This review reflects the observations and experiences of independent teacher volunteers, and is provided as a service to Education World readers. The review in no way constitutes an endorsement of the product or its manufacturer by those teachers or by Education World.
Report Designer by Big Wave Software allows educators to create their own student progress reports. The program provides report templates and includes an extensive library of learning outcomes in nine subject areas, allowing teachers to create, save, and print custom grading reports. Available for both Macintosh and Windows, Report Designer also is available in two versions -- a Canadian version and an International version.
Recently, Education World asked five reviewers, all teachers or educational technology specialists, to check out Report Designer. Each teacher was asked to use Report Designer for a period of at least one month, note specific strengths, weaknesses, and/or quirks of the program, record personal observations or suggestions -- both positive and negative -- and rate the software on a scale of 1 to 4.
The results are in -- and this is what our reviewers had to say!
"I would consider purchasing this program, depending on the price and on changes to multiple comment inaccessibility. I like the ability to make comments specific to the benchmarks and standards being used."
"Although the software was useful, I feel that in order for it to be competitive with other grading software, it needs to add other features. More customization options for the reports are needed."
"I wouldn't purchase this software, because I feel that more versatility is needed when grading students. An option for adding a letter grade generally is required for grades 4-6. If that was not a requirement, however, the software would be sufficient for most uses."
"In order for me to recommend this program for a high school or middle school, I think that staff would need to be working in a portfolio-only situation or in a school that reports everything by personal comment. Even at that, I'm not sure that a list of only four comments per category is sufficient to describe what one wishes a student to accomplish in any one area."
"Report Designer has given quite a bit of thought to the library of comments that is included for various academic areas and grade levels. That certainly makes setting up a template easier; however, the set-up time required to make templates that fit all of the areas requiring comment is prohibitive. It would almost take a week to fill in the areas for a self-contained classroom -- if that were the only thing that one had to do. In most cases, to report whether a student has demonstrated competency in a particular area, it makes more sense simply to have a link to the state's standards or to the district's aligned curriculum and to copy those as necessary. Especially since the premise of this program is that the user cuts and pastes into a word processing documents in order to make a finished product anyway."
"Until I went to the Report Designer Web site, the purpose of the program was unclear to me. The online examples of completed reports were very helpful, however."
"The cost of the software is reasonable, especially for a school license. I would not purchase the program, however, because our district already has an approved report card. Individual teachers who have the time might want to use the software to create reports for projects, or reports to provide parents with more information than is included on their adopted report cards."
"I am not certain I understand how to add more comments to the reports. I tried several ways to choose more than one item, but had difficulty figuring it out. The templates were good, with good choices for the comments, however the use of only one comment per category could generate very long reports."
"I really liked the versatility of the program. The option of inserting comments is a big plus. In our high school grading software, this option is not available. The program would be great for our elementary school. Although instructions were provided at startup, it would have been helpful if instructions were provided throughout the creation of the grade summary."
"The manual for the program requires an extra step to get and that step is not intuitive. Links that in the introduction appear to be there, do not work. It is not until the reader scrolls down through some of the text that directions -- in which the links do work -- for a printable copy are found. It's an online manual, so it's important to have access to a Web browser and a machine that has enough memory to support Report Designer, a browser, and a word processing program all at the same time."
"The documentation is not clear. There is no statement about what the program is intended to do. The program requires that users be able to multi-task, but that isn't stated clearly in the introductory or set up remarks. The content appears to be error-free -- I didn't encounter any mistakes other than my own while setting up the report categories."
"Editing is difficult if one wishes to access the library of comments after a category is set. One can type over what is there, but if one wishes to access the library of comments, it is impossible to do so in the editing mode."
"The library of comments is quite extensive and helpful for anyone looking for language that is consistent. In fact, there are two libraries to choose from -- B.C. and Canada, and International. The international library's language is based on national standards."
"The library of outcomes is excellent. Unless the software was adopted by an entire school or grade level, however, it probably would not be usable for most teachers, because something else would already be in place. For an ambitious teacher who really wants to communicate with parents and is willing to take the time to develop templates, Report Designer would be an excellent tool. Personally, however, I think most teachers would not use the program unless it was adopted by their entire school or district."
"The Help tool comes in two layers. One opens on the screen but cannot be moved, so it is possible to work in the program and see that help and Help from the online site at the same time. Online help, however, must be started -- not from the program window -- but by going to the Start menu then delving through Programs, Report Designer, and finally, online manual."
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