Building an engaging Windows 8 education app for teachers

Developing an education app is about designing an experience, before writing code. One way is to talk to teachers and students. Another way is to look at examples, and that’s why we created ‘App Idea Books’ for Windows 8. They cover different areas – games, entertainment, news, productivity, sports, shopping and travel. And, yes, there’s even a app idea book for Windows 8 Education apps.

The app idea book is an overview of design scenarios for a Windows 8 education app for teachers and students.

The sample Windows 8 Education app I wrote about earlier this month focuses on the technical ‘plumbing’ of building an integrated cloud-enabled education app. This work focuses on the design elements and interactions of a Windows 8 education app.How to build a teacher app for Windows 8

Creating an immersive Windows 8 education app – the teacher experience

In this first blog post, I’m going to look at the app experience for a teacher – how to help them to design and manage an online learning activity, and I’ll post a little later today on the app experience for a student. The work uses Microsoft design features to create an engaging and immersive education experience for both teachers and students, which helps to simplify potentially complex processes, and puts teaching interactions at the forefront of the design.

Draw users into the content of your app

Beyond simply delivering the process side, you can use the Microsoft design language to easily access media from the file system, and use live tiles to draw users into your app.

Sample home screen for a Windows 8 education appThe Teacher view gives an overview of the teacher’s day, organised by their personal timetable. Selecting another class instantly reveals the relevant content.


imageThe teacher views all of her current tasks in the assignment overview and selects the Add button from the AppBar to add a new assignment.


Selecting students in a Windows 8 education appFrom the pannable assignment view she can add details about the assignment, add students and groups, include grading information, and associate resources for the assignment.


The file picker in a Windows 8 education appThe teacher uses the file picker to add video files to an assignment.

The file picker is a standard method of selecting files and resources in Windows 8, and means that users get a standard way of interacting with files, whichever application they are using.  


Windows 8 education app design ideasAfter she has finished creating the assignment, the teacher publishes the assignment to the students.


Using live tiles to alert studentsThe live tile for the  app receives a pushed update and it can then alert the student about the new assignment. This happens regardless of whether the student is running the app or not, and is one of the key benefits of live tiles.

What the design ideas above illustrate is that it is possible to have large volumes of interactive content and media on a single screen, and use panning and touch to make it less confusing to the user (and much more attractive than conventional blocks or lists of text information). And the other key design principle it shows is how you’d start to develop the use of live tiles to engage users, and keep workflow going – the benefit of live tiles over conventional software models is that you don’t need the software running to know if there are updates (unlike today’s calendar or email software, which has to sit running in the background all day, consuming power and using up memory).

Visit the App Idea Book for Windows 8 on the MSDN site for further links to techniques and resources


Learn MoreNext: How to design a Windows 8 education app for students