Supercharge your homework and bell work procedures with iOS Shortcuts and IFTTT Part 1

Difficulty: Medium

Cost: Free

Time: 30-45 minutes

For teachers, a quick and easy homework procedure is key for keeping students accountable without sacrificing instructional time. In the past, I’ve used checklists, stickers, stamps, and turn in baskets. This year, however, I intend to go fully digital and contactless.

I’ve designed an iOS shortcut that drastically simplifies the process of checking daily work whether it’s homework, bell work, or class participation. All you do is run the Shortcut, mark who completed their work, and make any extra notes if necessary. Everything else is taken care of in the back end.

With this level of simplicity, the automation is perfect for teachers who are teaching in-person as well as those engaged in asynchronous or remote learning.

The best part is that you don’t need to write the shortcut. All you have to do is download it to your phone, fill in your students, and link your IFTTT (more on this later) account key.

The shortcut is currently set up for 3 classes. If you need more, you can add them in yourself or send me an email, and I’ll create and add links to shortcuts with support for 4, 5, 6, etc. classes per day as needed.

How does it work?

This automation is powerful, and you can easily scale and tailor the processes to fit your needs. Let’s review what happens during this automation so you can think about whether or not it’s useful to you, and how you can tailor it to fit your unique situation and needs.

The automation starts in an iOS shortcut that you can easily download from here and set up with import questions.

The shortcut will prompt you to select your class and take you to the list of students corresponding with the class you selected. From there, you check the names of all students who completed their homework and add any notes as necessary.

The shortcut takes your input and appends it to an IFTTT webhook which enters the information into a Google sheet.

The problem is that now all the students who completed their work are listed in a single cell, and I can’t add extra functionality to this IFTTT applet without a premium subscription.

The workaround is a simple formula which takes the list of students, separates them by line, and posts them across the row.

Finally, a simple set of formulas aggregates the data on a third sheet to make it easy to understand and to set it up for the second half of the automation.

In part 2, you’ll learn how to create an automation which takes the aggregated data and texts a weekly homework report to parents.

Essentially, by following these tutorials, you can track homework completion, contact parents, and document the contact simply by clicking two menus.

What do I need?
Step 1: Set up your IFTTT webhook to Sheets applet

If you don’t already have an IFTTT account, you’ll need to set one up to continue.

From the home page, click create in the upper right hand corner.

From the create page, you can see what IFTTT does in the most basic way if this (a trigger) happens then that (an action) triggers.

Click add next to If This then search for Webhooks and select the Webhooks trigger.

There should only be one option.

You will be prompted to enter an Event Name. Come up with something simple yet descriptive. I recommend going with homework_check as I have done here.

Note: You can’t have spaces or capital letters.

Next search for Google sheets for your Then That action. Choose to add a row to the spreadsheet.

There will be a few options. Name your spreadsheet however you like, leave the formatted row as is unless you wish to reprogram the shortcut later, and adjust the drive folder path as you like. I like the default path and simply bookmark for easy access.

When you’re happy with your choices, confirm them with the Create action button.

Now you need to retrieve an API key.

Go to the maker webhooks page of IFTTT linked here.

Then select Documentation.

Grab your maker key. It’s a long string of letters and numbers.

Spend a few minutes trying to pronounce AYyqaidf3r3thk43190KJDFidkaieALKEjnle or whatever your key is.

Now copy and paste the key somewhere safe along with your event name. You’ll want them somewhere you can easily copy and paste them into the shortcut from your iPhone or iPad so I recommend emailing yourself the key and event name.

Step 2: Set up your iOS Shortcut

First ensure you have the shortcuts app on your device. The logo looks like this:

Next, before importing the shortcut, ensure you have the untrusted shortcuts toggle enabled on your device. Doing this allows you to import shortcuts which were not made by Apple.

Check this by going to Settings > Shortcuts.

Once you’re sure untrusted shortcuts are enabled, import this iOS shortcut onto your device.

Now all you have to do is answer the import questions.

You should be presented with the option to configure the shortcut by adding your class and student names. Keep these text only as emojis can cause errors. If emojis work for you, that’s great, but I avoid them.

If you aren’t immediately presented with the option to configure the shortcut, press the three dot menu in the upper right corner.

From this menu, you can press “Customize Shortcut…” to go through the import questions.

This is also helpful if you don’t have time to type out your entire rosters during the import process. You can go back to this menu, press customize, and finish the process at a later date.

From this menu, you can also add the shortcut to your home screen it will show up as an app icon with the color and glyph or image of your choosing.

In the last two questions, enter the event name and key very carefully.

Once you have the shortcut set up, run it once to test it and so that IFTTT will create your Google Sheet in the drive you selected.

Step 3: Customize your Google Sheet

When you open the Google Sheet, Sheet1 will contain rough data output by the shortcut through IFTTT.

Make a note of where your data is output. If you followed my tutorial so far, your spreadsheet output should match mine.

Here is my sheet which you can use as a reference or to copy.

While this is obviously not the most elegant solution, it shows off some different formulas, makes them easy to learn, and makes tracking and fixing errors pretty simple.

For the simple path, you can create two new spread sheets in your document select all from mine, copy, and paste special formula only to copy all the formulas without the data for Sheet2 and Sheet3 which I have labeled as Classes. This will get your sheet up and running.

If you want to learn what the formulas are and how they work, read on.

On Sheet2, the first 3 columns contain a formula which simply retrieves data directly from the previous sheet.


Here’s how the formula works:

= — Let’s Google Sheets know what follows is a formula

Sheet1! — Reference Sheet1

A2 — Get the value of cell A2 on Sheet1


Column B is almost the exact same formula, but it is adjusted to pull from Sheet1 column B.


To pull from different rows, change the number at the end.

Once you’ve pulled the data from Sheet1, format it with SPLIT to split the values of the cell by line.


This formula tells Sheets to reference the contents of cell C2 and split them by line across the rest of the row.

Now we’ll move on to Sheet3. I’ve named and color coded it because it’s the only sheet I intend to regularly interact with.

The first 2 columns of Sheet3 are simple inputs. Enter your class rosters and the class names in those columns.

Next, we’ll make a formula which counts how many assignments each student has completed.


COUNTIF references all the cells between D2 and Y100 in Sheet2. Any cells which match the value present in A2 on this sheet will be added to the count.

Essentially, this formula finds every time a student’s name is in the list of students who have completed their homework assignments and adds +1 to the cell the formula is in.

Next, we’ll use a slightly different version of COUNTIF to find how many times each student’s class was assigned homework.

=COUNTIF(Sheet1!C2:C,"1st Period")

The main difference here is that COUNTIF is matching a string directly rather than the value of a string, integer, or float in a referenced cell.

Finally, a very simple formula calculates how many assignments each student is missing by subtracting the number of assignments completed from the total number assigned to their class.


With all of these formulas, you should be able to write them once per column and paste them down all the rows, but you’ll need to follow behind and check that the row numbers are adjusting correctly so that the correct cells are referenced.

That’s it!

If you followed these steps, you should have a great system for capturing homework data or any other kind of daily data with ease.

This provides a versatile base upon which you can later add part 2 of this automation which will enable you to send daily, weekly, or monthly personalized text messages without any extra effort on your part.

If you had any trouble with this or you have any questions about the automation or how to adapt it for your uses, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll help you in whatever way I can.

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