Operationally we daily provide new features to our members. Practically, we lay out major goals we would like to achieve and we refer to these goals as milestones. Although our plans at any given moment stretch from six months to a year in advance they are also very dynamic, driven by requests from our members and our own observations on how the site it used. We are always open to new and creative ideas. Our internal design and delivery methodology ShortBurst is extremely agile in form and function. So please, tell us what you need!
Current Milestone 20
Improved lesson display complete with tabs, and the ability to create custom sites, including a new home school invitation-only site that includes pay for service member fees. Don't worry, the StudyTag.com site will remain free!
Coming Milestone 21
Ability to create premium courses.
Coming Milestone 22
Automated content generators for spelling, vocabulary, and foreign language.
Implemented the ability to build a Lesson Plan in Course. The default lesson plan is assembled as lessons are added to a course and the next activity is launched with a “Do Next Assigned Activity” button. Added tabs to a course and the ability to add and name special tabs and a bbcode editor within each tab. Also supports assigning courses.
Added advanced filtering and privacy controls for parents, teachers, supervisors, and students so they can control, if they wish, exactly what lessons their students may see and with which other members their students may interact. This milestone turned on for the public the student accounts developed in milestone 17. To facilitate the security controls groups were renamed to courses.
Added support for parents, teachers, and supervisors to directly add and control a set of student/employee accounts. Added help and source text editor. This milestone also provided basic parent/teacher/supervisor reporting. Administrators can quickly see what their students/employees are learning and how they are progressing on their studies and certifications.
Over sixty-five improvements were made to StudyTag during this milestone including providing significantly enhanced navigation, sorting, and searching for lessons and groups. Browse lessons and groups pages were added as the default landing pages and many additional features were implemented based upon requests from our members including paste all, remove all, identifying visually linked content, control of the test modes, expanded BBcode, staff favorites, popular lessons, two letter tags, expanded tag cloud, options for suppressing multiple choice questions, options for suppressing randomizing foil order, hot keys to start lessons, smiley faces, enabled number pads, and perhaps most importantly of all an ability to watch this forum so authors are notified when students are posting to their forums.
This milestone saw the addition of cool new trophies that change in appearance the stronger they become, including Radioactive, Rainbow, and Ultimate Carlos trophies. We still want to redesign the trophy room too, so look for a new design this fall (Milestone 20). This milestone included improving the algorithms for determining fact mastery and reintroducing the Introduction mode that existed in our early (Milestone 3) pilot project. Take the Introduction mode whenever you are starting a new lesson. It will make your life a lot more pleasant!
It is not a very glamorous milestone but it had to be done. Most of our efforts in this milestone were focused on getting reasonable StudyTag behavior in IE. Additional features that snuck in while working on IE included earning points for answering questions correctly. At some time in the future points will be able to be turned in for something cool.
New session start and session end pages were created (these are pages where a member starts and ends a lesson). They now provide more information to members about the lesson and the member's progress and the start buttons were made large and easy to find. Authors can create special messages to describe a lesson at three distinct moments in time - when a lesson is found, when a lesson starts, and when a lesson is completed. We have provided expanded BBcode for authors for these messages so they can link to groups and additional lessons on the page displaying the next lesson in a series or a recommended group. Student performance data (including lesson strength) is now being recorded for more detailed reports we expect to start implementing in Milestone 17.
We've been enhancing security, including IP tracking, and making log-in more helpful for members who are having trouble logging in. We also included a bad word filter for user generated BBcode and a method for users to report inappropriate content. We have piloted a wizard for quickly building a lesson (we like the pilot and the wizard will likely be expanded sometime this fall). Lesson authors can now link to other existing content in their lessons, creating a linked copy of facts and readings so the same content may be used in multiple locations. Link copy is especially useful when creating final exams out of a series of different lessons because the linked fact remembers how well it is known by the current member, this provides a much better tutor experience to the student by focusing the student's time on the questions they haven't already mastered. O.K., we know it sounds complicated but it is really cool and we will explain it better in the help text. Linked questions also provide authors with the ability to edit a mistake in a fact once and have that mistake be corrected everywhere else auto-magically.
Now members can now choose to create public, private, and protected groups complete with a group StudyTag URL. Any member can create a group for friends to study together. A group is a great place to put related lessons and share them automatically with group members even if the lessons are private or protected. Public groups can be joined by anyone, the group profile is public and all published content public. Protected groups require an invitation to join the group, the group profile is public, and the group forum is visible to the public. Private groups require an invitation to join, the group profile is only visible to group members, and group forums are only visible to group members.
Our member can now create profiles, add friends, send and receive StudyTag mail, and collect and display trophies. The trophies can be rearranged using drag and drop. Friends can be added and removed from multiple locations and abusive users can be blocked from communications using mail (and in the future chat and personal forums).
Mashups. Mashups. Mashups. We've been supporting a few mashups this milestone while reworking the content editors. Care to put a YouTube video in your lesson? We also have added a lesson tag cloud. For now WYSIWYG is gone from the content editors and replace strictly with BBcode. We were sad to see it go but the library we were using simply wasn't meeting the needs of our authors and wasn't secure - now we meet those author needs and are more secure. The lesson details page has many additional features to support rapid authoring of new content including drag and drop reordering of questions, tags for search, drag and drop from the clipboard, copy and delete.
The new framework is now in place for the new design, specifically supporting the new basic structure of lessons, members, and groups. Lesson authoring was implemented in a basic form along with basic testing to validate the new designs.
This has been an important milestone. The original pilot project we created was tested with channel partners, teachers, and sample students. It was so successful we have made the decision to rewrite to incorporate all we have learned. A distribution partner was very enthusiastic about the pilot and so are we. Milestone 7 becomes our new starting ground for our commercial product. As such the milestone has involved creating a new design for the entire site, no small task as the prototype was already very powerful and professional. The basic design remains intact but entire sections of the application, especially those incorporating a predetermined ontology, have been entirely replaced. We have also committed the past few weeks to actively tracking down emerging trends in the internet especially in an area that is referred to by Bill O'Reilly as Web 2.0. We have visited over 100 different web applications and become totally addicted to Reddit and YouTube, it is truly a very exciting time to be starting a new software project. The entire nature of what it means to be a web application is being redefined and recreated. We hope StudyTag will be an excellent example of how these techniques can be applied to solving real business problems and meeting real user needs.