Populi

New course and gradebook features

The Populi development team released a heap of highly-requested assignment and gradebook features last night, including:

  • Extra credit assignments
  • Attendance assignments
  • Drop lowest grade options
  • Student feedback on all assignment types
  • Document viewer with annotations on file assignments
  • Improved gradebook navigation
  • New global minimum attendance settings in Academics

We’ll be going into greater detail on all of these new features in the coming days, but for now, here’s a video covering five of our favorites. Enjoy!

New stuff: master change log, logins report, online payments settings, and more

We recently released a number of new reporting items users have been asking for.

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First, a master change log: Account Admins can now go to the new Reporting > Changes tab in Account and create detailed reports of just about any change made to any person—including what kind of action it was, when it was made, and who made it.

Next, one tab over from Changes, you’ll find the new Logins report, which lets you get login details—everything from username to IP address—for any timeframe you need.

On the Profile’s Activity Feed, you can now see admissions-related changes—status changes, application updates, questions, and more:

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And over in Financial, the new Online Payments tab in Financial > Settings gathers together all the settings you need to get your school going with online payments.

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There are also a couple new custom financial statement page layouts, which works just like our other custom layouts (transcript, award letter, etc.). There’s an overall statement that you can export from a student’s financial dashboard, and a term statement that’s available on the student’s financial term view. Contact Populi Support if you’d like to get going with either of the new layouts.

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New read-only application links

If you haven’t already found them, go check out the new read-only application links! They let you share applications with reviewers—without having to print them out.

Populi supports net neutrality and so should you

From Free Press’ Save The Internet site:

On Jan. 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order.

And now, the FCC is proposing rules that would kill — rather than protect — Net Neutrality and allow rampant discrimination online.

What is net neutrality anyway? And why should you care? One of my favorite YouTubers, CGP Grey, does a great job explaining not just what net neutrality is, but why we must defend it.

So what difference can we make? The White House has already responded to this petition asking for a restoration of net neutrality, and while this is a good start it doesn’t actually get us any closer to the goal of preserving a free and open internet.

Save The Internet has a number of ideas about how we the people can keep the pressure on the FCC to do the right thing. On behalf of Populi, I encourage you to check out the list and take action to defend net neutrality.

Heartbleed

On Monday, April 7, security researchers published information about a bug in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library. OpenSSL powers the encryption used to secure the internet—everything from websites to instant messaging to virtual private networks. The bug, called Heartbleed, could affect about 2/3 of encrypted internet traffic.

As of now, all Populi servers have been patched against this vulnerability, and we have no reason to believe that any of our clients’ data was compromised. Due to the critical nature of this issue, we performed the patching during business hours today—rather than after hours as we normally do—so our apologies to anyone who was affected! We’ll continue to monitor the situation and post further updates if necessary.

To the best of our knowledge, Populi has been locked-down against this bug and all data is secure.

Even more free file storage for everyone!

Do you remember where you were on June 18th, 2013? The last time we went and upped everyone’s free file storage limit?  We remember where we were: that day, we were upping your free file storage limit. This is kind of like that, except we’re not even waiting for the summer to . . .

. . . give everyone even more free file storage.

Every plan has already received more for the same—which is for free. It happened and you didn’t even notice!

Are you on the so-called small plan? Where you used to get a measly 50 gigs of free storage? Now you get 100 gigs of free storage.

The medium plan? Been wishing you had more than 100 gigs of free file storage? You’ve been gazing wistfully at the large plan’s 200 gigs? Now it’s yours. 200 gigs of free storage.

The large plan. You had 200 gigs of free file storage. Pretty good. What would be great? 500 gigs would be great, right? And that’s what you get. 500 gigs of free storage.

Our Plan Pricing remains the same. So all those extra gigs-per-month really are free.

Enjoy it. Use it. You’ll have even more room to store and deliver your video and audio lectures and materials. Start uploading dumb stuff—like daily videos of your coffee cooling, accompanied by in-depth commentary—just because you can.

This applies to all of our current customers and anyone else who has yet to jump aboard with Populi. That extra file storage is yours to use right now!

New course roster, plus enhancements to tests and Admissions

The new roster and finalize-by-student are now live! Take a look at the preview we published a few weeks ago, and get all the details in the Knowledge Base.

Here are some other noteworthy items we’ve released over the past couple months

Test availability

Tests can now have open-ended test availability dates. Choose from Available from (which gives you the usual date range), Available after or until, and Always available, which keeps the test open for the entire duration of the course. This makes things much simpler for our customers who run open-enrollment courses.

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Inquiries

You now have the option, when entering a new Inquiry, whether to email the comment to the student or keep it private. That, and the comment itself is now optional!

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Miscellaneous Admissions updates

Active Leads now get the Active Lead system tag. This makes it much simpler to, for example, include them in a Mailing List.

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When you accept an application, you can now add the Lead as a new user at the same time.

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Coming soon: the new course roster—new layout, new features, and finalize-by-student

Now simmering in the Populi kitchen: a new, updated course roster.

The current roster is a good, workaday tool that does the job for a lot of our users. It lets you manage course enrollment information—everything from student status to attendance hours—and gives you some simple group contact/export options. At the same time, it has a lot of room for improvement. The layout has gotten cramped over the years. Enrolling more than a few students at a time is a chore. And you can’t really work with a specific subset of students—for example, there’s no way to quickly contact, say, the course auditors (without also contacting everyone else, too).

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To tackle these problems, the new Roster introduces a new layout and some helpful new features while also preserving all your existing workflows.

Enrollment status

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The status column replaces the old roster’s Status panels. The new drop-down at the top filters the roster to show students of a particular status.

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Changing a status or leaving a note is simple as ever—just click the appropriate icon and go for it.

Adding students

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The new roster gives you two options for enrolling students: add them by name or import them from another course. Adding by name lets you search for and select multiple students; when importing students, you simply choose the term and the course and check the students you want to import.  Both options make it much simpler to, for example, bulk-enroll a specific cohort of students—all in about a minute.

Subsets of students

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You can also perform certain actions with a subset of students. Just check the boxes next to the students you want to include and click Actions. You’ll see new options to email selected students and export selected students.

Multiple course names on one roster

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Oftentimes, you’ll offer the same catalog course to the same group of students, with each student needing something different on his transcript. For example, you might have a general “Directed Study” course, with one student studying guitar and another taking piano. Previously, you had to create separate sections with different course names for each student, and then manage multiple rosters. Now, you can just create additional course names and descriptions on the Roster for specific students.

Finalize by student

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Finally, course finalization.* With the new release, you’ll be able to finalize individual students while leaving the course in progress for everyone else. You’ll still be able to finalize the course and all students at once… but you won’t have to.

Coming to Populi in about a couple weeks

The new roster gives you a lot more flexibility with course management and we’re excited to get it out there. It’s still a couple weeks out, give or take, but once we’ve corrected the seasoning, we’ll be dishing it up to everyone.

To prepare, Faculty and Teaching Assistant users should check out these videos and articles; Academic Admins and Registrars should head over to this Knowledge Base forum to learn how it will work for them.

* See what we did there? Huh? Huh? Didja?

Education tech: messiah or megaphone?

Elise Italiano at Public Discourse, in her article Community, Contemplation, and Computers: the Role of Technology in Education:

Though it is becoming clear that technology is changing the way we learn, it is not yet clear that it is improving it.

Though concerned with recent developments in K-12 education (especially in light of the White House’s ConnectED Initiative), there’s plenty here for higher-ed folks to contemplate regarding the relationship between pedagogy and technology.

Those who embrace the White House’s view of education share three main presumptions:

  1. Education should be highly individualized;
  2. Digital interaction with concepts and ideas is an effective and desirable means of learning;
  3. Education should be primarily geared toward helping produce students with skills for the workplace.

We, obviously, are in the education technology business. We really think Populi can help small colleges. But as we’ve written before, there’s a lot of hot air about online learning that has nothing to do with actually getting students a meaningful education.

The best presumption anyone can make about online learning is that it’s an amplifier: both in the sense that amplifiers get your voice out to more people, and in that small pedagogical problems are more likely to become big ones.

Online references

We just released an improved version of online references. References were introduced with the new Admissions release from last December, and after receiving feedback from customers, we found lots of ways to improve them.

New Admissions setting

You’ll notice a new tab in Admissions > Settings for Online Reference Forms. This is where you’ll create and edit your reference forms (you can have as many as you need).

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Default form for schools already using online references

If you’ve already included a reference form in your application, you’ll see a form called “Default”. That one is presently included in your application. It collects the same information as the one you’re already using: name, number, and an essay field. If that form is handling your needs, you don’t need to do anything: it’s already set up.

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Design a custom form

Many schools need a more complex form than the basic essay. You can now design that custom reference form right inside Populi (or update the Default form). It works just like building an application, and you have almost as many options in the reference form as you do in the application designer.

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How it works

Include it in an application when adding new fields.

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On the applicant’s side, it works just as before: he just enters an email address, and when he submits, Populi sends the reference a link to your online reference form.

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Keep an eye on the Admissions Dashboard for newly-submitted reference forms, and then process them just like you would any other application field (you can also edit the answers on submitted references).

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If you have any questions about how to use the new online reference forms, check out the Populi Knowledge Base or contact Populi Support.