The web-based approach to school management

The web-based approach to school management

The School for Student Leadership (SSL), with three campuses across Victoria at Dinner Plain (Alpine Campus), Marlo (Snowy River Campus) and Glenormiston (Gnurad-Gundidji Campus) in the state’s west, provides a life-changing residential education experience for year nine students.

With students enrolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a period of one term, the manner in which student records are kept is a unique requirement, one that has become far simpler thanks to Gippsland-based uEducateUs, a complete web-based school management system.

The SSL curriculum focuses on personal development and team learning projects sourced from students’ home regions. Students attend these campuses for a full school term (approximately nine weeks).

Following in-depth discussions with LinkedSuccess director, Jason Corbett, and support officer/manager, Fred Dale, uEducateUs was rolled out at the SSL campuses in term four last year, and SSL principal, Mark Reeves, is already thrilled with how the program is performing.

Jason and Mark first crossed paths in 2013.

“We met at the MotoGP. I was mayor (East Gippsland Shire) at the time,” Mark said.

“And this fellow (Jason) came up and started spruiking about this company; I was more interested in having lunch with Charlie Boorman,” he laughed.

“Then a couple of years later, a year ago, when we were looking for an integrated platform that provided what uEducateUs does, out of the blue Jason rang me.”

With Jason refreshing his memory and speaking of the developments since 2013, Mark was keen to learn more.

Mark and fellow SSL teacher, Brendan Pfanner, had approached several vendors looking for a management system that could help them manage their schools’ student and teacher information and activities, but due to the unique approach that the SSL apply, they had very specific needs in certain areas of their operational requirements.

A big area for them was in reporting, and the type of graphical reporting they required to stay in line with what they had been producing manually in the past. Another issue they had was the high turnover of students and being able to handle the perpetual enrolments and exiting of students at the end of each semester.

“When the uEducateUs team was approached and given an explanation of the schools’ requirements, we immediately recognised the worth in working with them to find a solution,” Jason said.

“Over the following months a lot of development was done, much of which was specific to the needs of these unique campuses, some of which can be utilised by other schools using the uEducateUs system, all of which we were happy to do to help the School of Student Leadership to accomplish their educational goals.”

Adaptability is a key to the success of uEducateUs.

“It’s been an amazing journey since 2013 to where we are now with a product,” Jason said.

“Especially with having outcomes data wise, where we can support and make it a far better information package to support all the stakeholders, all the parents, students and teachers, to keep everyone in that line of communication.”

“It’s a really great integrated package,” Mark said.

“And here it is, Gippsland-based. It’s fantastic. It’s world-class technology and delivery.

“There’s no call centre, and we’re talking to real people who are willing to listen to feedback and work with what we have to tell them.

“That personal business connection is so important.

“The product service has been really fantastic and they’ve been really responsive. It’s a great quality the organisation has, its responsiveness and the willingness to accept feedback, and request it.

“With the big players our experience was that they had a single product and there was no variation this is what you buy. It comes with everything, whether you like it or not.

“uEducateUs is different. The user-friendliness of the operation is terrific. Our staff are pretty switched on and good IT users and when Fred showed them the package and told them to do this, this and this, off they went and did it.”

“We got plenty of feedback from them, what they liked, what they didn’t. And we’ve got a lot more things that can make this really great,” Fred said.

“It’s a great adaptive challenge, there’s no doubt about it,” Mark said.

“Incidents is one of the major things for the leadership school,” Fred said.

“If an incident was to occur at the Dinner Plain or Gnurad-Gundidj campus for example, Mark can see it straight away.”

“I get a notification on my email, it comes up on my phone, and I can ascertain pretty quickly whether it’s major or minor, what the incident is involving,” Mark said.

“Last term we had an incident where we had a girl who had a knee dislocation in a relatively re mote location at Cape Conran. It was a case of would it be a helievac or do we get coast guard around, or do a terrestrial rescue, which is what the SES did.

“I was actually sitting in Bairnsdale, in the council chamber (Mark is also an East Gippsland Shire councillor), watching all this unfold on my phone, all through the uEducateUs app. So I was able to get the message to them immediately to send her to Bairnsdale and that I’d meet her there.”

This is a major bonus for 24/7 schools such as the Snowy River Campus.

“I will field calls from parents from across three campuses. Teachers might transfer a call from a parent from the other side of the state with a question about their child and I might not know that child specifically, but I can pull up that child’s record, and as long as there’s an organic component, where a teacher has actually entered the data into the system, and they are really good at that, I can follow a tracked conversation about how a specific student has been and be able to talk to mum or dad and be able to say I understand they are fine.”

Of course any program such as this can only be good as the people that enter the required data.

“That’s where I think with the easy interface they’ll use it more,” Mark said.

“It was only five years ago that this was all done on paper, with paper documentation kept in files. We then moved to Access databases, and Excel spreadsheet databases, which was a big step for us, but then having that accessible to everybody, and multiple user access, it was a bit clunky.

“Having a web-based database like this makes it user-friendly and enticing for teachers to actually document. They’re no longer writing notes in their diaries, where they might have had a phone call, they’ll now type it in as they’re talking and it’s all on file straight away in real time.”

Medical backgrounds and medications required by students is also covered by the uEducateUs program, an essential requirements for an organisation such as SSL with many off campus excursions.

Across three campuses, with 45 students at each for a term at a time, it is important information is close at hand.

Internationally, SSL spreads to China with Victorian Young Leaders to China (VYLC), a program with around 50 students spending six weeks in southern China each year. When this program comes around later this year it will be for the first time utilising the uEducateUs program.

“There is no reason why we can’t use it in China. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world, being web-based,” Mark said.

“The School for Student Leadership is now well into its second school term using the uEducateUs system. Over this time, we have worked to fine-tune some functionality, extended some functionality and added extra reporting requirements,” Jason said.

“uEducateUs has a proven track record in working with our customers to help them to achieve positive student outcomes, and this was the perfect opportunity to leverage off this work ethic. Engaged kids make happy students and ultimately, the aim of uEducateUs is to empower schools with a tool that allows parents and students to take responsibility for their learning and to acquire the self-motivation, skills and knowledge that will support them throughout a lifetime of learning.”

The adaptability is so important for education facilities like the Schools for Leadership, where students are being cared for 24/7, not just from 8.30am to 3.30pm five days a week.

“There’s an opportunity as a result of this that boarding schools like MLC and Geelong Grammar might also take this on board,” Mark said.

“Now that this is operating at SSL and we have a proven track record, that is exactly where we are looking to go,” Fred said.

PICTURED: LinkedSuccess director, Jason Corbett, support officer/manager, Fred Dale, and School for Student Leadership (SSL) principal, Mark Reeves, discuss the successful rollout of uEducateUs, a complete web-based school management system, across the three SSL campuses.