Programming Knowledge/Advice Requested~

SilkSilk Registered User regular
edited November 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
Situation: I work at a fairly new international university and I am putting together a proposal for them to implement a kind of student notification system. The problem to remedy is that because the entire student body is comprised of international students, email has not been sufficient for communicating time sensitive information. Often, the students who ignore email or never check their university email are also the very same students who need to do something or go somewhere for their own benefit. Faculty resort to going to the student's class and talking to them in the hallway directly which is just plain inefficient.

The Program: It would work like this: Professor logs into his classroom computer (running Windows XP) before class starts. At that time(either integrated with Windows or a stand-alone program which he must start/log-in to), he is presented with a short list of his classes. He clicks his current class. He then has a list of those students in his class. Next to each student would be a space for alerts/notifications. If a student had an alert it would be a short message typed in by another faculty/staff member who had tried emailing that student but had not seen any action on the student's part. Professor yells at student, students takes action, the message originator deletes the alert next to that student's name. Other benefits to the class list would be mouse-over for student photo, audio for student name pronunciation, etc.

My question: About how much would this cost to make and any suggested programming platforms? A ballpark figure is fine, just want something to give the management a general idea of cost when presenting them with the idea.

I'm ignorant of such things, so please excuse any lack of needed information or inaccuracies.

Silk on

Posts

  • DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    This is not really a difficult problem to solve; it's the kind of problem you could give to a class full of college software engineering students for a 10-week capstone development project if you wanted it done poorly and on-the-cheap.

    First, it's unclear why you'd want such an application integrated with Windows in a "thick client" style. A Web-based system is much more realistic today, running on the school's intranet.

    The biggest technical challenge is probably integrating this system with the school's existing course registration management system. You obviously want to be able to pull a class roster automatically without having someone sit down and have to copy all the data manually. It's likely that there is some integration possible, but what that looks like and how complex it is depends almost entirely on how the existing course records are kept electronically.

    You also have a potential privacy and security issue here - you're dealing with personally identifiable information (PII) of a sort, and your university or local laws may restrict who can see class rosters or student information, for example. You'd want to clear that with appropriate people before proceeding.

    A secondary challenge is integrating with your school's existing authentication infrastructure. Keeping a separate username and password database for every professor is really very 1990s. Today, you'd want to have people authenticate against the existing single sign-on infrastructure that you've got at the university, or at least some existing source of username and password data (e.g., an LDAP directory). This all depends on how and whether you have those things set up already at your school, and so it's another unknown.

    You can program this in any Web-based back-end programming environment you want. Java with JSPs or equivalent, PHP, Python, you name it. It's a very small app. It's also got a very strange purpose. You might be able to use the same infrastructure to accomplish the same goal with less manual intervention by adding some additional notification capability by integrating straightforwardly with a service like Twilio, which would let you send text messages to students instead of emailing them (though I'm not sure whether or how this works with international phones).

    As for cost, that's a thorny question. Because it's a small app, you could just have something hacked together quite cheaply, or you could have something properly engineered. Having something properly engineered is always more expensive. Given the significant unknowns in integrating with your existing systems, if you wanted to "do it right" I'd allocate probably 160-240 person-hours (4-6 person-weeks) by an experienced developer or development staff for this project. That's a gut feel assuming you already have a student directory and authentication system to interface with and there are no significant privacy/legal issues. If these assumptions don't hold, then the costs could be wildly different.

    DrFrylock on
    Pheezer wrote: »
    I would strongly recommend reading DrFrylock's post thoroughly and considering all of his points individually.
  • SilkSilk Registered User regular
    Many students don't have a cell-phone, which may be hard to imagine, but that's the case. Basically, instead of leveraging technology to communicate with the students electronically, the university can use the program to give professors information to pass on directly to students in the classroom, ensuring 100% that the student received and understood the message. This program will not be the primary form of communication, this is a back-up to when emailing fails. As I mentioned, faculty have no recourse atm aside from tracking down students physically.

    I appreciate the comprehensiveness of your reply. I agree that the program is basic. Can you give me a ballpark monetary cost estimate?

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    What kind of integration is at your disposal with current systems? Would they be willing to work with a vendor to pass the data (class/roster) like frylock suggests? If they aren't, it'll most likely have to tie into printouts that are printed to text or something similar.

    I mean, like he said, that's a great capstone project. But if you wanted full fledged developers and a company with support behind it, You're probably in the $5,000-10,000 without knowing any other information.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    DrFrylockThe Good Doctor Tran
  • DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    Depends on your burdened/unburdened hourly rate for developers, which is why I gave an hours estimate instead of a dollar estimate. What do you pay your developers? $5-10K, as bowen suggests, isn't unrealistic. No lower than that, certainly.

    Pheezer wrote: »
    I would strongly recommend reading DrFrylock's post thoroughly and considering all of his points individually.
    bowenThe Good Doctor Tran
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    At Frylock's estimate (which is a good estimate Frylock!), an invoice from me for freelance is going to be 16,000-24,000.

    10K is what you'd get from a company that has people full time. And lots of projects, and probably has a 1 year development period.

    Obviously there'll be someone who'll bid lower and devalue their time. And then you'll get people in India quoting you $100 on those freelance websites.

    Best bet, what do you think your budget will be? And, another important bit, when do you need this?

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • GnomeTankGnomeTank Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    5-10k seems right. I charge 65-75 an hour for Ruby on Rails freelance work, and provided you were okay with a minimilistic user interface using something like Twitter Bootstrap as the basis, I could do that site in probably 100 hours. My final billable would be in the 6500-7000 range for your stated requirements.

    e: Note, 100 hours is just the Rails part of it. Any integration with secondary systems, or having to use a technology base without the rapid development practices of Rails would up that hour estimate considerably.

    GnomeTank on
    Sagroth wrote: »
    Oh c'mon FyreWulff, no one's gonna pay to visit Uranus.
    Steam: Brainling, XBL / PSN: GnomeTank, NintendoID: Brainling, FF14: Zillius Rosh SFV: Brainling
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yeah that's where the other 140 hours is going to come from I bet, but doing the work twice will be most costly in the long run. Good luck convincing people that though.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • GnomeTankGnomeTank Registered User regular
    You also have developers like me, who would quote you 65 an hour if it were a Rails app, but 125 an hour if you wanted me to write PHP. If I have to do something that makes me want to sacrifice kittens to the blood god, you're paying me more for it O_o

    Sagroth wrote: »
    Oh c'mon FyreWulff, no one's gonna pay to visit Uranus.
    Steam: Brainling, XBL / PSN: GnomeTank, NintendoID: Brainling, FF14: Zillius Rosh SFV: Brainling
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Hahaha I was about to mention php too just now.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • wmelonwmelon Registered User regular
    Another thing you'll need to think about is who is going to deal with the IT department. They may very well not be willing to work with an external developer.

  • The Good Doctor TranThe Good Doctor Tran Registered User regular
    GnomeTank wrote: »
    You also have developers like me, who would quote you 65 an hour if it were a Rails app, but 125 an hour if you wanted me to write PHP. If I have to do something that makes me want to sacrifice kittens to the blood god, you're paying me more for it O_o

    Did I accidentally navigate to TDWTF?

    That said I also tend to align with Frylock's estimate regarding vendor integration. I've been out of the educational sphere for a few years now, but when I was there small-shop custom solutions were the order of the day, particularly at the college rather than university level. Even if you can figure out who actually did the work, the shop's liable to have closed its doors in the meantime.

    LoL & Spiral Knights & MC & SMNC: Carrington - Origin: CarringtonPlus - Steam: skdrtran
  • SilkSilk Registered User regular
    Thanks for the estimates guys; the university is in Korea so I assume the price range can realistically be around the 10k range considering programmers/human resources are in abundant supply here.

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    Well, let's hope Korean programmers are better than the Vietnamese I've dealt with in the past. Good luck!

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    A practical question: would professors really be willing to run around after students reminding them about responsibilities that have nothing to do with the particular class they teach?

    I couldn't imagine something like this working at a U.S. University, but maybe in Korea things work differently. At every school I've attended, it's been a student's responsibility to check his email for announcements and as adults/almost adults, they should be able to handle, or need to learn to be able to handle, a simple responsibility like that.

  • khainkhain Registered User regular
    So maybe I'm missing something, but if the students in question don't check email what is going to motivate them to check this? The entire problem here is that the students don't seem to care and I don't think that's a problem that you can actually solve through giving the faculty more tools.

  • SmasherSmasher Starting to get dizzy Registered User regular
    It would be the teachers checking it, then nagging any students in their class with notifications. Then the question becomes "What if the teachers don't check it?"

  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    If the students are the type who are tied to their smartphones (like everyone seems to be these days) it might be more worthwhile to set up a system that sends SMS messages to them.

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  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    If the students are the type who are tied to their smartphones (like everyone seems to be these days) it might be more worthwhile to set up a system that sends SMS messages to them.
    And if this is of interest, feel free to pm me. I've been working with mobile stuff which included sms in some part of the process for about 7 years now and spent the last year building an sms alert system for ~40 newspapers and ~18 tv stations. I'd be more than happy to suggest things/places to look into, problems to look out for, etc.

  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    oldsak wrote: »
    A practical question: would professors really be willing to run around after students reminding them about responsibilities that have nothing to do with the particular class they teach?

    I couldn't imagine something like this working at a U.S. University, but maybe in Korea things work differently. At every school I've attended, it's been a student's responsibility to check his email for announcements and as adults/almost adults, they should be able to handle, or need to learn to be able to handle, a simple responsibility like that.

    This does seem weird. I'm pretty sure every professor I've ever had would be offended at the idea that they were supposed to be babying their students even for the class they were teaching, let alone completely different classes.

  • Marty81Marty81 Registered User regular
    Yeah, this is a bad idea. Half of the professors aren't going to check it, the other half are going to be offended at the idea, you run into privacy issues with having professors confront students in public spaces (even before or after class), and most of the students you're trying to notify probably have spotty attendance anyway.
    If the students are the type who are tied to their smartphones (like everyone seems to be these days) it might be more worthwhile to set up a system that sends SMS messages to them.

    This is a much better idea.

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    It's Korea though. Different customs than the US in terms of education and responsibilities.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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