for the new year, you can create them.  Goals are tied to the current period, so they won't show up in the current period.

Hide old courses

When you are done planning on the old period, you can hide the courses from it.  The courses then only show up in the planning grid for weeks in which they have lessons - meaning that you can always come back to see the grid in all it's glory for years to come. 

Change the current period

Finally, when you are truly finished, change the current period.  Then your goals, report cards, and grade books will reflect the new year.  To view yesteryear's goals, report cards, and grade books, just change the period back, and they are back.

Happy Planning

Bump All Lessons

Some days, it just doesn't happen, and everything needs to be bumped later.

When this is the case, rather than bumping each cell individually, use the daily menu.

The bump all incomplete later option is the equivalent of selecting the bump schedule later option for each course with incomplete lessons on that day.  Complete lessons are not affected.

Happy Planning

Scholaric Pricing Change

I have announced a price change to Scholaric.  

This has come after great thought, anguish, and discussion, because the current pricing scheme wasn't working.  Costs have gone up for Scholaric, and in some cases, by a great amount.  Also, I believe by charging somewhat more, it brings in the date at which I can work on Scholaric full time.

Prices are now starting at $3 per user, instead of the original $1 per user.  The maximum charge is now $7 per user.  Effectively, everyone will pay $2 more per month.

These changes are effective immediately for new users.  As a thank you to existing users, your current plan stays in effect until May 2014 (a year), and then, only effects you when you renew your subscription.

So you may keep the current plan and pricing, potentially for years.  

Thanks for your loyalty, and please keep spreading the word!

Happy Planning

Released: Private Subjects

I have released the latest version of Scholaric, with an update to Subjects.

Subjects just weren't right in Scholaric.  There has always been on list of subjects, common to all users.  When you added a course, helping you with the autocomplete matched all subjects, not just yours.  This made me cringe, because a list like this would pop up:

This caused more problems than it solved, especially as the number of subjects grew, and we would see several misspellings, and capitalization schemes of the same subject.

The next problem came when users asked "Can I change a course's subject?"  I had to point them to a video of how to do it.  It took too many steps, and it could go wrong if you had multiple students using that course.

The matching of courses was not helpful either.  Scholaric has grown to the point that there are simply too many matches.

Released today are the following changes:

Private Subjects

You have your own list of subjects.  You can rename them, and even delete them (if they have no courses assigned to them).  Any existing subjects you have referenced have been automatically copied into your private subject list.

Subjects Tab on the Dashboard

To help manage your subject list, there is a subjects tab on the dashboard.  The list applies to all students, so it is found in the dashboard, rather than the planning grid.

Edit a Subject Name in the Planning Grid

The subject name is also editable in the planning grid.  Just click on the name and edit.

Menu Item: Change a Course's Subject

Sometimes, instead of renaming a subject, you can also change a single course's subject to another one.  There is a menu item for that in the course menu.

Note there is also to change a course's subject to a new subject, which can then be renamed.

Happy Planning!

The Scholaric Challenge

At the Midwest Parent Educators Conference, Scholaric was put to the test.  A new user signed up, set up a course and wanted help entering a complex repeating lesson.  It is a useful case study to explain what Scholaric can do, and how to go about analyzing.

The facts have been changed to protect the innocent...

"My Math program has 25 lessons, each of which are divided into 6 parts, a, through f..."

Okay, no problem Scholaric handles that.

"...but we do 2 parts per day..."

Sure, Scholaric does that too.

"...AND we are on lesson 7, and have already done parts a and b of it..."

That's a lot to consume, but we want to generate

Lesson 7 parts c-d
Lesson 7 parts e-f
Lesson 8 parts a-b
Lesson 8 parts c-d
Lesson 8 parts e-f
Lesson 9 parts a-b
Lesson 9 parts c-d
Lesson 9 parts e-f

and so on.  

Breaking this down, it first is a nested sequence, an outer numeric sequence {7-25} and an inner alphabetic sequence {a-f}:

Lesson {7-25} parts {a-f}

But that would be one part per day.  To do 2 parts per day, we need to use the group operator * (increment it two times per day):

Lesson {7-25} parts {a-f*2}

The only problem is that the first lesson must be Lesson 7 parts c-d, not Lesson 7 parts a-b.  I can't just change the inner sequence to parts {c-f*2}, because Lesson 8 must start with parts a-b.  This is accomplished through seeding, using the colon:

Lesson {7-25} parts {a-f*2:c}

This way, the inner sequence is a-f, but starts with c-f.

Happy Planning

Menus - updated look and feel

Some changes to the navigation menus are here, in part to make room for transcripts.  The old menus looked like this:

The new menus look like this:

The changes are small, but significant:

  • The title of Scholaric with the student's name are moved up a level
  • The menu options have slid over to the left
  • The current page is indicated with a white underline 
  • The switch-student menu is moved into the navigation area on all screens
  • Clicking on the student's name activates the switch-student menu

It is still the case that clicking on Scholaric takes you to the dashboard.

Group Weighted Grade Book

The group weighted grade type requires some changes to the grade book.  First, it indicates the group of each complete lesson by an additional column:

The running average of each group is also displayed beside the running average of the course:

Finally, the user may want to focus in on the lessons of a single group.  At the top of the grade book, each group is shown with its weight.  Each group also has a focus button, so that you can easily see the progress of a single group:

Happy Planning

Group Weighted Grading

Scholaric offers two group-weighted grade formulas:

  • Group-point weighted - a grade is calculated from a set of weighted lesson groups,  which themselves will be graded by a point-weighted formula.
  • Group-equal weighted - a grade is calculated from a set of weighted lesson groups,  which themselves will be graded by an equal-weighted formula. 

In short, each group is scored, and the grade is a weighted average of the groups.  The difference between the two is how the score for the group is calculated.  

For example, for Astronomy, you may specify these groups:

  • lessons: 30%
  • tests: 50%
  • observations 20%.

Group-Weighted Grading Terms

Below, the following terms are used:

  • Group-weighted Grade Type is a grade type which uses group-weighted grading.
  • Lesson Group is a name given to a group of lessons which will be graded as a whole and assigned a weight.
  • Weight is the value that a group is given, determining how much of an impact a group has on the final score.

Setup of Groups and Weights

These group-weighted grade types require an extra step of setup - defining the lesson groups for a course and their respective weights. This can be done for any course using either group-point weighted or group-equal weighted grade types.  First, you must make the course use that grade type:

Note that a menu to change grade type now appears on the course menu in the planning grid. Once the course uses a group-weighted grade type, the menu changes, allowing you to edit the group weights:

The report card has this capability as well, but in either case, the course must have a group-weighted grade type.

Clicking on this brings up a new dialog:

The dialog shows all of the groups you have created, and creates one named Lessons if you have not created any.  For each group, you must supply a name, a weight, and indicate if it is the default group.

The weights must add up to 100%, or the displayed total will turn red and updates will be disallowed.  The picture also has a red weight for the default group, because the default group cannot have a zero weight.

To set the weight of existing groups, just enter the weight.  To add a new group, like Observations in the example, click the Add Group button.

With all groups weighted correctly, the last thing to do is select a proper default group.  With all this done, click the Update button.

Deleting a weight

When editing existing weights, the Delete button is enabled.  Clicking this resets the group's weight value to zero.  The weight will be deleted on the next update.

If there are no other courses using that group, and no lessons referencing the group, the group is deleted as well.

Assigning a Group to a Lesson

With the group weights set up, you can assign lessons to their groups.  For a group weighted course only, the lesson dialog shows a group field:

The selection control displays only the groups which have a weight for the course in the current period.  Scholaric automatically selects the group you labeled as default for this course.

Happy Planning