Parents can now ‘sign’ ParentPaperwork’s online forms

Today we are pleased to launch a new feature for our Parent Slips, enabling you to capture a signature from parents when they submit their online forms.

The vast majority of ParentPaperwork schools do not require a parent to physically sign a form. Ever increasingly there is less and less need to actually sign something. In some countries signatures for credit card payments have been discontinued, and with the advent of online transactions and interactions a ‘consent’ or ‘authorisation’ is deemed to have been given through the action of selecting certain options on a web page and submitting the page.

However, we recognise that there is not one common standard, and with schools in seven countries using ParentPaperwork we have now added the capacity to capture a signature from parents.

The signature feature is configurable for each Parent Slip you create, so you can choose to use it for some and not others. You will see the Require Graphic Signature option below the parent fields section. Select Yes if you wish to require parents to provide a signature.

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When the parent clicks through to their form a signature box will be visible. On a computer or laptop they can sign their name using their mouse.

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On a mobile device such as a phone or tablet with a touchscreen they sign their name using their figure.

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Once they have signed and submitted the form you will see the signature when you view the form.

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Organise ParentPaperwork Slips and Forms into Folders

A common request from ParentPaperwork schools has a way to organise Slips and Forms into Folders. For quite a while we have had the ‘Current’ and ‘Archived’ folders, which we introduced to give at least the ability to ‘hide’ older records. But it’s become apparent that we needed more than this.

We have now enabled a new Folders system for both Parent Slips and School Forms.

Set up Folders

Click on your user name at the top right and select Settings, then the Slip and Form Folders option.

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You can add and edit the Folders as required. You can delete Folders but only if there are no Slips or Forms allocated.

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Allocate Slips and Forms to Folders

Once you have created some Folders you can now allocate Parent Slips or School Forms to the Folders. You can allocate multiple records at the same time, click the checkboxes next to the records you wish to allocate

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Once you have selected the records click the Action drop down and select ‘Copy/Remove Selected to Folder’, and whether you wish to Copy the records to the Folder, or Remove From the Folder. Select the destination/source Folder and click the Go button.

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The records will be allocated to the Folder (or removed). You can view the records in the Folder by selecting it from the drop down list and clicking the search button.

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Records can be in multiple Folders at the same time.

The Current and Archived folders remain separate, so a record is either in the Current or Archived Folders, AND maybe in one or more Folders you have created.

ParentPaperwork email notifications can now be customised with your colours

Email is a key function in ParentPaperwork, and the primary way we communicate with parents to advise them of new online forms they need to complete, indeed our email notifications are critical if your school does not have our SMS text notifications enabled.

We know it is important to many schools that communications to parents reflect the branding and corporate style of the school. You can upload your logo which is shown on all web pages and emails seen by the parents.

You can now also set the colours in the email notifications sent to parents for:

  • Advising of a new Parent Slip
  • Thanking them for submitting a Parent Slip
  • Reminding them they have an outstanding Parent Slip

Click on your user name at the top right, click Settings from the menu, the from the Settings page select Customise Email Templates.

By default, if you do not select any colours, the top and bottom banners in the email will be in the ParentPaperwork corporate purple shades.

Select email colours

You can set the colours for the banners. Click on the corresponding field and select a colour from the picker. Or, if you know the hex code for the desired colour, simply enter this in the field.

As you change the colours the live preview will update to illustrate how your emails will look.

If you decide you don’t want the custom colours click the Reset button to return to the standard purple shades.

You can choose colours for your ParentPaperwork email notifications

Date pickers are now available on ParentPaperwork’s online forms

Today we have added date fields to our online slips and forms, expanding the list of available field types.

These new date fields are designed to capture a specific date – day, month and year. They are going to be useful for all manner of information, excursion dates for a permission slip, a student’s date of birth, the dates a staff member wishes to take a vacation.

The Form Builder now has 10 date fields available for each of the School and Parent sections on the form templates. As with other field types, just drag a field over from the list of available fields on the left hand side.

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When a Slip or Form is created from the template, the user can select a date using the pop up date picker.

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When a parent is filling out a form they also can use the picker to select a date. You can have multiple date fields on the same template.
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You can now Not Approve ParentPaperwork’s Slips and Forms

We’re rolling out a number of improvements to our online forms over the next week or so, and first up is the ability for someone to Not Approve a Parent Slip or School Form.

Our schools already make great use of the form workflows, especially to ensure that the appropriate staff members have approved a form before it is distributed or moves to the next step.

For example, perhaps the Business Manager needs to approve an excursion permission slip before it is sent to parents; or the HR Manager needs to approve a staff member’s leave request.

It’s become obvious to us that not everything is going to be approved the first time; up until now we’ve generally recommended this be an offline process – the approver might contact the requester outside of ParentPaperwork to advise that something about the form needs to be altered.

But now this can happen on the workflow within ParentPaperwork. Whenever a User is asked to Approve something there is now also a button to Not Approve.

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Clicking the Not Approve button opens a window where the Approver can enter a comment or feedback about the reasons for not approving the form.

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When the Go button is clicked the form is sent back to the person on the Send for Approval step, and new Send for Approval and Approve steps are displayed, along with the comment. The status of the form is changed to Not Approved.

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An email notification is sent to the person on the Send for Approval step advising them they need to take action, the email also includes the comment.

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This cycle of Send for Approval/Not Approve can loop endlessly until the Approver is satisified and clicks the Approve button.

 

 

 

Send Parent Slips forms to individual Students as well as Student Lists

We’re celebrating the start of a new week with a great new feature in ParentPaperwork – the ability to select individual Students for a Parent Slip as well, or instead of, the traditional Student Lists.

Ever since ParentPaperwork launched we’ve held firm to the principle that we send Slips to groups of Students, it always made sense when we thought about the ways paper forms are used in schools for group activities like excursions and field trips.

However, as more and more schools sign up for ParentPaperwork, the more ways they are finding to use the system to solve paper-based communication tasks. Over the past couple of months we’ve had schools in several countries ask us why we are so tied to Student Lists, and why can’t they just select a couple of Students and send out a form? That feedback made us reflect, and come to the conclusion there really wasn’t any reason! And so we’ve made the change.

As of today you can now send a Parent Slip, or a Broadcast, to any combination of Student Lists and/or individual Students. When you add a new Slip or Broadcast you will see the usual Student List selector, and a new field to select Students. Just start typing the name of the Student and a list of suggestions will display, click the name of the Student to add them to the recipients list.

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In all other ways the Parent Slips and Broadcasts work the same, the individual Students will be displayed on the lists of Responses and Statistics along with any Students from selected Student Lists.

You can even send a Slip or Broadcast to a single Student, there’s now no requirement to select a Student List at all.

It’s a source of pride to us that ParentPaperwork’s ongoing development is in direct response to the needs and desires of our schools – and this new feature is a great example of what happens when customers put forward ideas that resonate with other schools – because we are always listening and will always adopt great innovations that will be of benefit to the whole ParentPaperwork community.

Improvements to form workflows in ParentPaperwork

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We’ve released two great improvements to the form workflows in ParentPaperwork:

  1. Select User on Workflow
  2. Autocomplete of Workflow Steps

Select User on Workflow

Until now multiple Users could be selected on an Approval workflow step, when the workflow step ‘Send for Approval’ was actioned all those Users would receive a notification, and any of them could then take the Approve action.

This feature allows an option to be set when configuring the workflow to say that the User taking the Send for Approval action must nominate one of those Users to take the Approve action.

When editing a Workflow Step for an Approve Step, there is a new drop down option to ‘Choose from one selected User’.

When a Slip is moved through the Workflow, the User who actions the ‘Send for Approval’ step will be prompted to nominate one of the group of Users allocated to the Approve Step.

Autocomplete of Workflow Steps

We have tweaked the workflow system to auto complete steps under two circumstances to make usage more intuitive.

  1. After an Approve step is actioned where the next step is a Send for Approval, the Send for Approval will auto complete. Deals with workflows with multiple approvals and means the person actioning the first Approve step then doesn’t have to manually action the next Send for Approval step
  2. After the Approve step is actioned where the next step is Queue to Send, the Queue to Send step will auto complete. This means if the person approving doesn’t realise they need to take an action again to Queue the Slip, the job is done for them.

Note: Auto-complete will not fire on a Send from Approval step after an Approve step if a User needs to be selected for the next Approve step – otherwise there’s no opportunity for that User to be selected.

Read about more features: Annual student record keeping just got smarter

Photo: Lucélia Ribeiro

 

New feature: Student record updates just got smarter

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The more we work with schools around the world, the more we hear a common thread. Schools need an easy, reliable way for parents to update student records with critical content like medical or personal information.

For sometime ParentPaperwork has had Student Attributes – user-defined fields that can be configured to maintain information about a student.

Now, these can also be used on a Form sent home to parents, creating a powerful tool that allows schools to continuously update the information held on file about a student ( in turn lowering risk and saving time).

The important stuff just got easier

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The obvious use for this feature is the annual student record update process, which we know many schools undertake.

Usually a complete student record is printed out, often half a dozen pages or more, and sent home to parents via school bag or sent through the mail.

Parents are asked to manually mark any changes, and then staff (often casuals hired for the purpose) work through the returned printouts and transcribe updates into the student management system.

It’s an incredibly labour intensive and expensive process, not to mention very prone to human error.

Now with ParentPaperwork, a school can import any number of data elements to the Student records, put them on a Template, then send the Slip to parents. The parents then update the information, and the school can export either all the data, or only the components that have changed.

It’s an elegant, simple and robust way of updating student record information.

Here’s how it works

Importing Student Attributes

There is an Import option for Student Attributes (Click Profile Name > Import Data). Upload is via CSV, the file must contain the Student Id and any number of columns.

After upload the columns can be mapped to Attributes.

Add Student Attribute fields to Form Templates

This feature allows a User to add Student Attributes to Form Templates, to let a Parent update one or more Attributes when they submit a Parent Slip. When in Form Template Design, the User sees a list of their Student Attribute fields along with the standard Form fields. They can drag/drop the fields as usual, the edit options are limited to just the label for the field. All Student Attribute fields are ‘Required’.

Student Attribute fields are shaded pale yellow on the list of available fields for the Parent section of the Template.

Parents see the Attribute fields on their Slips like the normal fields. The fields are pre-filled with the existing Attribute values. Changes to Attribute values as part of a Slip submission are logged.

Parent submit Slip with Student Attributes

Parents see the Attribute fields on their Slips like the normal fields. The fields are pre-filled with the existing Attribute values. Changes to Attribute values as part of an Slip submission are logged.

Export Student Attribute Changes

As previously, the normal ‘Export List’ option on the View Slip page will contain any Student Attributes designated to be included in Exports. Note this will NOT include Attributes that are on the Template but not marked for inclusion in the export.

There are two new options on the ‘Preview/Print’ menu:

  • Export Only Student Attributes on Slip – exports all Student Attributes and values used on the Form Template irrespective of whether designated for export.
  • Export Only Student Attributes Updated on Slip – as above but only delta values are exported, if a value did not change when the Parent submitted the Form, the value does not export.

We’re excited about this new update and look forward to our growing customer community enjoying its benefits.

If you like this new feature, consider sharing it with colleagues below.

Photos: Erich Ferdinand, Unstock

School emergency management in the spotlight

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In a little under one week more than 30 schools in Australia, and schools in the UK, France, Japan, Hawaii and Guam, have experienced the threat of serious emergencies and undergone lock-downs. This is a global issue, and can hit acutely local.

Bomb hoaxes have highlighted the need for schools to have active crisis management plans in place and well-rehearsed. An event like this impacts on students, staff, parents, emergency services, local residences, neighbouring schools, transport services and the media.

Once the safety and security of all the students and staff of a school has been organised, communicating with parents is essential. It’s equally important to communicate with the family of staff. If you do not, they will.

The immediate, emotional effects of a school emergency exacerbate the challenge. And those effects are often driven by a lack of clear information and instruction.

These 7 elements are essential:

1. A broadcast/communication system that gives the school the ability to send a one-way notification to any number of parents – this could be a whole parent body notification as per an emergency lockdown situation, or to a specific group.

There are often emergencies when different messages need to be delivered to different groups of people at particular times during the incident. It’s also critical to have the ability to know who has read the message that you have sent and who has not. Any system chosen must have this feature, whether it be by text and/or email.

2. A critical incident team, which includes an experienced communication person.

This team needs to rehearse its role and responses and undertake drills for staff and students. Dusting off the manuals during the emergency adds to the stress and confusion that can otherwise be avoided.

The initial first few minutes are vital in ensuring the physical and emotional safety of everyone. Every opportunity to appear calm and in control helps lessen fear and regulate heightened emotional states of all involved.

3. A clear set of procedures for:

  • Who communicates;
  • What is communicated – remember you have different audiences;
  • What group is being communicate to;
  • Who authorises the message(s);

In your planning you need to consider that some/all your students and staff have mobile phones and therefore will be communicating with family and friends. Depending on your school cohort, you cannot stop this, so how can you minimise the problems that this might cause and possibly use it to you advantage.

4. A clear, actionable message indicating what you want people to do.

It’s not useful for a parent to receive notification of an emergency without instructions telling them what they can or need to do. This means someone has to create that clear and succinct message, who can work calmly in an emotionally charged situation.

5. An assembly area away from the incident where, parents, families, local residents can gather and be briefed and kept informed of what is occurring, in real time.

Clear and precise information will not remove all fear, but will certainly lessen the anxiety. They can also be considered victims in an incident that need to be assisted.

6. A media plan. When the media becomes involved it is important to be clear who is speaking officially for the school. This is often in coordination with the emergency services on the scene.

7. A review process. Like all emergency plans, a review of how communication worked during the incident is vital. This should include all participant. By continuing to learn about our community and their preference we improve our effectiveness.

An online survey is an easy and effective way to collect this information, sort out meaningful trends and improve.

 

The media will seek out anyone willing to make a comment. Unfortunately the more emotional the person, the more likely they are to be approached.

We have seen just this week, along with the Principal of a school, distraught and concerned parent(s) comments sought to add ‘human interest’ to the story. Often parents arriving at the scene do not have all the facts and are highly emotional, so they are speaking out of fear, confusion and anxiety.

There are solutions

ParentPaperwork’s Broadcast feature provides the ability to schools to initiate an email and/or SMS text message to any group (or all) of parents at any time to support schools in their emergency management communication strategies.

Our Slips module enables schools to send a notification to parents via email and/or SMS text and require parents to complete an online form acknowledging receipt of the message.

We track delivery of the notifications, and display reporting to schools to indicate which parents have opened their emails or tapped on the texts even if they have not actually returned their online forms.

Photo: diversey/Creative Commons

How risky are paper forms in schools? Seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents

Risk and liability management is a significant and growing issue for schools around the world. Schools face ever increasingly tight legal frameworks around privacy, risk management and in some countries the advent of litigious parents who will sue for everything from poor exam results to even the mildest perception of the school placing their child in harm’s way. Some schools now employ full time staff members whose job is to prepare risk assessments and evaluate every activity for the potential for all manner of disaster.

With this in mind it’s essential schools consider all aspects of their administrative and management processes and policies. ParentPaperwork is helping schools with this by offering a platform that replaces paper forms with a secure, robust online forms system to capture, manage and report information from parents.

Let’s break down why paper forms are inherently risky in schools, and examine seven significant points of failure with paper-based forms sent home to parents.

1. Who signed the form?

Schools have an obligation to secure informed consent from the guardian of a student for excursions and other activities. That means ensuring the parent has all the necessary information to make an informed decision about their child participating in an activity. And the school needs to be confident they have secured that consent from the appropriate person.

How can you have any confidence the information provided on a form, and signature at the bottom, is from the intended parent or guardian? The paper form has been stuffed in a school bag, and presumably transported home, but schools have no capacity to validate the form was filled in by the parent. ParentPaperwork communicates directly with the nominated contacts for a student, and can add another layer of identification with Two Factor Authentication.

2. Was the form filled out correctly?

A paper form has no controls to ensure that information is entered into all the required fields. Even the design of the form is a problem – all too often class teachers simply design their own form, ignoring the mandated form created by the school, or the school’s auspicing body – the local authority, the school district. ParentPaperwork ensures staff use the correct form template, and can designate fields as required to force parents to complete the necessary information.

3. Can you read their handwriting?

Once paper forms have been returned the information needs to be transcribed often into a central report, perhaps an Excel spreadsheet. You are dependent on being able to read the parent’s handwriting, a mistake can be costly. We all know we have parents whose handwriting is illegible, can you be sure you have interpreted the information correctly? ParentPaperwork’s online forms mean parents are typing their responses to all the fields and questions.

4. Are the responses from parents being compiled correctly?

Your school’s office staff might be faced with a pile of dozens or hundreds of forms they need to collate and assemble information from. Any time information is moved from one medium to another the risk of corruption is high. Maybe they could read the handwriting, but did they then transcribe the information consistently and correctly? ParentPaperwork collates the parent responses for you, there’s no opportunity for data to be corrupted along the way.

5. Are your paper forms stored securely?

Schools must adhere to data retention policies, they vary around the world but a good rule of thumb seems to be seven years. Where are you storing your paper forms? In a box in a shed down the back of the playing fields? In the basement – the one that floods each winter? Are you really sure they are safe for the next seven years? Some schools even pay for secure off-site storage of paperwork! ParentPaperwork stores all the online form data in a secure cloud-based database, backed up constantly.

6. Can you find a form from six months ago? Five years ago?

Let’s say there was a question or query raised about an activity in the past? Can you locate and retrieve a paper form submitted by a parent two years ago? Would you have to pay your offsite document storage company to retrieve and deliver a box back to school? Is there a catalogue or index for every batch of paper forms you’ve added to storage over the years? ParentPaperwork’s online database means you can search for a particular student, parent or activity and immediately display the online form the parent completed, no matter how long ago.

7. Who has access to your paper forms?

Paper forms regularly contain highly sensitive personal information about students and parents – health information, personal circumstances and addresses and contacts, all of which is likely strictly regulated by the privacy and data protection laws in your country. How do you control access to the paper forms, or the transcribed data within the school? Can any teacher just pick up a form, or see a spreadsheet of compiled responses? ParentPaperwork provides strong user permissions to control which staff member can see what information, ensuring only those who ‘need to know’ can access personal data.

These seven points of failure should be keeping school administrators awake at night everywhere. It only takes one incident to highlight the inadequacies of old style manual processes. In today’s world any incident is one too many, and that’s why the team behind ParentPaperwork has worked hard to create the right technology solution to reduce risk and improve liability management in schools around the world, by replacing paper forms with a secure online system.