Web Help Desk (MacsDesign Studio)

Web Help Desk is an online help-desk solution for delivering IT support, managing assets, tracking software performance, and more. Users say it has saved them time and improved their IT efficiency.

“Web Help Desk has become an invaluable tool for our school. Not only has using WHD made is easier for our staff and faculty to access and track progress on their submitted tickets, but our IT department has come to really depend on WHD to keep track of all those tickets and better prioritize them as well,” said David Ogden, information and technology director for Bakersfield Christian High School in California. “Unlike other trouble ticket systems we’ve used in the past, WHD is very open to input from its customers and is constantly working to improve the product. I’d recommend WHD to any educational institution that needs something that is powerful and flexible, yet easy to set up and use.”

webNetwork (Stoneware Inc.)

webNetwork is a “unified cloud platform” that lets you access all your files and applications from any internet-connected device. It delivers a private data center, public cloud, and local device resources through a common web interface. This “webDesktop,” accessed online, delivers all files, applications, and reports through a single user ID and password on any device.

“We use this product to permit access to home directories for teachers and students,” said Reginald Washington, director of information systems for the Monroe Township Board of Education in New Jersey. “We also use this product to electronically distribute and collect documents.”

Higher-education winners

Aplia (Cengage)

Aplia is a learning solution designed to increase student effort and engagement. It includes online homework assignments that professors can assign to students; assignments can include problem sets, news analyses, tutorials, and—for economics—interactive market experiments. Assignments are automatically graded and provide students with detailed explanations for every question, and all of Aplia’s courses use multimedia to pique students’ interest.

Ed Lyell, professor and interim chair of the School of Business at Adams State College in Colorado, has used Aplia for economics and business communication. “It moved my student achievement from low Cs to documented 80-percent plus on average,” he said, adding that the program is “easier to use then any others that I have tried.”

Canvas (Instructure)

Canvas is a simple but powerful learning management system that is offered as either an open-source version that schools manage themselves or a cloud-based model hosted by the company. The software includes predictive analytics that indicate how at risk students are of failing or dropping a course. Clicking on a student’s name will take instructors to a page where they can see more detailed reports based on that student’s grades, class participation, assignment completion, and outcomes (whether he or she has mastered the content).

“My college adopted Canvas recently as we started our online programs,” said Linda Passamaneck, director of online education for Wright Career College in Kansas. “The system has a wide open interface … that allow[s] for easy integration with student information systems and third-party tools. On the faculty and student user end, I will say—after working with almost all of the various learning management systems for over 15 years—that Canvas has been the easiest system for all end-users to learn, requiring very little training for faculty and course developers. … Faculty report that they love the ability to quickly and easily record personal feedback messages to students, which they say has increase communications and responsiveness from students and improved communication between students and faculty. … All of these tools are already integrated, easy to use, and don’t require the large price tags or significant investment of IT staff to support and make the system usable as other low-cost LMS options do.”