Life goes better with partners – Digistorm

In March 2017, we announced that ParentPaperwork had become fully integrated with the Digistorm schoolAPP for Schoolbox, which is yet another example of ParentPaperwork’s commitment to furthering our data interoperability.

Now that ParentPaperwork and Digistorm schools are well and truly taking advantage of the increased functionality this partnership gives them, we thought it was timely to introduce Digistorm on a more intimate level to you.

We asked Digistorm’s Chris Lang some questions, and here’s what he had to say…

ParentPaperwork: Can you please tell us a bit about Digistorm and how it came about?

Chris Lang: “Sure, Digistorm was founded in 2011 and really came about when Tim Oswald, our MD, built and launched the first School App in Australia for King’s Christian College on the Gold Coast. After receiving a number of enquiries from other schools he decided to focus on building a mobile app system dedicated to education.”

“I came onboard following this and, since then, we’ve grown to 15-plus staff and now work with over 250 schools throughout Australia, NZ, Asia and the United States. We’ve also diversified our product offering to include websites, online enrolment portals and, more recently, a CRM designed specifically for K-12 schools.”

How do you recall the Digistorm and ParentPaperwork relationship beginning? Who courted who and when did romance blossom?

“It was quite organic really! As with most of our integration partners, it was driven by mutual clients who saw the tremendous value that this could bring to their school. David Eedle (CTO at Parent Paperwork) and I worked with our respective development teams to develop a proof of concept and roll it to a number of schools for their feedback.”

What does ParentPaperwork add to Digistorm that particularly appeals to you?

“The ability for our school communities to receive targeted instant notifications when their children have a permission note or slip outstanding is so convenient. Being able to then quickly approve or decline it in just a few taps, while still ensuring full compliance, seems so powerful to me. Best of all, there is no extra work required to push it to our eduAPP system.”

“I’ve had so many schools ask me for this exact workflow over the years so to be able to offer it with a best-of-breed solution like Parent Paperwork is exciting.”

How has the interoperability between Digistorm and ParentPaperwork played out so far? Have there been any pleasant surprises? Customer comments?

“Due to the way that it was developed by both parties, it really is a plug & play solution for our schools so the implementation is quite seamless. The feedback has been nothing short of amazing and, recently, a leading independent girls school in South Australia commented to me that it was one of the best things that they had done.”

Where are you hoping the ParentPaperwork and Digistorm relationship will lead?

“We’d love to open this up to many more of our partner schools over the next 12 months and also to continue to develop the two platforms to be even more integrated. I hope that valuable feedback from our schools will drive the functionality in both systems.”

“We’ve got some exciting marketing initiatives in the works as well, and can see both companies going from strength to strength over the coming years.”

Your office looks like a cool place to be… What are the defining qualities of a ‘Digistormer’?

“Must own striped shirt, or be willing to improvise. Must like fancy cheese and not-so-fancy beer. Must be able to source and share a meme relevant to every situation in a matter of minutes…”

“…I’m only kidding! The great thing about this office is that everyone can be exactly who they want to be. We believe in a zero-politics environment with lots of laughs and even more hard work. If you have a skill, we’ll foster it – that’s why we have such a passionate, hard-working team. That’s the essence of a Digistormer.”

Do you have any closing comments?

“A shameless plug I know but I would encourage anyone who is interested in seeing the integration in action to contact Digistorm on 07 5508 2929 as we’d love to show it off.”

www.digistorm.com.au

New access controls and permissions for Users in ParentPaperwork

Data security and access are extremely important in environments such as schools, which often are managing significant volumes of personal information spanning across staff, parents and students. Increasingly, schools are using ParentPaperwork to capture, manage and report this data, and we have implemented a range of ways you can control access to data and functionality in ParentPaperwork.

This blog post outlines the types of permissions and configuration you can implement with ParentPaperwork in your school. You can also check out our Knowledge Base for further information.

A school may have as many Users accessing ParentPaperwork as they like. Note we have single sign-on for both Office 365 and Google, making it really easy to enable access for large groups of school staff. We can also synchronise a list of your staff each night as part of our overall data import schedule for your school.

User Roles

There are two User Roles:

  1. Administrator – complete access to all of ParentPaperwork’s features and configuration. We’d recommend you limit the number people with this ‘Access All Areas’ permission.
  2. User – a standard User. They cannot alter ParentPaperwork’s configuration (including managing Users) nor can they edit the Form Templates and Workflows. User Permissions can be applied to ‘Users’.

By default, a User has access to all information, and you can use various permissions settings to control and define their access.

Individual User Permissions

User can have their access restricted in multiple ways:

  1. They can be configured to only have View access. They’ll be able to log into ParentPaperwork and see all the information but will not be able to add new data or edit existing data – for example, they cannot create a new Slip nor edit a Student or Contact.
  2. They can have their access restricted to only Slips they created or those on which they appear on the workflow. In a busy school, with many Slips being sent, this is a great option to reduce the ‘noise’ for a particular user so they only see the information relevant to them.
  3. They can have their access restricted to specific Student Lists. By default, this also means their access is restricted to only the Slips they create or those on which they appear on the workflow, as per option 2 above. This is perfect for parent class reps and others who should only have access to very specific groups of students and parents
  4. Users can be assigned to User Groups, and the above permissions will be controlled via the Group.

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 4.07.31 pm

User Groups

User Groups can be used to control permissions for groups of Users. You can set the same permissions as for individual Users, and these will apply to Users assigned to the Group instead of the individual permissions.

The User Groups list page summarises the permissions assigned to each Group.

Editing a User Group allows you to control the permissions.

Users Groups and Form Template Categories

User Groups can be used to control access to sets of Form Templates via the Template Categories.

A Form Template can be assigned to one or more Form Template Categories. A Category may be assigned to one or more User Groups.

If a Category is assigned to a User Group, only Users assigned to the Group can:

  • Create a new Slip/Form from the Templates in that Category
  • Access an existing Slip/Form that was created from the Templates in that Category

By using a combination of User permissions, User Groups and Form Template Categories, you can restrict access to information in ParentPaperwork to selected Users and groups of Users.

For example, perhaps staff within school departments can be given view only access to Slips/Forms relevant to their department, while the heads of department can edit and manage forms across one or more departments. Or only school leaders are given access to Forms relating to human resources or staffing issues.

Send ParentPaperwork Broadcasts to Students

Earlier in 2o17, we launched Student Slips, allowing schools to send ParentPaperwork’s online forms to Students – the perfect and logical complement to our original Parent Slips system.

Student Slips is ideal for senior schools and colleges for tasks like sports registrations, subject electives selection, school council elections, student surveys and prefect voting

With Student Slips, you have the choice of the form being completed by either the parent or the student. You can also ask that a ‘read only’ copy be sent to the other party – such as sending a form to parents with a cc to students, or sending a form to students with a cc to parents. Everybody gets kept in the information loop – no unnecessary surprises!

The feedback on Student Slips has been excellent, and we have now extended this functionality to the Broadcasts module.

Previously, you could only send a Broadcast to Parents of selected Student Lists or individually nominated Students. Now you can send a Broadcast direct to Students, with an option to CC to their Parents or vice versa – send to Parents with a CC to their associated Students.

 

student-broadcast

Setting up a Broadcast to Students works the same as sending out a Slip. You choose to send the Broadcast to ‘Parents’ or ‘Students’ and, if you wish, you can CC in the other party.

It is important to note that Broadcasts to Students are only available if you have the email addresses for Students in ParentPaperwork – Broadcasts via SMS to Students are not available. However, we can import Student emails via your scheduled nightly import.

Additionally, please note that Broadcasts to Students are only available if your school has purchased the Student Slips module – please contact our sales team if you need more information.

 

A lack of school data interoperability leads to inoperability

Written by David Eedle, CTO, ParentPaperwork

What are we talking about when we say ‘data interoperability’? Consider this analogy:

You’ve got a kitchen and you mistakenly buy a whole lot of appliances from different countries, which means they all have varying power plugs. The toaster is still a toaster, the blender is still a blender, and a kettle is still a kettle. Individually and in the appropriate environment, they’ll work perfectly. But, in your kitchen with your power points, they can’t function.

Therein lies the problem with interoperability with technology in any situation, school or otherwise. If you’re establishing an office with a bunch of computers that can’t talk to each other, or can’t effectively connect, then what you have is data inoperability, rather than interoperability.

In the case of schools, each school has a source of truth: their student management system. It will be a central database of some sort that holds all the key and associated data about any given student (their name, contact details, information about guardians and, increasingly, their academic information).

The database may hold all that information but the database does not do everything. So schools buy all different types of software – for organising school lunch payments or selling tickets to the school play or sending online forms to parents or managing medical records, etc. – to increase the functionality of their central management system. Generally, we refer to this as a ‘stack’ of software.

But back to the kitchen analogy…

Let’s say you’ve got a core student management system (the kitchen) and you’ve bought five tools (blender, coffeemaker, toaster and so on) but you can’t plug them into your core management system. That means you’ve got six or seven ‘buckets’ of data floating around your school, all of which relate to your students and parents but which don’t talk to each other. That’s not a very viable situation but that’s exactly the kind of situation found in a lot of schools.

Mostly, this comes down to data exchange, which is the interoperability of data or data moving between all of those applications. If the school lunch system knows who the students and parents are, then it is able to help maintain a proper record for a student regarding how much lunch money they have remaining. If they know a student has left the school, then they know they shouldn’t be able to buy lunch. The core system gives the lunch system that information through interoperability.*

There are many student management systems on the market, and each one has its own eccentricities around providing access. As a rule, most abide by a closed system approach (i.e. they are bad at providing access) due to their foundations in technology from around 15 years ago. Today’s software is browser-based and cloud-based, which makes it far more interoperable. However, and, instead, were designed as standalone boxes that ‘you put stuff in’ and ‘you take stuff out’. In other words, they were never expected to ‘talk’ to other software.

As we’ve seen more software coming into schools, the stack has got taller and the older student management database companies are gradually learning to open up their data. They are realising they are never going to be able to have a set of features that deals with every single piece of functionality a school requires. Instead, they’re starting to see the inevitability that a school will have a stack of software and, therefore, those pieces of software will need to talk to each other.

So, what should a school be asking a potential software provider in order to ensure interoperability?

1. How does it integrate with other products?
2. Does that interoperability exist?
3. Is there an API** available?

Software developers need to remember that a school’s data does not belong to them; it belongs to the school. Accordingly, all schools should be able to access their own data freely and the multitude of uses and benefits that data provides.

Speak to ParentPaperwork for more information about school data interoperability.

* With ParentPaperwork, we make it our business to know the details of all students and guardians and, therefore, who’s allowed to do what and who’s allowed to see what. We do that by reading data directly out of the student management database. That’s interoperability. If the student database knows something, then we know it too.

** An API is a programmable interface for software that enables it to talk to another computer and exchange information.