I recently stumbled onto the suite of productivity tools put out by Zoho, which include a planner, slide show, chat, mail and word processing program. I was intrigued by Zoho Creator, which enables users to make custom databases for personal or public use, and with blog embedding capabilities. I realize that for serious database users this program may be too elementary, but as someone who is completely ignorant about database programs (programs like Filemaker Pro have always seemed forbidding and intimidating to me), I found Zoho Creator to be very intuitive and friendly.
I began by creating this database, which I called Webography (go ahead, click on this, I think you should be able to use the application because I’ve made it public).
Then I got serious about attempting to use Zoho in a way that might actually help me do my job. I tried to create a database for making the Spring 2008 course schedule for junior, senior and master’s level Spanish classes (which is due a week from today, as a matter of fact.) I’m still struggling with wrapping my mind around how databases function because this is all new to me. After some experimentation, I decided on the following categories of data entry:
I’m unsure about some of the decisions I made. After all, as a literature professor, I know little about programming spreadsheets and such. For example, we offer several sections of the same class each semester and I was not sure if I should make section numbers a separate data entry category. What I did was make multiple class entries for each class (for example, SP3312-01; SP3312-02, etc.), combining both class and section in the same data category. Maybe this is not so efficient.
At any rate, I’ve done a draft of the schedule and Zoho allows me to see the schedule by course numbers, my teachers, by days of the week, etc. The multipe output formats are nice: excel, pdf, html among others I was not familiar with.
Course scheduler is not the only database I’ve created. I also made one to track the books that I return to the library and another to track the research-related contents of my laptop. They are fun databases to use and have been good for learning, but I think the course scheduler is promising to be the most useful in terms of saving me time and effort at work. I think Zoho is also promising for tracking students in class– each semester I could have students fill out an online questionnaire the data from which could be used for a variety of worthwhile purposes. Privacy, though, is a concern. I guess if the website in which the database was embedded was password protected, it would not be an issue.
All in all, I give Zoho Creator a big thumbs up. I felt like I was goofing around and having fun but I actually made a database that I can use to save me time and do my job better. I think other academics such as myself could make good use of it.