First Year Experience, What Works, What Doesn't

What is your experience in your 1st year using WhippleHill and suggestions for others

Heidi Ruesswick: Moderator
Rachel Nation: Note Taker (St. Stephen's Episcopal School Austin, Texas)
21 user attendees
5 WhippleHill attendees

What Works Well

Hosted a back to school session to let parents come in and get used to the site and/or report bugs

• Projected the website so parents could see and comment

• High school grade level meetings worked well to introduce the portals. The teachers hosted each grade and the high school parents learned quickly at these nights on how to use the portal. The LS and MS never had a presentation and it took them immensely longer to get used to or figure out how to use the system.

• Clone your parent roles so you can direct content at MS Parent Groups versus US Parent Groups.
          • PLEASE NOTE: WH recommends that you DO NOT clone the parent role.**

How to Train Faculty

• The couple weeks before school there is a tech mentor program so teachers learn from others

• Teach in August, let teachers pick a session--different kinds, Luddites and experienced so they can learn at their own pace--separate your users by skillset

• Large groups for teachers "how to do assignments" and one teacher video'd the session and it's a time-saver and you can see how many times the video was watched after the fact.

• Spent two entire days doing training but people would forget after the fact in a whole faculty situation. One on one or small groups proved to be much more useful. Try to get one tech person per department so the department can go to that person instead of coming to you all the time. Target training to each department. Divide and conquer. Distance and location across a campus are a big factor and people will turn to close proximity for support.

Problems and How to Fix Them

• Parents can feel overwhelmed, so try announcing or introducing a new feature each month

• Information overload: need to simplify or expand training for the parents, an intro and login is not enough

Suggest a video tutorial on how to use the site to make it self supporting. Especially when vendors change. Or use PDFs with images so you can replace sections when vendors change or you get a new question--FAQs type sections change regularly.

• Gets the same questions year after year, keep sending people back to your FAQs

• Set aside the October In Service day to entirely WhippleHill session. They had to spend an hour to work on their academic pages. All anyone had done was grades so this specific time was set aside to go a step farther and a lot of stuff got set up.

• Get faculty doing attendance in the Portal at least--there has to be a mandatory minimum otherwise teachers will not go in and do anything. If they are at least in there doing attendance they may poke around and learn or see or do other things while they are there.

• Your teachers have to be on the ball otherwise parents will call in "How come your Gradebook hasn't been updated in a month?" This new system will hold your teachers accountable for more rapid updates. Opening up Gradebook will put your teachers on the hot seat.

• What about parents who can't get to the Portal from their worksite because the site is blocked. How about accessing it by Mobile? They can access it via home, a smart phone, tablet or another device that can access it from a work situation. Push back on them to talk to their IT departments because it's not your issue.

• Sometimes Push Page newsletters are fussy, you have to be logged in to read it? Is it content behind the password like a newsletter PDF?

• Be careful when you launch the directory (check you PRIVACY settings) so faculty cell phone numbers aren't published.

• Watch out about your Rosters (shut down only for teachers) because students copied Rosters and made "rate the newbies" Facebook pages

• Watch out that Google can index things on your site despite it being internal. Turn off Google setting otherwise parent addresses, etc. might be searchable.

• Imitate each section as a "Parent" and as a "Student" so you can see how things look from other perspectives. Portals can have separate levels of access.

Incentive Programs

Has anyone used an incentive program to get parents to go online? Like gifts for the first 25 log-ins?

1. Calendar events are the big drivers for parents to get online. Printed calendars get changed all the time. A mess.

2. Once you post grades every single parent will get online.

3. Stop printing directories and your parents will get online. Print directories are out of date the minute you print them.

Questions: Who is Using What?

How many schools use online grading?

How many schools use online assignments?

Who is using DropBox?
2 or 3 people
Students can save work there and make changes to it at home and come back to school and then submit. Otherwise everyone is walking around with thumb drive.

Online Signup?
Kids select classes and parents could see it and advisors use the approve function. Until it's approved by your advisor you don't get that class.

Who is in charge of passwords at your school?
Who contacts the parents after the tech department sets them up? The Registrar does. We have it in a pack--default that goes out on Orientation day--a default and they log in and change it first time. (community button for FAQs)