Earlier I wrote about building a Windows 8 education app for teachers, and here's part two - building an interactive, engaging Windows 8 education app for students. We pick up where I left off earlier – where teachers have assigned an assignment to a group of students.
Creating an immersive Windows 8 education app – the student experience
The first thing to know is that the live tiles and notification system of Windows 8 means that students don't need to be running the app to interact with it – so if a teacher assigns work to a student then they'll receive a notification without having to dip into the app (and that notification can contain more than just a 'You have mail…' type of message)
In our scenario, Steve the student is working on his Microsoft PowerPoint presentation when he receives a toast notification about a new assignment.
This is regardless of whether he's running the app, so students don't need to run your app to 'just check' whether there's work waiting for them. You can use toast notifications for reminders, work assignments etc.
As Steve taps the toast notification, the app launches and goes straight to the assignment page. The assignment page lists chapters from a textbook and a web article, along with the members of his group.
Steve views the assignment using snapped view and clicks on the web links provided.
This mode of working is perfect for students, where they can run two apps side by side eg for notetaking.
And for those students who (think they) can't work without background music, they can keep their music library on-screen at the same time as doing their homework.
Steve views the web site while taking notes in the app in snap view.
This is especially critical when curriculum resources include e-textbooks, as they'll often need to see their textbook alongside their other materials or the assignment notes.
After reviewing his notes in full screen view, Steve swipes in the Share charm and sends the notes to his group members.
The Share mechanism works by identifying which apps can share information through the Windows 8 contracts. What this means is that developers don't need to know about all the different ways to share information – the other apps that can share information provide the mechanism to do it. So if somebody invents the new Facebook tomorrow, your users will be able to use the Share charm without you needing to re-write your app.
What the design ideas above show is that you can create a much more interactive experience for students on a Windows 8 touch device than you might on other tablets – and the app you create would run on any Windows 8 device – whether that's a non-touch laptop, or a Windows slate like Surface, or a home PC. Steve the student has a very different experience when using a Windows 8 education app because of the added interactivity provided through using things like:
- Snap mode for running multiple apps
- Toast notifications to draw the student back to the app (and to help teachers to connect with students)
- Using the Share charm to make it easy for users to share information, without having to recode your software every time there's a new social network/LMS/cloud service
Where to find out more about developing Windows 8 education apps
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas that you want to follow up on, so here's really useful links for you to continue on your journey.
The first place to go is the Windows Store app development section on MSDN (and specifically this page for the advice on Windows 8 Education apps), and if you prefer your info offline, then download the Windows 8 Product Guide for Developers.
There's also a clear set of design guidelines for the user experience in "Make great Windows Store apps"