It is estimated that over the course of a four-year degree program the average student skips over a year's worth of classes. The damaging effects of this statistic on student performance is evident -- 45% of students fail to obtain a diploma within six years of entering college, hurting prospects for students in the real world and tarnishing the reputation of universities. Current solutions to this problem, such as tracking student attendance as a portion of their grade, have proven to be ineffective, utilizing unreliable authentication systems and offering the wrong incentives. Thus, we developed our own platform NoSkip, a robust tracking and authentication system, to partner with universities to address this problem. An incentive structure aligned with behavioral economics theory allows NoSkip to succeed where other solutions failed, using positive incentives to reward student attendance rather than negative incentives to punish the lack there of.
What it does
NoSkip offers three perspectives depending on the user logging in: student, professor, or university. The student dashboard displays a student's credit balance, along with their enrolled classes and their recent attendance records. Each time a student attends a class and authenticates their attendance through a quiz created by the professor, they obtain a credit. Students can then redeem credits to obtain rewards determined by the university.
Professors are able to create attendance authentication quizzes for students regarding material taught in lecture. After creation, the quiz is sent out to all enrolled students in real-time, and remains open for a period of time determined by the professor.
Universities have the ability to add students and enroll students in their classes by paying a deposit. Additionally, we plan for universities have access to a smart analytics dashboard, displaying the attendance data of their students along with relevant metrics.
How we built it
The website was coded primarily in HTML, CSS, and React. We used the google API and passport for email:password authentication. We used react-router and react-redux for information storage and creating a multi page site. We used the Twilio SendGrid API for the verification form feature. We stored all information in MongoDB. We used Mongoose for quiz creation, as well as Stripe for dealing with payments. We are using Heroku to host our website as well.
Challenges we ran into
Our primary challenges when creating NoSkip were related to the design of our platform and the integration of the various services we used. Not having previous experience in web development, we weren't sure where to start with developing our application. While preliminary research and tutorials allowed us to understand the path to take to develop a minimum viable product, we wanted to ensure that our work was done in a scalable fashion to ensure its validity as a project, even beyond PennApps. Talking to the professionals at various companies was really an enlightening experience that allowed us to obtain a better sense of direction in terms of development strategy.
Additionally, NoSkip utilized several services including Twilio's SendGrid, Google APIs, Hiroku, and MongoDB. With such internal complexity, we faced numerous random errors integrating them into our unified platform. From problems with proxies and random account setup to IP addresses changing at different locations of Towne, we ran into tedious hurdles every step of the way. However, neither our battered mental states nor our lack of sleep compared to the tremendous satisfaction we felt at creating a fully functioning product.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Our team of two is extremely proud of successfully creating an application with the potential for positive social impact. Within a short time, we accomplished much of our ambitious goal: to build a scalable project that encompasses everything from backend database integration to smart analytics the course of two days. In terms of just codebase, our stack has over 2,000 lines of code. Having little experience in web development at the beginning of our project, we are extremely proud of how much we were able to learn and do from scratch.
What we learned
Working on NoSkip at PennApps gave us a unique chance to learn something completely new. Frameworks like React, email services like SendGrid, Non-relational Databases on the backend from MongoDB: these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the skills we picked up during the last 36 hours by diving into challenges rather than relying on a textbook or being formally taught concepts. While the skills we picked up were extremely valuable, our ultimate takeaway from this project is the confidence that we could pave the path in front of us even if we couldn’t always see the light ahead.
What's next for NoSkip
While we built a successful application during PennApps, we hope to continue add features to NoSkip including a marketplace tailored to universities, automatic university course integration, and implement more smart analytics features for universities to track the effectiveness of NoSkip. During the first half of 2020, we plan to submit this product at more entrepreneurship competitions and reach out to Penn to beta test our product. During the second half of 2020, we plan to raise VC funding and acquire our first deals with Universities. In short, NoSkip only begins at PennApps; it has a long way ahead of it.