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

What is a tree worth to your school community?

Your school, your values

What a school places value on can say a lot of about the culture and community of that school. How much you value trees and the environment is about more than being a tree hugger or hippie.

It’s the time of year, in Australia and New Zealand, when everything in school just seems to get busier and busier. Exams are done and dusted. Transition to the next year level will be happening soon. Teachers and students are gearing up for end-of-year performances. And administrators are working hard to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the school year.

In the US, UK, Canada and the other countries where schools use ParentPaperwork the school year isn’t ending but the calendar year is. Students and teachers attention is moving towards Christmas and/or the holidays and spending time with family and friends.

For those in the southern climes, the focus in December is around back to school and being ready administratively for the new school year.

In the midst of all this rush and bustle, it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself what the values driving your school will be in 2017?

So many schools we reach out to still use antiquated processes, particularly when dealing with governance and compliance matters that could all be dealt with in a much more organised, efficient and effective way by using an online platform like ParentPaperwork.

Costs of the old way can be hidden from view

And continuing to do things the old way has hidden costs. Earlier this year we took a look at these hidden costs and created our cost calculator. Want to know how much you could be saving in financial, environmental and labour costs by using ParentPaperwork to handle all your forms? Just plug your student numbers in to our calculator  and take a look.

Something that rides a trend wave of interest and then at times disappears from view, is the effect schools have on the environment. Just what impact does your school have on the environment? Could things be done differently or better? What are some easy ways to reduce environmental burden in school settings? What is the low hanging fruit you could pick in terms of making your school fully sustainable?

ParentPaperwork was created out of a philosophy that schools are important and special places in our communities and that how we run them can have a material beneficial impact to the environment and sustainability.

Since the beginning of the year ParentPaperwork has handled over 1.2 million forms on behalf of our schools customers. Consider that many of these are multi-page if sent by paper. We estimate that in 2016 schools using ParentPaperwork have saved the planet circa 2.5 million pieces of paper.

In a school with 1000 students, using ParentPaperwork as your forms solution will be a huge step towards taking your school paperless. And it will also mean that 7 trees didn’t get cut down this year. If you use ParentPaperwork for 5 years, that’s 35 trees, a copse or small forest.

If you’re not swayed by the cost savings argument yet, maybe you’ll think about your values and how much a tree, copse or forest matters to your school community?

Workload still an issue for teachers in schools globally

Online tools such as ParentPaperwork are a great way to reduce teacher workload.

Where do forms fit in?

This is not a new topic that I’m about introduce. And it’s one I’m hoping for the sake of my 9 month old niece in Phoenix, Arizona and my children’s future children and their teachers, will be solved sometime soon.

What am I talking about? Well as the CEO of an Edtech startup based in Melbourne, Australia one of the key issues that we talk about in our office amongst the team, is ways that we can help schools run better by using the ParentPaperwork platform to automate paper form processes inside the administrative function of the school. And just because what we do deals with administrative forms, doesn’t mean we don’t positively impact teachers too. It does and I’ll explain more further in.

Teacher workload is not going away as an issue

In the education news sources I scanned last month in Melbourne The Age highlighted a new survey, ‘Put Education 1st‘, commissioned by the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch which found that most teachers are failing basic tasks due to out-of-control workload. You can quibble on the numbers, however when surveying 13,000 teachers leads the survey to the conclusion that teacher workload is going crazy, then I pay attention.

50 to 60 hour work weeks, the new normal?

Earlier this month the BBC reported that many teachers in the UK were working 60 hour weeks. This compares to the Australian teachers who are working in the 50 to 55 hour range and Australian principals over 60 hours a week. The BBC story drew on a report from the Education Policy Institute that used data from the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey between 2012 and 2014. Again the issue of teacher workload and the issue of administrative tasks is mentioned over and over.

One thing I know for sure as a parent who has one child who has made it through 13 years of schooling and another who has another two years to go, and a third who will be in the Australian special education system for another 8 years, I do not want my children taught by someone who is stressed, tired, exhausted and on the point of overwhelm. And that is ditto for my niece and my children’s children. A well-rested, happy, dynamic and positive teacher who really drives the teaching/learning experience, can’t be expected to thrive in a culture and environment of chronic overwork.

New Edtech can be part of the workload solution

I’d like to say that we have a solution for you in ParentPaperwork, however what I think is more accurate to say is that we can be a part of the solution. One point of the UK story that worries me is that teachers are being shortchanged professional development opportunities because there simply isn’t time to attend them or apply for them. They are missing out on learning about the latest techniques, technologies and peer developments that could be shared and deployed to alleviate their current workload.

The part of the solution that we offer should make both teachers and principals happier. On the student side of the equation ParentPaperwork deals with all the forms that go home to parents requiring responses such as permission forms, rsvp’s and the like. The schools who use ParentPaperwork have found over 150 regular form processes that can be deployed using our platform.

The most important equation is the teacher-student relationship

Anecdotally principals and other education leaders report to members of my team that there are many issues that keep them awake at night but maybe the most contentious is how to best support teachers in their efforts to teach and create and grow positive relationships with students.

Principals are also telling us that they want to know about Edtech solutions that their teachers will use. That means they must solve a real problem and be easy and quick to use. Qualitatively I think we know that no matter how much data and structure you give to the bulk of the student population, the single most important factor in student success is the quality of the relationships they have with their teachers. One outstanding, thoughtful and caring teacher can switch a student who is flailing around struggling to fit in to the school environment, back on to learning, not simply because the teacher makes the content compelling but because they also create a bond of trust and safety and a space to learn. Learning after all is about taking a risk to move position from what one knows now and defending that, to opening one’s mind to a bigger picture and greater potential.

How much time does your staff spend on forms?

If you’re a principal I wonder if you’re aware how much time your teachers spend on some basic forms that are part of school life. How many hours do you think are spent doing the following?

* preparation of forms

* photocopying and distribution of forms

* collection of forms and follow ups

* management of the information – is this re-transcribed into another format?

* collation of information

* concerns about accuracy of the information and following up

* storing and retrieval of form information, when required

Schools are busy places and in any week there will be incursions, excursions, specialist classes and activities that require some kind of permission process to take place.

Real Edtech solutions, not fads

As Edtech entrepreneurs we’re not interested in creating tech bling and products that make a teacher, administrator, or Principal’s working day harder. Our mission is to help schools run more smoothly and to make our contribution towards taking a school paperless. We hope that a byproduct of what we do can help give teachers back a few precious hours a week, hours not spent distributing and collecting and hassling for forms from students. And give Principals, the capacity to know that all forms processes that run their school can be viewed at a glance and reports and analysis generated so that some of the compliance and other issues that keep them awake at night, can be put to bed for good.

If you’re currently part of the ParentPaperwork revolution then congratulations, we’re just getting started and we welcome you to help us make your school as efficient and effective on the administrative side as possible. If you’re not, please consider directing your Head of IT to our site for a demonstration. We are not the whole solution to teacher and principal stress and overwhelm but our current schools customers are finding that we take you a good way there. Time off forms and administration is time given back to the people you work with and to your students. Which in my view, is where best to put your precious time and energy.

An easier way to select Student Lists for Slips and Broadcasts

The current Student List selector has been a little problematic for schools with many Student Lists, so we have added a ‘typeahead’ box at the top of the box displaying available Lists on the left side. Simply start typing the name of the List you are looking for and the available options will automatically filter to reflect the text you enter.

It’s a easy way to quickly locate the Student List you need amongst dozens or hundreds.

Obviously it’s important to have your students organised in way that makes sense for your school, and then be able to select those via the Student Lists when you wish to send out a Slip or Broadcast.

Some of our larger ParentPaperwork schools over time have amassed a great many Student Lists. Others are maintaining a large number just day to day because we are not just pulling Year Levels, Home Rooms lists from their student database, but subject classes, co-curricular and others. The new typeahead feature makes finding and selecting Lists super simple.

The same works in reverse, if you have selected a large group of Student Lists you can locate one to remove from the Slip/Broadcast by typing the name of the desired list into the box at the top of the right hand column of selected Lists.

 

Send School Forms to multiple Staff

ParentPaperwork allows you to create a School Form and send it to multiple staff members for completion. An obvious example would asking a group of staff to accept an ICT usage policy.

Create the Form

To create a copy of the Form for multiple staff select the School Form template, and change the drop down ‘This Form is for me’ to ‘No’. Select the names of the Staff who need to complete the form. If there is a file that needs to be attached then click Add Files.

When ready click the Save New Form and a Draft will be created. If all details are correct click the Complete button. A copy of the Form will be created for each of the selected Staff.

school-forms-multiple-1

Notification to Staff Members

An email notification will be sent to each of the selected Staff members, with a link to their copy of the Form.

school-forms-multiple-3

Staff Open the Form

When the Staff member clicks their link their copy of the Form will open, with the Form assigned to them.

school-forms-multiple-4

Staff Edit the Form

The Staff member edits the Form as if they had created it, they click the Edit Form button, enter information into the fields, and click the Save Form button.

school-forms-multiple-5

Staff Complete the Form

Once the Staff member is happy with the information they have entered they click the Complete button to submit the Form.

Note you can set up additional workflow steps, for example, to send a notification to other Staff on submission, or to request Approval.

school-forms-multiple-6