ūüďá NeatSchool Online Directory

If the sense of Community is something important to your program, you probably want to take advantage of the NeatSchool Online Directory Settings.

NeatSchool has an online Directory where all the Parents and Guardians can be optionally listed. In addition to the name and picture, NeatSchool can share a parent‚Äôs home phone, mobile phone, e-mail address and/or home address. A parent can navigate¬†to the Online Directory on her¬†mobile phone, click the phone or text message icon and place a call to¬†another parent, that simple…

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We realize that each program has different contact information sharing policies. NeatSchool is flexible to accommodate any privacy setting that is appropriate for your program. First of all, you can completely turn off the Directory if this is not important to you. If the Directory is enabled, an administrator can set reasonable defaults on which fields the parents can share.
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Finally, each parent can overwrite the settings for his or her entry from the Parents Directory.
Using the Online Directory? Drop us a line on what you like and what else you would like to see improved.

Visiting with all your Students….online

Some times you need to iterate over all your records to check and/or change something. For instance, you might want to see the students who do not have a picture and add one.

Did you know that with NeatSchool Mobile you can easily do that? The screenshots below show how to do this for Students,  give it a try next time you are at the Dashboard. You can do the same from other lists, like all the student in a class, all the signed in students, etc. And of course you can do it with Classes, Accounts and any other record kind.

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Always up to date Contact Information

With NeatSchool you get accurate contact and profile information for the families in your program when they first enroll. This is thanks to our enrollment form filled by the parents themselves on their mobile phone, tablet or PC. You can see an example of one here and we most recently wrote about it here.

Now, periodically you need to make sure that the families in your program visit their portal and make the necessary changes to keep it up-to-date. In particular you told us that periodically you need to:

  1. have a way to remind parents or students to do so
  2. track who did it and who has not done it yet
  3. keep a record of who and when performed the review

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Our update and review feature makes all these steps easy. When you turn it on, we tell the parents to visit and review their account profiles in the portal, then mark that they did so. Until they do so, a daily e-mail reminds the parents. Another e-mail and a report lets you know who are the ones who have not done it yet.

How do you start? From Settings, click, on Profile Review Settings and watch our 10 minute screencast that explains all the details.

 

More Payments Automation

NeatSchool has been providing support for online payments for quite some time now. We make it possible for our customers to provide both bank-to-bank  and credit card payments. Bank to bank transactions are free, while credit card transactions incur a fee, typical of what you find in the industry. Many of our customers already use that functionality to streamline their tuition collection and save time from dealing with checks and cash.

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In our most recent upgrade we included two new features that many of you have been asking for some time now. Your customers can now store their credit card as part of their profile. As with all our other sensitive information, the data is stored encrypted in physically secure certified for security and PCI compliance data centers.

When you want or automatically once a day the system will use that information to charge the card on file for all the customers who have a balance. The customer’s register is automatically updated with the transaction. All that and more options are controlled from the settings page.¬†Please try the payments automation and send us your comments.

How Mass Messaging Works

In today’s post, I want to explain¬†how exactly mass messaging (i.e. e-mail and SMS) works. This will help you understand who will receive the communication you send using NeatSchool.

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When you send a message in NeatSchool you address it to one or more NeatSchool entities, each represented by a record. In NeatSchool, there are records like Parent/Guardian and Staff Member that represent one person and contain his/her e-mail address and/or mobile phone number. When you send to one or more of these records NeatSchool simply sends the message using the information in the record. Other records, like Accounts, Classes, Departments and Facilities, correspond to a collections of persons. So when you send a message to such records, NeatSchool has first to find who are the eligible persons to receive the communication.

Let’s first start with an Account. When you send a message to an Account, without checking¬†any channels, the message is sent to all the members of the Account (i.e. parents/guardians and/or students) who are marked as Account Managers/owners. If you select one or more channels the communication is sent only to those who have subscribed to that channel. So in the example shown in the figure below, if you send a message to account Doe, both John and Mary will receive it because both are Account Manager/owners. However, if you were to send the message to Doe and also select the Academic channel, only Mary will receive it.

When you send a message to the whole Facility, NeatSchool first finds all the active accounts of that facility and then sends the communication to each Account as explained earlier. Please note that this will include parents of future or former students if their account is still active.

When you send a message to a Department or a Class, NeatSchool first finds all students who attend the Class or a Class in the Department, and then from each student finds his/her Account and then sends the communication to each Account as described earlier. When you send a message this way, in the Advanced Options, you have the option to include or exclude students who are scheduled to start in the future but have not started yet.

In schools with older students, it is common to have the students, who typically are not Account Managers, subscribed to the Academic channel. When the teacher sends a homework related communication she sends it selecting the Academic channel so that all the students receive it.

Let’s look at a concrete simplified example. Let’s say you have an organization with one Facility called Little Star as¬†shown in the figure below. The figure shows three Accounts, three Classes and one Department.

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If you¬†send a message to the “Little Star Accounts & Staff Members”¬†with no channels selected, the message will be sent to all three active Accounts Doe, Smith & Bone and the three active Staff Members which will be 7 e-mail addresses:¬†john@test.com,¬†mary@bar.com,¬†jsm@foo.com, jb@test.com,¬†mado@bar.com,¬†dofo@yah.com,ninf@test.com. Notice that Nand Smith will not receive the message because she is not an Account Manager/Owner.

If you send the same message selecting the channel Academic, only three Parents/Guardians will receive it, the ones who have the Academic channel selected. The total e-mail accounts will be 6: mary@bar.com, nasmi@test.com, jb@test.com, mado@bar.com, dofo@yah.com, ninf@test.com.

Now, if you¬†send a message to the Department¬†“Elementary Accounts & Staff Members”, the message will go to the staff members associated with the class (Mary Don and Donna For) and the accounts of the students in these two classes (Doe & Smith). This will be the e-mails:¬†john@test.com,¬†mary@bar.com,¬†jsm@foo.com,¬†mado@bar.com,¬†dofo@yah.com.

In the Advanced options, there is a checkbox that determines whether future students will be included as well. If you check this box, the message will also be sent to John Bone.

Prepare your Online Enrollment Package

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Tired of dealing with stacks of paper? With NeatSchool you can create an online enrollment package that parents or students can download. The package can contain your own documents and state licensing forms. We just uploaded a new screencast that shows all the details of how to prepare your enrollment package. You can find this and all the other screencasts in the Help section of the portal.

 

 

NeatSchool Users and E-mail Addresses

Today I want to address an issue that confuses many of the NeatSchool first time users. In NeatSchool, we store information in records. A person’s information is stored in one or more records. Each¬†Parent record, Staff member record, ¬†Partner record¬†have an e-mail field. When the administrator sends an e-mail that needs to be addressed to a¬†person the¬†e-mail address in his record is used. In a similar way, when the system needs to send a notification that involves this person, the same e-mail address¬†is used.¬†Any valid e-mail address (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, you name it…) will work.¬†This is exactly what one would expect from such a system.

NeatSchool also provides a Portal for Administrators, Parents and Staff Members. For instance, a parent can login to her portal and view their billing information. Anybody who can login to the portal is a NeatSchool user and has a NeatSchool record username.

In order to login to the portal,¬†a NeatSchool¬†user needs to prove that he is who he claims to be. Most systems today use a user name and a password for that purpose. When we started NeatSchool we could have built an authentication system and administer these user names and passwords. However, secure authentication done right is tough so instead we decided to leverage Google’s authentication infrastructure. Because of that decision, in order to login to the NeatSchool portal every NeatSchool user needs a Google account. One¬†can use an existing Google account or get a new Google account for free here. When a NeatSchool user registers to use the portal she associates her Google account with her¬†NeatSchool user record.

Now, the Google account username could be any word but—maybe unfortunately—Google decided to be an e-mail address. This e-mail address is only used to authenticate a user to Google and consequently to NeatSchool. This e-mail address can be the same e-mail address¬†used in the records of the user or it can be a different one. If it is a different one, the e-mail address of the Google username is never used to send e-mail. In fact the Google username is not shown anywhere in the NeatSchool system.

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Let’s look at an example. The diagram above shows George Doe who is both a parent and a teacher in a NeatSchool managed program, a rare but possible situation. When the school sends a message to all the parents of the program, George will receive the e-mail in his george@example.com account. When the school sends a message to all the Staff Members, George will receive the message in his george@test.com account. George has registered so that he can access the NeatSchool portal of his program. When he browses to the portal URL a Google authentication page will ask him for a username and password. George will use his foo@bar.com Google account. While inside the NeatSchool portal wherever a user name needs to appear George will see his NeatSchool username that is george.

Did this help? Do you have questions? Please add them in the comments below so others in the future can benefit.