Types of Applications Created by Citizen Developers
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Citizen Developer
Sep 29, 2023 4:27 PM

Types of Applications Created by Citizen Developers

by HubSite 365 about Julie Yack [MBA]

Trainer. Author. Mentor. Learner. Advocate. Solution Architect. Problem-solver. Interior Designer. Photographer. Globetrotter.

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Discover how a Microsoft expert utilized Microsoft 365 and Power Apps to transform personal productivity and streamline student grading.

A Closer Look at Apps Developed by Citizen Developers

As a Citizen Developer, the author, Julie Yack, embarks on a journey to develop a gradebook app. The intended users of this app are fully licensed users managing cohorts of students and their weekly assignments on the same tenant. In its current design, the app accommodates approximately 200 active students, given that the cohorts overlap in their course duration.

The author notes that the app is not engineered for a specific target audience, attributing her success in deploying the app without any Power Platform add-ons to flexibility in leveraging available resources. Despite not having administrative privileges over the tenant, she successfully deploys the app in its existing form.

In her developmental journey, Yack makes arbitrary decisions at every step while being well aware of multiple paths to her desired outcome. Every step is chosen based on requirements and available resources rather than an urge to build intricately complex systems.

Functionality and Flow of The App

The primary purpose of the app is to facilitate trainers in reviewing student assignments and providing timely feedback. Details about the assignments are gathered through a series of forms, one for each week, with a unique flow attached to extract data and populate an Excel row.

All data processing backends, including form responses and table population, are handled by dedicated connectors. The prime identifier made use of is the student's email address, which can occasionally cause cloud flow to fail in special cases. The handling of such errors is yet to be improved upon.

Another vital component of the app is the weekly form and its flow. Data retention policies mandate a fresh series of forms and flows for each cohort, which wouldn't necessarily be the most efficient in the long run. However, the author seems satisfied with this as creating new series for a fresh cohort takes under ten minutes.

The Power App Screens

The app comprises eight screens deployed in the Teams channel used for managing cohorts. These screens help review students' submission, their weekly performance, and feedback. The app is logically segregated into read-only screens and those allowing feedback and updating of activities.

The most complex part of the interface lies in the feedback option, enabling trainers to check who would benefit from feedback. To ensure practical day-to-day use, students are listed by their usernames in the current version. However, considerations are being made to switch this to email for better suitability,

The 'Send feedback' button updates the Excel table and dispatches an email with inline feedback to the student using the Office connector.

Reflections and Observations

Julie concludes by viewing her journey from a broader perspective, emphasizing the importance of flexibility in working with available resources. The evidence of her adaptability is her usage of Excel as the data store, despite her reservations regarding it not being a relational database. On one occasion, she bypassed the complex process of triggering a cloud flow, opting instead to use native functionality inline within the app.

The author also shares her apprehensions on consolidating the six flows of a cohort into a single flow, which might not prove useful in troubleshooting and debugging. She ends with a note that she dedicated a total of 20 hours to make this app, including a couple of hours of assistance from friends.

The resulting

'gradebook' productivity app

streamlines the workflow and provides significant time savings for every cohort, making it worth the investment, even with an Excel backend.

Read the full article What kind of apps would a citizen developer make?

Citizen Developer - Types of Applications Created by Citizen Developers

Learn about What kind of apps would a citizen developer make?

In this age of rising digital transformation, the focus on citizen developers or thought leaders has become more prominent. These skilled individuals use tools like Power Apps, a part of the Microsoft Power Platform to create functional applications for specific tasks without extensive coding knowledge.

The blog focuses on the journey of a user who creates a unique productivity application – a gradebook app. Through this application, trainers can efficiently track the progress of students, manage assignments, and provide efficient feedback.

This task-oriented developer used the power of Power Apps, with it, he could create apps with a visually engaging, intuitive interface that fulfills the requirements of a simplified grading and feedback system.

The process of creating this app involved using a backend based on an Excel data source, with Forms as the front end for capturing responses. These tools are readily available as part of Microsoft 365 license, which he applied to create, manage, and manipulate data without additional costs.

The primary identifier in this system is the student's email address, offering both advantages and drawbacks. It simplifies the build process, but also puts forward an occasional mismatch risk. An added error management system mitigates this.

On further investigation, the complexity of the developed app comes to light. Every cohort or group of students had a set of six forms, each attached to a flow. And for each new cohort group, such forms and flows were recreated. Simplistic on the surface, the flow of this system demonstrates efficient programming logic.

The Power App built serves as a management portal where eight screens navigate through different student data layers and assignment details. It allows easy student selection, offers summarized information views with detailed weekly breakdowns, and enables feedback provision on the writing assignments.

A remarkable feature of this Power App is its ability to save progress and send feedback directly through the app using the Office connector, enhancing communication efficiency.

  • Four trainers use the app
  • About 100 students form a cohort
  • Cohorts last six weeks
  • Approximately two active cohorts at any given time, leading to around 200 active students

As a final note, the blog implies that while Excel might not be a favorite choice as a data source for experienced professionals, it proves functional for this use-case. It took the author cumulatively around twenty hours and help from friends to build this useful application. But he believes that the application’s benefits far outweigh the effort.

This blog serves as an excellent case study for those keen to step into the world of Power Apps development and who seek to solve everyday business problems using this powerful no-code platform.

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