Evaluating iOS Applications: Apps Lab at Emory University

  • Posted by Shannon O'Daniel
  • February 17, 2011 4:00 PM PST

A recent cover story in Wired suggests that the "Web is dead" and that the future lies with "simpler, sleeker services" such as apps. As apps become more critical for the general populace they also become so for faculty and students. Yet it can be difficult to know which of the hundreds of apps aimed at these audiences are best suited to an individual's needs since apps do not allow evaluation prior to purchase. While some apps have "Lite" or "Free" versions, the features that come with the full version still cannot be tested before purchased (Ostensibly, these missing features are the reason why one purchases the full version of the app). The Apps Lab @ Emory addresses this problem by providing faculty and students an opportunity to test and evaluate apps so that they can make an informed purchase for their own devices.

Provide a way for faculty and students to evaluate iOS apps that have potential value for teaching, research, and learning. The goal of this initiative is not to sell apps but to provide insight into how the apps might be used as part of teaching, research, and learning.

A cross-division team from University Technology Services and Emory faculty are collaboratively evaluating iOS apps for their potential use in teaching, research, and learning at Emory. Both groups’ primary customers are faculty members throughout the Emory enterprise however, this initiative will include students and staff in scope.  The Apps Lab team collaboratively identifies, purchases, and evaluates multiple apps for iOS devices and then produce a list of those the team identifies as having unique value to teaching, research, and learning. Both "pay" and free apps are candidates for evaluation. While the Apps Lab Team provides recommendations for particular categories of apps (note-taking, document creation, PDF-reading, etc.), individual faculty and students are free to come to the Lab and experiment with the full range of purchased apps to determine which will best help them in their work. App reviews will be posted here at MacLearning.org.


  • Team determines categories that will be most useful to scholars, students, librarians, and university staff. Within those categories, ALT members will research individual apps using the following.
    • iTunes reviews
    • other website reviews
    • colleagues
    • Twitter suggestions
  • Members may recommend apps suggested by the Emory community. The team must reach a consensus before moving forward with an app test. 
  • Each suggested category or app is assigned to an Apps Lab team member who researches  and makea recommendation to members about whether or not to review it. Apps must be $10 or less and the team uses vouchers to purchase them.  
  • Team members evaluate apps according to a scoring rubric:
    • ease of use/learning curve
    • how well it performs its particular task
    • cost effectiveness