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.

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?

Helping Australian Schools with Back to School 2016

Welcome back to school for 2016 for our Australian customers of ParentPaperwork!

We hope everything is going well preparing for the return of students at the end of the month. If you are a ParentPaperwork customer we want to offer our assistance to have everything organised for 2016.

Setting up for 2016

  • Common activities in ParentPaperwork at the beginning of the school year are:
  • Move students who left at the end of 2015 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 are not displayed by default when you are viewing your Parent Slips list;
  • Disable Staff who have left school; add new Staff Users.

Back to School Forms

Of course ParentPaperwork is perfect for all those back to school blanket permission forms, like photo permissions, policy consents, head lice checks and any other forms you ask parents to complete and return at the start of Term 1.

Once all your students and parents are organised in ParentPaperwork, it’s easy to set up these forms and send them out.

We’d be delighted to help you prepare for Term 1 to ensure everything is ready.

If you’d like assistance with setting up your students/parents, and/or sending out back to school forms, please email support@parentpaperwork.com.

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Classroom

Before 2015 gets underway for teachers there’s nothing like spending some time on reflecting back on the events of 2014 and thinking of some new resolutions for the upcoming school year.

We’re sure you’ll come up with plenty of ideas –  from tweaking the lesson plan, to playing interior decorator and rearranging the tables in a more productive manner.

Here are some fun ideas and resolutions for your class room/school in 2015:

Setting the classroom up for success

It can be an exciting challenge to think through how to organize your students surroundings in order to inspire and excite them about learning. For many teachers 2015 will be an opportunity to start with a blank canvas and strategically arm their classroom walls with posters, decorations and information. We’ve all been in those classrooms where the plain unimaginative surroundings create a dull atmosphere for students. That’s a situation that is easily remedied.

Here are some ideas to help glam up your classroom and make it interesting to learn in:

Dress to impress

Use the holiday period to find yourself a couple of new clothing pieces for next term. Never underestimate how feeling good and wearing something that you love can lift your mood and give you more self-confidence when dealing with students. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a couple of fun pieces to add to the collection for school dress up days or to just get the kids laughing on a long grey day.

ASOS is a great website for online shopping with free shipping around the world- www.asos.com.au

Look through a selection of fun and colourful puppets that you can purchase for 2015- http://www.thepuppetstore.com/

Get some fun costumes for dress up day – http://www.costumecollection.com.au/pirates-costumes.html?gender=male&for=adults

Don’t let Admin get you down

One of the most strenuous and least productive to the teaching/learning process, aspects of teaching can be the mountain of administrative paperwork tasks that accompanies the job. Apart from the constant grading of papers and projects there are usually plenty of excursion and other forms you produce, distribute, collect and collate that can be an administrative nightmare.

Take a moment and have a look at ParentPaperwork and see how we can easily save you time and stress when the time comes to  take your students on the next excursion. No more waiting for parents to respond, worrying about forms not making it back or having to print off excessive copies that need to be marked off and taken with you.

Learn more about Parent Paperwork for your school and classroom and consider taking advantage of our free trial  for your next excursion here – https://www.parentpaperwork.com/