By James Leckie

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As we look forward to the year ahead we have two major Schoolbox releases to fill with features. After a successful User Group Meetup, we have come back brimming with great ideas contributed by our valued customers.  We identified that the major themes discussed pertain to three key areas: mobile, integration, and analytics.

Mobile

Our mobile strategy has evolved over the last few years since we first developed a dedicated web app. Customer feedback has since indicated a preference for more than a dedicated system. So this year we will begin rebuilding Schoolbox from the ground up to be fully responsive with a mobile first design strategy.  This will ensure every feature of Schoolbox is available on all devices, including mobile phones.  This will be no small feat, but we now believe the technology is ready and we can realise this solution.

The second part of our mobile strategy will address the need for push notifications.  Many schools have been asking for a solution to deliver messages directly to parent and student phones.  For the next release of Schoolbox a mobile push message API will be provided.  This will allow 3rd parties to register and receive Schoolbox messages directly in native applications.  We hope this will offer our customers a range of exciting options when choosing a mobile solution.  We already have a partner on board that will be providing customised applications for schools.  More information will be announced in the very near future about availability of apps.

Integration

Last year we successfully integrated Google Drive, Clickview and Synergetic Attendances. To continue on these successes, this year we will deliver even more integration. So you can choose the tools that work for you and trust that Schoolbox will work to provide an all-in-one solution.  This year we will be integrating Microsoft Onedrive for Business, Synergetic Markbook, and LTI applications.  In particular, Synergetic Markbook integration will provide a seamless workflow from marking in the classroom through to reporting at the end of the semester. This has certainly been one of our most requested features and something we are excited to provide.

Analytics

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Providing insights into what is happening in Schoolbox is certainly a hot topic at the moment.  Initially we will be improving our existing reporting by providing a more comprehensive oversight of students’ results in the form of a rubric and improve existing graphs.

With the new course builder functionality we can now provide insights into the entire cohort’s progress in real time. We plan to add new reports to show how the cohort and classes are progressing throughout the course, and identify students that may require early additional resources.

Underlying all of this, we are continuing our project to bring curriculum mapping into Schoolbox.  Long term we see this as crucial to be able to provide insights and recommendations on actual curriculum.  Enabling resources to be tagged and student activity to be logged against particular curriculum will give schools the insight they need to continually improve their curriculum delivery.

Later in the year we will be creating a Schoolbox Success Report to identify key health indicators and help your school understand where Schoolbox is working and where it may need additional work.  In particular we are interested in the perceived value of the system and where that value is currently located or where it may be lacking.

Resource Booking

The resource booking system launched late last year and after an initial slow start has taken off extremely well this year.  But with any first year system there is quite a lot of fine tuning to be done.  We have received over 50 user suggestions for the system in the last month alone and we are working quickly to deal with the most crucial of these.

This year on our agenda you can expect to see:

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  • A new resource search view that should help you find a resource that is available when you want it.

  • Improved handling of related resources including individualised notes and linking them all together on the calendar.

  • We also expect to fully integrate resource booking into the calendar allowing you to add resources to your calendar events as you create them.

Sports Fixtures

A key part of our schools’ DNA is their sports programs; incredibly complex and fluid systems with thousands of students and their families running around town to compete in various competitions each week.  Schoolbox is in the perfect place to assist with the communication, navigation and celebration of the sports component of education.  Later this year we will be releasing a system to help track locations, teams, and games.  This will be extended over time to also include results and weather notifications.

 

As always you can rely on us to maintain a balance between adding new features, improving existing functions, and maintaining the systems under the hood. Beyond this broad outline there will be hundreds of other small tweaks and improvements plus major changes under the hood to continue to improve the Schoolbox code base. In particular this year we will be migrating from 12.04 LTS to 14.04 LTS of Ubuntu.  This will include an upgrade from PHP 5.3 to PHP 5.5. This is an exciting year at Schoolbox and we are certainly looking forward to continuing on the success of last year.