Fronter is one of many online classroom systems out there. Here in Norway it’s used by pretty much every school, and gives teachers and students a place to exchange information, find files, hand in assignments, accessschool email etc. It’s not really a very good system, with more stupid interface annoyances than a Sansa Fuze+ and outperformed by free consumer software for pretty much every feature it has – but hey, that’s educational institutions these days in a nutshell.
Anyways, accessing Fronter on an iPad works pretty good, despite it constantly yapping about the lack of Java support for its useless built-in instant messaging service and ridiculously backwards file downloader. Despite this though, Fronter released an app for the iPad back in June that lets you access Fronter through a special UI, and have now updated this app to version 2. I completely missed it when it first launched, but seeing a cached page of the iTunes listing from back then makes it seem like I didn’t miss much.
The updated version has a new UI and a couple of new features, but still seems more like a 0.1 alpha than a 2.0 version. The only feature they have added to this app compared to the website is the ability to stay logged in even if you close the app – everything else is a downgrade as far as I’ve seen. The file browser doesn’t support files over 4MB, they have completely removed both the Java-dependent features, you can’t upload any files and hence not hand in assignments (but you can if you get this app and use the website) and you can’t even access any of the address book features (meaning that you can forget about finding your teacher’s email address this way). The two features I would have expected this app to have are chat and file uploads, as those two are the lacking features when using the website. Making a dedicated app that has less features than the website simply makes no sense. I will keep the app and use it for quick lookups when I don’t want to go through the login on the website, but aside from that, this app is one huge disappointment. The iPad is becoming such a common tool in education these days that companies cannot permit themselves to not stay on top of the development with their own software.[iTunes]