By Sean Richards

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We are excited to announce the major updates we aim to include in Schoolbox version 14, scheduled for release late April 2014.

Just before the end of 2013 our team assembled to discuss and agree on the work we felt we could achieve for version 14. It was no surprise that this meeting was chock full of opinions and we had much to deliberate on and some difficult decisions were made.

The growth that Schoolbox has experienced over the past 18 months has enabled us to invest more than ever before in our research and development budget. This means that we’ve been able to increase the number of new features we include in our major releases.

Whilst we are unable to guarantee that all the features presented below will make it into our next release, our roadmap ensures that we start our journey.

There are so many features and upgrades we as a team want to make to Schoolbox. To decide what will and will not make it in, we factor in a range of feedback from different sources into our decision making for our roadmap. These include:

  • Customer feedback from the 2013 user group meetup
  • Ongoing customer feedback from our help desk, forums and account management
  • Our own ideas and innovations
  • Under-the-hood improvements and system upgrades needed to keep our technology evolving
  • Education technology industry trends
  • Competitor analysis

Factoring all these moving elements we work as a team to vote, rank and select the best of the bunch and then analyse what’s reasonable for us to attempt within the time frame.

Ideally, the roadmap includes features that will have the most impact for the system and our customers, factoring in both short and long term goals.
What are we working towards for v14 and beyond?

Below are the major items that we will aim to have included in version 14, scheduled for release late April 2014.

Grade and mark sheet integration with student information system (SIS)

This was by far the most requested feature from the community representatives at our 2013 user group meetup. The integration to enable the grades and mark sheet data entered into Schoolbox to be synchronised in real time to your SIS. Many of our customers are Synergetic customers, however we also support our customers on a range of other SIS platforms.

Therefore we will commence work towards a solution enabling the grade and mark sheet data that you create in Schoolbox to be pushed into school reporting systems.

We often refer to the integration of the LMS mark sheet with your school’s reporting system as the holy grail of integration in the edtech world.

Inline Grading

We can’t argue that the workflow optimisation presented from in-browser document annotating and grading makes this feature a must have for any good LMS. We recognise that this is an important step in keeping Schoolbox at the cutting edge of technology in education. This will enable teachers to open, grade and annotate a student’s submitted documents online, without leaving the browser. No more downloading and then uploading files.

Notification system

Schoolbox’s current notification system is in need of modernisation. To address this we are creating a new notification system. Once implemented, we will be able to use this new notification framework across a range of ‘listeners’ for publishing notifications throughout the system. These could include:

  • New social like notification system in the header.
  • Email notifications, updating the email digest.
  • Mobile notifications – This includes the potential to wrap up the mobile module into a native app and provide true push notifications to users across iOS and Android.
  • Notifications to users when they achieve a badge or award. (more below).

This would essentially deprecate the traditional homepage activity feed and “What’s New” dashboard components. We plan on this system including administrative control over which notifications are enabled and how they are delivered.

Badges and achievements – Gamification

Gamification has developed into an exciting part of edtech and offers tremendous value to education, teaching and learning. We are implementing a badge and achievements system utilising our new notification system. This will enable schools to manage, create and automate the delivery of badges to users in Schoolbox. The applications are literally endless but could include:

  • Handing in homework on time
  • Commenting on a social stream
  • Posting a blog
  • Getting an A+ on an assignment
  • Being the first to complete a test
  • Uploading a video
  • Student representative council(SRC) appointments
  • Existing school badges such as school colours, Duxs, awards, service, sports.

We are very excited about the direction this will take us all.

Resource booking system

We will commence development of the resources booking system. This system will enable schools to manage resources such as rooms, equipment and more and for these to be booked by staff from within Schoolbox. Fully integrated with our unified calendar and timetable, this is sure to present enormous value to the entire community.

In-Browser Document creation

We have had our eyes on this technology for a while now and it’s finally made the cut into our roadmap. This feature will enable creation of online documents (like a Google Doc) within Schoolbox. Multiple users will be able to collaborate on the document at the same time. You can think of it as a modern version of the wiki.

Under-the-hood optimisations

As always, a portion of our development is allocated to continuous improvements to the system under-the-hood. Whilst as customers, you might not see the effects of these updates, you will experience them. Improvements in the application’s speed and responsiveness alone were greatly optimised with version 13 and we will continue to reinvent what needs to evolve to ensure that Schoolbox continues to thrive in the ever changing landscape that is technology.

The place beyond the pines

We wish we could include more than what’s been presented here, however we have prioritised what we felt was best for everyone for the next major release. This raises the question though. What didn’t make the cut for v14?

Here is a small list of what we will be looking at post v14 and beyond:

  • Curriculum mapping
  • Better notifications throughout the system
  • Refreshed user experiences and improved UI
  • Audio/video commenting throughout marking system
  • Reports on Cohort and Course performance across LMS
  • LTI support
  • Tin Can (SCORMM)
  • Multifile -> Drag and drop – Standard file submit
  • Integration with Google. Drop box, Skydrive, MyFiles
  • Mobile module wrapped into a native app to enable push notifications

Wrap up

We trust that our transparency and open roadmap keeps our customers feeling positive knowing that Schoolbox is the LMS of choice for K-12 schools. We focus on what matters to our customers and are leading the competitive race in the edtech space.

Take this information with a grain of salt. We’ll be working our hardest ever to bring all of our customers this, but technology moves so quick and this list may change between now and April.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and we encourage you to use our community forums to discuss our roadmap.