How did you used to keep track of your students and manage daily check-in check-out’s?
We had 100’s of clipboards hanging around the dorms like most schools do. We had them in every room and on every bulletin board just to keep track of jobs, check-ins and weekend passes.
It was very paper heavy. We used a carbon copy for our leave request so each student would take the original and we could keep a copy in their file. When they returned, we would match them up to make sure they went where they said they would be and returned on time.
We also had a manual card system to help our staff keep track of the kids. On the wall in the office, each student had a slot where they would place a card which basically told us where they were. It required a lot of manual labour to move paper around and constantly double checking different places to determine exactly where they were.
The heavy paper usage was one of the main reasons we were looking for an alternative system. To help us cut back on the cost and also environmentally, to make sure we’re being responsible in that regard.
What was the biggest challenge your old processes presented?
It was consistently finding where our kids were and managing the movement of students. In an accountability perspective, it was difficult to understand the kind of patterns of where they would go, when they would go and how often they went to those different areas or different types of activities.
Everything was scattered across various platforms as opposed to a centralised place where we could manage and take a quick snapshot of where everyone was.
Did you try any other solutions before deciding to move to Boardingware?
I’ve only been on board here for three years so when I first started, I was trying to figure out what a better system would be like.
I looked into other systems, mostly school based systems that do attendance for the whole school and things like that to see if we would be able to adapt it to the boarding atmosphere and the dorm lifestyle. There were some similarities but at the same time, none of them really fit what we were doing.
Then I happened upon you folks at a TABS conference, I believe, two years ago. I talked to Kurt and Paul and decided we’d look further into what you folks could offer us. That’s when we started researching seriously and considering Boardingware as a solution for what we needed.
You’re right, School management systems typically aren’t designed for the dorm and boarding lifestyle. So when you first found out about Boardingware, did you have any hesitations before moving forward?
For me, not really. I didn’t hesitate because the simplicity of it was really refreshing. We have staff on different levels of ability as far as technology is concerned but I think for me, something that was really user friendly and not intimidating to really learn the system was hugely beneficial.
However, because of the size of our organisation and trust, there were a lot of checks and balances from the IT’s perspective as far as data security is concerned. That took some time to get through and approved but it wasn’t anything like a hesitation. It was just more about going through the right process to make sure we were going to be able to fully implement it before we adopted it completely.
During the implementation phase, when you were moving away from your clipboards and paper to a more secure cloud solution, how would you describe the transition period?
It was pretty smooth for us. We’re fortunate at the middle school here to have a technology resource teacher who made sure we had the correct processes in place to understand and learn the system.
She helped us to understand what type of format we needed to ensure our data was uploaded as smoothly as possible. We basically just exported our database, dropped it into a CSV file and were okay with the mass upload. According to her, it was pretty simple and we haven’t seen any real issues with it so far.
Was there a specific feature that ultimately made you choose Boardingware?
Yes, there was two main benefits. Firstly, it was being able to make sure we could find out where a kid was at any given time. We needed to be able make sure our students were accounted for and having a system on the iPad for a dorm adviser to scroll and scan through to see where our students were, was very attractive to me.
Actually we had an incident, a legal incident that happened a few years ago that came back and became quite a big deal for us. So trying to avoid any future incidences is kind of where that major focus came from. Making sure we’re aware of where students are, where they go, and the types of patterns we can see as far as their behavior and movement around campus or within the program was a huge one for us.
The other big benefit was eliminating all the double work, paper and all that type of stuff. We’re a one-to-one laptop school, so in our K-12 program all our students have their own personal devices. Elementary kids get their laptops in 4th grade and they have iPads from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. We’re really big on technology in our school, so it’s kind of interesting that when you went back to the dorms, you had to go back to pen and paper.
It just didn’t seem to match up with our focus as an innovative institution. So eliminating the paper and bringing us into the 21st century was just as important as monitoring student movements and student pastoral records.
Have those features made an impact on your students security?
Yes absolutely. I think by allowing our staff to be able to keep track of where our kids are at all times really improved not only our ability to keep them safe but also our understanding for the types of things our students are interested in doing because we can easily look at the patterns and history for each student.
Fantastic. Would you recommend Boardingware to other boarding schools?
Absolutely. I think for us, it has made it easier to understand what our students’ interests are, being able to understand the patterns and type of things our students really want to do and also to be able to digitise what we’ve been doing for so long and making sure we’re up to date with what our students are doing.
Our students do all of their work on computers and all that type of stuff, so it helps to bring us into their realm. So I definitely would recommend Boardingware.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
I do want to just mention one of the things we really appreciate has been the response time for customer service and the training we receive. For us it’s been excellent to be able to get to know you folks on a more personal level. Kathleen (customer success manager) was actually in Hawaii on vacation and found the time to come by to provide a training session for our staff.
It was great because for us as a school because culturally, relationships are really important to us. I think that it helps us to feel more comfortable to just reach out casually and in that meeting we had with Kathleen while she was on vacation, she was really able to get the information for what we needed and what would help us, and the response to our needs has been really good from our perspective.
We’ve made some suggestions and I don’t know if other schools gave similar feedback but seeing the different things we’ve given feedback on actually being implemented in the product has been really nice and helped us to feel like we’re in a collaborative relationship as opposed to a vendor client type relationship.
I think it has been really nice for us to be able to get the training as needed but also to feel like you folks have been responsive to some of the requests and feedback we’ve given to you guys. That has been really nice.