How does ParentPaperwork import data?

ParentPaperwork manages a significant amount of data from schools. This post is a summary of how the data is imported and the various options and features. It is designed to be read by school ICT staff and database administrators to gain an overview understanding of our import modules and processes. For further information or assistance please contact support@parentpaperwork.com.

What Student Information Systems (SIS) does ParentPapework work with?

ParentPaperwork has ingested data from student information systems including:

  • CoolSIS
  • Denbigh
  • KAMAR
  • MAZE
  • PC School
  • SAS
  • SchoolPro
  • SEEMiS
  • SIMS
  • Skyward
  • Synergetic
  • TASS
  • Tyler

How does ParentPaperwork Acquire Data?

Data is obtained by ParentPaperwork in a variety of ways:

  1. Direct SQL database connection
  2. Pulled from remote API
  3. FTP pushed to ParentPaperwork
  4. Files pushed to ParentPaperwork’s Files API

We really don’t mind how the data is acquired and we are happy to work with a school or a provider to find the best and most efficient method. No matter how the data is acquired it is brought into our import system in a common format and centrally processed by a set of modules that handle various aspects of the data.

How frequently do we update imported data?

Almost always we update data from imported sources on a daily basis. We have the engineering capability and capacity for a higher frequency, but we figure a second-by-second update in real time is not necessary, schools are comfortable that if they make a change in their SIS one day it will be in ParentPaperwork the next day.

What data do we import?

At a minimum we import the data necessary for ParentPaperwork to operate:

Students

  • studentId (the unique identifier from your system for the student)
  • firstName
  • lastName
  • className (this will be the Student List they are allocated to initially)

Parents

  • parentId (the unique identifier from your system for the parent)
  • studentId (so we can link parent -> student)
  • firstName
  • lastName
  • email
  • mobile phone (only if you are using our optional Two Factor Authentication system or want SMS notifications enabled)

Additionally we can import further data:

Student Attributes

Student Attributes are user-defined fields in the ParentPaperwork Student record, a school can have an unlimited number of Attributes defined, and we can import data to these fields. Student Attributes are able to be used as fields on ParentPaperwork forms; when the parent opens their form the fields will be pre-populated with the values we are holding. When the parent submits the form the Attributes in the Student record will be updated. We also offer a range of exports including one we nickname ‘just the things that changed’, a list of Students, their Attributes and only the values that were updated as part of the form submission. This makes Student Attributes ideal for tasks such as annual student record updates.

Student Lists

Obviously students don’t just fall into one group at school, there are home rooms, tutor groups, subject classes, sports teams. We can import these to ParentPaperwork to Student Lists so these groups are available. Some larger schools consequently have several hundred Student Lists.

Staff Users

We can keep the Users in ParentPaperwork updated with changes in the school SIS. Generally we are not able to access passwords from the SIS, which means this is only useful in a couple of scenarios:

  1. The school needs the Users in ParentPaperwork to be able to send the staff notifications about forms, for example to cc a read only copy of a Parent Slip. The staff member is not required to log into ParentPaperwork.
  2. The school is using single sign on (SSO) to ParentPaperwork, either Google or Office 365, and does not want automatic user creation enabled in ParentPaperwork (where we allow anyone who is authorised via the SSO to access ParentPaperwork. By syncing in a list of Staff we can restrict access to ParentPaperwork to just the list of Staff the school provides via the import.

What is the import logic?

Our foundation view is that the source of truth for a school’s data is its SIS, so ParentPaperwork needs to as closely mirror that as possible. We are also very conscious that there can be some complicated family situations that are liable to change from time to time, so keeping ParentPaperwork in sync with those is important.

The following describes the import logic we use for each type of data.

Students

  • Check if there are any student records in the import that are different to those in ParentPaperwork
  • If the records are new Students, add them to ParentPaperwork
  • If the records are existing Students, update the changes to ParentPaperwork
  • Clear Students from any Student List named in the import that already exists in ParentPaperwork
  • Update Students from the import to the Student Lists named in the import
  • Optionally – clear students from any Student List created via import at any time, this deals with schools that don’t wish to maintain legacy Student Lists, it’s also useful for rollover at the beginning of a school year when we need to reset all Lists previously imported
  • Optionally – mark any Students currently in ParentPaperwork as inactive that are not contained in the import – marking them inactive removes Students from default views and lists and means they and their parents cannot be sent forms. Very useful for preserving data to comply with document retention policies whilst ensuring the Students are not visible day to day unless specifically searched for

Student Attributes

  • Check for Student Attribute names in the import that are different to those in ParentPaperwork, and create new Student Attributes on the school account
  • Update the Students with the values for those Attributes
  • Check if there are any Attribute values in the import that are different to those in ParentPaperwork and update the Student records
  • Note we log these changes as having come from an import, so we can differentiate with changes made via a User in ParentPaperwork, or a Parent submitting a form, so we can still generate exports of user/parent updates

Parent Contacts

  • Check if there are any Parent Contacts records in the import that are different to those in ParentPaperwork
  • If the records are new Contacts, add them to ParentPaperwork and link them to the relevant Students
  • If the records are existing Contacts, update the changes to ParentPaperwork, examine the existing links to Students already in ParentPaperwork, and if different to the import, update
  • Optionally – mark any Parent Contacts currently in ParentPaperwork as inactive that are not contained in the import – marking them inactive removes Contacts from default views and lists and means they cannot be sent forms. Very useful for preserving data to comply with document retention policies whilst ensuring the Contacts are not visible day to day unless specifically searched for

Student Lists

  • Check the import for any new Student List names, create these Lists in ParentPaperwork and assign the relevant Students
  • Check the import for any Student List names that already exist in ParentPaperwork, clear the Students already assigned to the List and update with the Students from the import

How are imported records are displayed in ParentPaperwork?

Records that have been created via import are shown in ParentPaperwork with an icon and the text ‘Imported Record’.

Optionally, if a school chooses, we can enable a feature that warns a User attempting to edit a record with a popup message to let them know any changes they make might be overwritten by a subsequent import.

Can you prevent imported records being edited by Users?

We have a feature that can be enabled which prevents any adding or editing of Students, Student Lists and Parent Contacts by Users logged into ParentPaperwork. This was developed for schools who do not want any changes to records to be made in ParentPaperwork, rather only in the SIS and thence imported into ParentPaperwork.

Can I check if my imports are running?

When logged into ParentPaperwork click your User Name at the top right and select Integration Log. This will display a list of imports with date, source (for example your SIS) and the number of records processed.

 

Parents can now manage their ParentPaperwork forms inside Schoolbox

We are now pleased to advise ParentPaperwork is now integrated with leading Australian learning management system Schoolbox, for parents to view and complete their online forms.

Parent portals are an increasing part of a school’s technology stack, it makes sense to concentrate a parent’s online interaction with their children’s school into a single point of contact. There’s nothing calculated to drive parents up the wall more than telling them they need to register and sign into a plethora of web sites.

This is a major reason why ParentPaperwork is not a ‘destination’ for parents. They might click our online form links, but we don’t require them to create an account or sign in. Instead we see ParentPaperwork as a piece of infrastructure a school can integrate with and deploy into their existing technology stack.

Schools Love Schoolbox

Schools love Schoolbox, and we do too. It’s a fantastic Melbourne-made software-as-a-service LMS, built by a group of talented people who are determined to create the best possible set of tools for K-12 schools.

schoolbox-pp

The integration set up is simple and there is no cost to your school. Parents can click a link in the Schoolbox portal and view a history of previously submitted forms, plus complete new forms. If you have our Admin and Enrolment Forms module they can even create their own new forms.

schoolbox-pp2

A Terrific Triumvirate

Don’t forget, if you also have the Digistorm schoolAPP, ParentPaperwork integrates to that as well. It’s a fantastic triumvirate – ParentPaperwork + Schoolbox + Digistorm schoolApp. Terrific convenience for your parents, reduced workload for school staff.

Parents can now use the Digistorm schoolAPP for Schoolbox to receive and submit online forms

A key goal for us at ParentPaperwork is ensure we are a cooperative part of the education technology landscape, and a signature strategy towards that goal is promoting interoperability between ParentPaperwork and other high quality products.

Many schools in Australia, and increasingly overseas, use the Schoolbox learning management system. And many of them use the terrific Digistorm schoolAPP for Schoolbox.

We are pleased to announce that ParentPaperwork is now fully integrated with the Digistorm schoolAPP.

When a message is sent to parents advising there is a new Slip for them to complete, this is also delivered as an in-app notification to their phone. Then when they open their app they have all their childrens’ ParentPaperwork forms at their finger tips, both previously completed ones, and forms yet to the submitted.

The new Slips can be completed and submitted right there inside the app. The ease of use and convenience is fantastic.

Notifications

When a new Slip is sent  to parents, a notification will show on their phone. They can tap the notification to open the Digistorm app and complete the form.

App Menus

A new menu option is displayed in the Digistorm app.

Tapping this link will open a list of Students with a count of any outstanding Slips for each.

Tapping the name of a Student will open a list of Slips, with incomplete ones at the top (highlighted with a red dot), and completed Slips at the bottom (green dot).

Tapping a Slip name will open the online form from ParentPaperwork directly in the app browser window, so a Slip can be completed and submitted, or viewed if it has already been submitted.

There is no cost for a school to use the ParentPaperwork integration to the Digistorm schoolApp. Just contact our Support Team to arrange for the connection between ParentPaperwork and Digistorm to be configured.

 

 

 

New webinars to help you get the most out of ParentPaperwork

Part of my role at ParentPaperwork is supporting our existing customers to experience the best value possible from the ParentPaperwork platform. Often schools will purchase ParentPaperwork with a particular goal in mind, but then overtime they come to appreciate that the platform can assist the school in so many more ways.

My experience includes 25 years in leadership roles, including Deputy Principal in a leading Melbourne independent school, and now as part of the ParentPaperwork team this has placed me in a unique position to understand how schools can maximise the benefits across the whole school’s operations using ParentPaperwork.

With many of our schools now having used ParentPaperwork for over 12 months and mastered their basic needs, the major questions that we are now fielding from everyone one … “Is this the best way to do what I need to be doing?”, “so what else can I do with the program?” and “what are all these new features I can see in the program?”

Schools are busy places and we understand fully that keeping up to date with improvement and new features is not easy. Time to explore is precious. This means that many of us, me included, cling onto the ways that we learnt to do things the first time.

With the assistance of many of our partner schools we have been  adding new modules and features to the suite of ParentPaperwork fairly consistently. All the new feature give you GREATER ABILITY/FACILITY, and SHORT CUTS to help you work more effectively.

We are introducing a weekly webinar starting in May, each will run for 45 minutes and cover a particular topic. We’ll be publishing dates and times soon so please look for our newsletter in your inbox or follow us on Twitter – @parentpaperwork.

The webinars will focus on:

  • Maximising the use and therefore the benefits of using ParentPaperwork
  • Increasing  your staff time savings, even more
  • Teaching you about more features in ParentPaperwork
  • Reconfirming that   your current process for sending a Slip is the best way to do it.

We will cover information for expert users, but mostly  the sessions will be for everyday users and administrators who want to reaffirm their processes, or knowledge of the ParentPaperwork program.

If you have a topic or question you want answered or included in the webinar series please email me at sam.sapuppo@parentpaperwork.com.

Send Slip and Broadcast notifications to school staff members

Communication within a school is very important, to ensure activities and resources are coordinated to the best possible effect. ParentPaperwork already significantly improves the availability and sharing of information throughout a school, starting with providing an aggregated view of all the online forms and broadcasts moving between school and parents and students, plus via our approval workflows and notifications.

We’ve now added a much-requested feature – sending notifications about Slips and Broadcasts to any nominated staff member, or groups of staff.

When you set up a new Slip or Broadcast you can nominate individual staff members or groups of staff to receive a notification that the message has been sent, along with a link to view the Slip or Broadcast.

In the ‘Send copy to Users/User Groups’ field start typing the name of a User or a User Group, and select the correct one from the drop down search results.

You can choose any number of Users and/or User Groups.

Select Users or User Groups

When the Slip or Broadcast is sent out, an email notification will now also be sent to all of the Users you have selected.

Email Notifications

The link in email will open to a read only preview of the Slip or Broadcast.

preview of the Slip or Broadcast

A new Analytics Dashboard for ParentPaperwork

The ParentPaperwork Dashboard has been completely overhauled with a new analytics-based version.

The new Dashboard concisely and elegantly displays key indicators providing you with the ability to analyse your data collection process.  It enables you to know “how things are going”, giving you insights and enabling you to track comparisons against a time series and global averages.

A key goal we believe should be that all parents return their ParentPaperwork forms by the Due Date. So the Dashboard gives you a number of measures:

  • What percentage of your Slips are returned within the first 24 hours, and how this compares to the global average across all our schools?
  • The average number of hours before a Slip is returned;
  • The percentage of your Slips that are returned by the Due Date;
  • The proportion of your parents who return their Slips by the Due Date.

dashboard

There are also metrics of interest to your school’s marketing and communications team, for example how many times a month are you sending Slips and Broadcasts to parents?

Plus we believe that environment considerations are super important so we’ve included analysis to give you a sense of the impact on the environment through your decision to implement ParentPaperwork.

Our Data Scientist Juan Daza has written a great blog post giving the details of how we assembled and created the analysis – really worth a read to gain an understanding of the techniques and thinking behind the statistics.

If your metrics are tracking below the global average there may be some strategies that can be deployed to improve the results – our team has a range of tips and tracks and we encourage you to contact us to discuss ideas. For example, enabling SMS notifications can often improve response rates.

Practical actions are still present on the new Dashboard, in the right hand column. You can start a new online form, and there are alerts for outstanding actions that are your responsibility. There’s also a new list of Slips at Due Date, highlighting Slips that are close to or just past their Due Date, with a quick check of the responses received so far.

The new Analytics Dashboard is available to all ParentPaperwork schools. If you still see the ‘old’ Dashboard after logging in, look for the Switch to new Analytics Dashboard link at the top right.

We welcome all of your feedback about the Dashboard or any aspect of ParentPaperwork. The Analytics Dashboard is the precursor to some very exciting new features around reporting and analytics you can expect from ParentPaperwork in the coming months.

Interning as a Data Scientist at ParentPaperwork

LinkedIn Photo
Juan Daza

University of Melbourne, Masters of Information Technology student Juan Daza shares his experience interning as a Data Scientist at ParentPaperwork across the Australian summer.

The University of Melbourne currently runs the Tin Alley internship program where students have the opportunity to apply to great companies in Victoria. Tin Alley has been named Australia’s best internship program and I was honored to be a part of this summer’s intake. One of the companies who gave students the opportunity to get hands on experience was ParentPaperwork and I have been working with the team in the role of Data Scientist.

In this blog post, I want to take you through part of my journey and ParentPaperwork’s goal to empower hundreds of schools with tools to make better informed decisions and more importantly, reach a 100% response rate from parents to slips.

I believe that the first step to make informed decisions is to have the facts and information at hand, which is why one of my main tasks was to assist in the development of the real-time analytical dashboard with key metrics for schools to understand their patterns of use and behaviours.

Data visualisation is a powerful tool in any Data Scientist’s tool box, so I set out to explore the data using Python and SQL and through multiple iterations develop simple yet powerful and self-explanatory visualisations.

I found key metrics that would allow schools to understand their current situation and trigger their curiosity. In conjunction with the team at ParentPaperwork I defined the following metrics.

    • Average response rate (AVR): This is defined as the number of parents who respond to the slips sent to them.
    • Average response time (AVT): The average time it takes parents to respond the slips received.
    • Slips returned by due date: The percentage of slips that are returned before the due date.
    • Timely parents: The number of parents that respond before the slip’s due date.
    • Total Number of forms and broadcast sent.I was mindful of the importance of having the right data displayed at the right time which is why I made sure that my data cleansing process was thorough.

In many cases, slips are sent to both parents and only one parent responds which means that if I calculated the response rate based on the available data, then the number would be biased because I would always have one responded slip and one unanswered slip. I had to develop some cleansing techniques to deal with this fact and get a clean and unique dataset from which I could query freely. I tested some powerful Python functions to wrangle ParentPaperwork’s large dataset and to find the correct dataset to achieve what I wanted to do.

I had to take additional considerations whilst analysing other metrics. As an example, while analysing the average response time from our parents I found an interesting fact. My calculations of the arithmetical average response time were of roughly 80 hours. This meant that on average, a parent responded to a slip every 80 hours or around 3 days. This is an amazing turnaround since paper based forms have a turnaround of around two weeks or more.

However, once I drilled down to the data I found some interesting insights. To look further into this, I set out to understand parents behaviour and I analyzed the response rate progression in the first 30 hours. I thought that the best way to do this was to visualise the behavior of this metric within the first hours of having sent it.

Reverse Burndown Chart

Figure 1. Completion Percentage per Time to Complete

We can clearly see how responses behave. At first, there are very timely parents that respond within a couple of hours and as time passes by, slips get more and more responses making the average response rate higher. Eventually it would reach the Global Average Response Rate which is around 75%

After this, I wanted to understand how many responses are received once the slips are sent. I developed a histogram to get an answer to this question.

Histogram

Figure 2. Response Frequency per Time to Respond

As it can be seen from the graph, parent responses have a very long tail, however most responses received occur in the first 30 hours of sending the slips. At the time of writing this article, around 60% of the responses were received during the initial 30 hours.

Taking this into account, I decided to calculate the weighted average based on the amount of responses received in each time slot. Using this method, I found an average of approximately 9 hours which is a very impressive number. Additional considerations such as night hours might be taken into account to adjust the average response time but in this instance, I will not go further into it.

Answers to many more questions were developed by following a thorough process where I drilled down in the data to find useful hints. I created groups of parents and found those who consistently respond late (or don’t respond) and determined based on the time of day what are the response times and response rates overall. All of these features will be rolling out gradually to help schools make better decisions. This comes to show how at ParentPaperwork various techniques are deployed to work towards making it a data driven organisation.

Stay tuned because over the coming months more news about the upcoming Data Analysis module will be released. The new Analytics Dashboard is now available to all ParentPaperwork schools.

ParentPaperwork launches game-changing new online forms feature for students

We have big news for ParentPaperwork schools to kick off 2017! We are pleased to announce the launch of our most important new feature in twelve months – sending online forms to Students.

Hundreds of schools in seven countries now use ParentPaperwork to send online forms to their parents and staff, and capture and report the responses – and they all see huge savings in time and money as a result.

We listen carefully to the feedback from our schools – and for some months they’ve been saying how much they love the current modules, but then list all the forms they need to send to students, like sports registrations, subject electives selection, school council elections, student surveys; and prefect voting.

The ParentPaperwork team mused on this feedback for a couple of months and figured out the best way to deliver student form functionality to our schools customers. Over the Australian summer our tech team has worked hard to create this new functionality and we’re very proud to reveal it to you.

A new Module within the ParentPaperwork Suite

Now when you set up a new form, you have the choice of it being completed by either the parent or the student. You can also ask that a read only copy be sent to the other – so send a form to parents with cc to students; or send a form to students with a cc to parents. Everybody gets kept in the information loop – no unnecessary surprises!

We’re very excited about this brilliant new functionality. The ParentPaperwork team is proud to offer it at no charge to all our current full suite subscription customers (those with both Parent Slips and School Forms modules). We will be charging for this feature for newbies in the year ahead, so this is our special gift to you for your input, ideas and savvy!

You can now select students to complete a form

Traditional paper-based processes are quite simply broken and no longer workable in today’s world, where accountability, risk management and statutory compliance are critical issues for school leaders globally. ParentPaperwork provides your school with a robust, secure system to replace all your paper forms.

With the launch of our new Slips to Students functionality we can confidently say ParentPaperwork is easily the most comprehensive, fully featured, administration data capture, management and reporting platform for K-12 schools, kinders and ELC’s in the world. And it’s all built and managed right here in Melbourne, Australia, with customers as far afield as the Czech Republic, Canada and Portugal.

This is just the start of what we’ve planned to be a huge year! The ParentPaperwork team has several major new features slated for 2017 and I can’t wait to tell you all about them over the coming months, especially the forthcoming Metrics and Data Analysis Module!

Making parent live’s easier – quicker access to incomplete Parent Slips

Many parents will be sent multiple Slips to be completed at various times, so it’s likely at any given time a particular parent might be responsible for completing and submitting more than one Slip.

Email and SMS notifications will be sent to the parent for each individual Slip and Student and the Parent can click through to each Slip from each notification – but that means the parent has to switch back and forth between their email program and web browser. The issue is exacerbated for those with twins in the same class, or when the Slip has been sent to multiple Student Lists which include more than one child with the same contacts.

To help make the parent’s task easier, ParentPaperwork now displays a list of outstanding Slips in two places. We believe this offers a much smoother process when someone has more than one Slip needing to be completed, they can simply click through to the next one both from the online form page and the Thank You emails.

Parent Slip Page

When the Parent submits an online form, if they have any other outstanding Slips these are displayed at the top of the page (up to 4 Slips).

Parents see a list of incomplete Slips after submitting an online form

Parent Slip Thank You Email

When someone submits a Slip online form a ‘thank you’ email is sent to them, this also includes a list of up to four other outstanding Slips.

Parents see a list of incomplete Slips in their thank you email after submitting an online form

Helping Australian and New Zealand schools get ready for 2017

If you work in a typical school then you’re about to begin one of the largest and most important behind-the-scenes tasks in your school year.

You’ll be sending out re-enrolment forms, Year Level contact forms and seeking to update medical details for the student body. This is a 5 to 6 week epic journey that includes:

  •  preparing the forms
  •  preparing the data
  •  sending the forms to parents – post, schoolbag, general email
  •  chasing form return
  •  inputting updated data into your student management system
  •  checking for mistakes and inaccuracies
  •  collating the data
  • crossing fingers that it’s all okay

What’s the secret way?

Yet this whole process could be much, much easier. It’s a secret that  ParentPaperwork schools know and have been keeping from you!  Schools who use ParentPaperwork remove the human labour component and let technology do the work for them. Using our platform to distribute your forms and capture and report your data, can reduce the time it takes to complete the re-enrolment process to a matter of days.

The school and parents are the winners here!

We know from the experienced educators on our team, that parents dread receiving the annual student update and re-enrolment forms and greet them mentally as one would the family member who makes a scene at Christmas lunch every year. They’ve got to be attended to but every minute spent filling them out is done through gritted teeth.

On ParentPaperwork your re-enrolment forms can capture:

  •  commitments to policies
  •   contact details
  •   medical updates
  •   global permissions
  •   any other data that you need to capture from parents before the school         year commences.

And something that will really get you excited…

Once you have this information captured ParentPaperwork will pre-fill on future re-enrolment forms. Meaning parents are not filling out the same information, like Medicare numbers and Ambulance details over and over.

We have to ask – what would the value of this elegant re-enrolment solution be to your school community?

Setting up for 2017 – Current Customers

In the meantime, current ParentPaperwork schools are thinking about getting ready for the 2017 school year. Here are some common tasks to consider for later in December or in January:

  • Move students who left at the end of 2016 to a new Student List;
  • Remove students from Year Level and Class Student Lists;
  • Re-import your students and parents to ensure existing students are allocated to the correct Student Lists; and new students and parents records are created;
  • Archive Slips from last year so whilst they are easily accessible, they’re not displayed by default when you are viewing your Parent Slips list;
  • Disable staff who have left the school; add new Staff Users.

Back to School Forms

ParentPaperwork is the perfect solution for all your global or blanket permission forms: photo permissions; policy consents; head lice checks and the forms you wish parents to complete and return before day one, term one 2017.

Once your students and parents for 2017 are organised in ParentPaperwork it is a doddle to set up your Back to School forms and distribute. Then you can sit back and watch as the responses roll in.

We’d be delighted to help you get ready for 2017. If you’d like assistance setting up your students/parents, and/or sending out back to school forms, please email support@parentpaperwork.com