What’s new in Edsby – Fall 2015

Young students build important digital skills with Edsby.

constructionedsbyEdsby gathers feedback from teachers, administrators, students and parents across the continent, and uses that input to drive our product roadmap and priority for enhancements.

Some enhancements are made available as they’re ready. But some are saved and released at the start of the new school year for teachers teaching a fresh set of students in a fresh set of classes.

Here’s an overview of some of what’s new in Edsby as the 2015-2016 school year begins. We hope you’ll find them interesting, helpful and exciting.

More great new features will show up as the school year continues.

Assessment Enhancements

Learning Expectations/Outcomes/Standards

Most education jurisdictions define a common set of expectations (sometimes referred to as “outcomes” or “standards”) that detail the key learning goals for a particular subject and grade level.

Edsby now has the ability to make these expectations available so that teachers can link their assessments, lessons and observations to the relevant expectations. Edsby automatically provides you with the right set of expectations based on the classes you are teaching. This saves teachers time, and helps provide more effective student progress tracking.

New in Edsby: standards1

Edsby now also provides teachers with a clear mapping of expectations/outcomes coverage at the class level; this makes it easy for teachers to track their coverage of the curriculum. 

New in Edsby: standards2

In addition, teachers can easily review each student’s progress by expectation. Edsby takes all scores from all assessments in the gradebook that are linked to an expectation and maps these scores to one of four levels.

Teachers can even assess students by expectation or make observations on student performance right in this view by simply clicking on the appropriate row. This is especially helpful for teachers in primary grades where individual assessments and observations are utilized more than class-based testing.

Edsby also makes it easy for teachers to share this information with students and parents if they choose to do so.

New in Edsby: standards3

These expectations/outcomes are installed in Edsby for each education organization based on their jurisdiction and their preferences after consultation to confirm the best fit with the organization’s assessment practices.

Support for Rubrics

Many teachers use rubrics as a standard part of their assessment practice. Edsby now supports an easy-to-use rubric capability that enables teachers to create, score and reuse rubrics.

Rubrics can support any number of rows. Compound assessment schemes such as Strands, Categories and Outcomes are supported on a per-row basis.

Rubrics can be created on the fly as you create an assessment. All rubrics created are automatically saved in your new Edsby personal folder so you can reuse it across assessments, across classes and even across school years.

New in Edsby: rubric1

Rubrics can easily be scored directly in the Edsby gradebook. This works very well on both the web and on tablets. You can share a rubric-based assessment with students and parents by simply clicking the “share” button. They will have instant access to the underlying rubric and the student’s score in each row of the rubric.

New in Edsby: rubric2

Perspective Enhancements

Edsby’s Perspective feature provides a powerful way for teachers to access all the information they have about a particular student’s progress in class and the class as a whole.

Edsby now provide the ability for teachers to print a progress report for an individual student or the whole class right from the Perspective. This is especially handy at parent-teacher conference time.

This new command is under the “gear” button:

New in Edsby: perspective1

Also, the Perspective graph for an individual student now includes a summary of attendance, progress and assessment status (similar to what students and parents see). This inclusive performance snap shot provides a great summary of student performance within a class at a glance.

New in Edsby: perspective2

Observation Enhancements

The Observations feature in Edsby has been enhanced in a couple of ways:

  • Observations can now be scored by teachers. By default Edsby provides a 4-level assessment scheme for this.
  • Observations can now be linked to expectations/outcomes/standards

The following shows how each of these may be done when creating a new observation:

New in Edsby: observations

eSubmit Enhancements

Teachers love how easy it is in Edsby to have students submit work electronically, and how those student submissions show up automatically in the Edsby gradebook.

Many teachers remarked how this feature would be even more useful if the teacher could add in an online submission on behalf of the student. This is useful if, for example, one student hands in a paper essay and the teacher wants to scan and store it in Edsby so that all the work for the entire class is available online. It is also useful in the lower grades in cases where the students are not submitting work at all, but the teacher wants to store  a record of student work (a photo of a project or artwork, perhaps) as part of the assessment.

The Edsby gradebook has been extended so that when a teacher clicks on a cell for a student in an assessment that has been marked for “eSubmit” the teacher will have the option to make a submission on behalf of the student:

New in Edsby: esubmit

Sharing of Subjective Performance Indicators

Edsby has always had a feature that enables teachers to quickly set a “Subjective Performance/Progress Indicator” (SPI) to any student in their class by clicking in the SPI field at the far left of the gradebook, e.g. Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement.

In the past this indicator has been visible to other educators at the school via the Panorama, and also automatically available to students and parents.

The Class Setup form has now been extended to provide teachers with control over whether or not parents and students should see the SPI. Some teachers may wish to never show the SPI to students and parents, or perhaps control the timing of when they share these with students and parents.  The setup control is shown below:

New in Edsby: spi

Gradebook Analytics

Educators know that a spreadsheet-style computational average of assessment scores provides a useful indicator of student performance. However, a single number on its own does not provide insights into the trends and potential issues that are contributing to that single number.

By working closely with educators using Edsby we’ve designed and implemented a new Gradebook Analytics feature that performs a series of calculations on the assessment scores for every student in the gradebook and alerts the teacher (via a “!” on  the average) if one or more “unusual” situations is found. The situations checked for are shown in the image below.

This helpful new feature assists teachers in identifying students for which the simple average shown may not tell the whole story of the student’s performance in the class and who thus may require more in-depth professional analysis and judgement when considering the student’s overall level of achievement.

New in Edsby: gradebook

General Features

A number of other additions and enhancements are now available in Edsby for teachers.

Enhanced Mini-profiles

When you hover on a person’s name in Edsby, their “mini-profile” pops up. This provides useful information about the person, including their full name, their role, and if it is a student it even shows you the location that student is currently scheduled to be in.

The style and layout of the mini-profile has been changed to make it more appealing and to accommodate an increasing number of helpful context-sensitive buttons that provide useful shortcuts to common activities.

One new context-sensitive shortcut is a quick link to a student’s Perspective page when a teacher hovers on that student in a class.

New in Edsby: miniprofile

Personal Folder for Staff

Edsby has a “library” capability in Edsby classes and Edsby groups that enable digital content such as files, videos and the like to be organized in a hierarchical folder structure.

New in Edsby for 2015: staff members are now being provided with a “Personal Folder” which is based on the same system provided in the past for libraries.  This Personal Folder is accessible via a new icon on the top tool bar:

New in Edsby: personal1

Edsby objects such as rubrics and online tests (coming soon) can be stored in the Personal Folder along with standard files, videos, etc.

New in Edsby: personal2

Edsby Groups

Groups help people to focus on an activity or a subject matter. Groups are great for collaboration, communication, sharing resources, scheduling, and capturing group knowledge. Sports teams, school clubs, parent volunteers, school departments, and like-minded sets of teachers all use groups to achieve their goals.

New group features in Edsby include:

Group Moderators Panel

A new panel that lists the moderator(s) of the group is automatically shown in every group. This makes it easy for group members to know who to contact if they have a question or need a change made to something in the Edsby group that only moderators can do.

New in Edsby: groups1

Closed Group Membership Request Workflow

When you create an Edsby group, you can make it “closed” so only invited members are in in it. You can also control which roles see that the group exists (including no one). If a person can “see” a closed Edsby group in their list of “find more” groups (indicated by a lock icon) Edsby now provides a way for the person to ask the moderator if they can be added to the group.

New in Edsby: groups2

Moderators will receive a workflow request in their Edsby mailbox. They can use this to either accept or reject the request.

New in Edsby: groups3

Auto-enrollment of Students, Parents and Staff

Edsby now supports the ability to have a group’s membership be automatically maintained based on role types (teacher, principal, student, parent…), grade level, and subject.  So it is now a breeze to create a group with all the Grade 12 students in it. Best of all, as new Grade 12 students join your school or district they are automatically placed in this group since the group membership is updated every night after synchronization with your student information system.

Note that at this time this advanced feature is only available to school administrator roles.

New in Edsby: groups4

Mobile Enhancements

The world today is increasingly mobile, with the usage of smartphones and tablets growing in leaps and bounds. Edsby enables parents, students and teachers to easily leverage all this technology through Edsby’s mobile apps.

Edsby also works well on any mobile device that has a modern mobile browser. This includes Windows Mobile and recent vintage Blackberry devices.

New mobile capabilities available in Edsby include:

“Login with…” support

Previously Edsby provided the ability to do single sign-in on the web with popular systems used in education like Google Apps for Education and Office 365. This quick and convenient authentication option now works on smartphones and tablets as well.

New in Edsby: mobile1

Smartphone Access to Search

In the past Edsby has provided a “people search” through the standard web interface and the tablet interface. This feature is now available on smartphones as well. This is a great way for educators to quickly get to a student’s Panorama information.

New in Edsby: mobile2

Expanded Smartphone Access to Panorama

In the past educators could use a smartphone to access some portions of a student’s Panorama page. By popular request this has been expanded to include information about the student’s parent/guardians and the student’s Information panel that include things like the home address and phone number.

Student Portfolios

Many schools have used Edsby’s student profile feature as an informal way to showcase student work. Students would post exemplars of their best work, and teachers and fellow students could comment on it. Also, the student’s parents were able to see their child’s profile.

The student profile has evolved into a more formal student portfolio. Students can now publish work in a modern blogging-style fashion. Each contribution is tagged by the school year and subject. User-generated tags are available as well.

Also, teachers can now post items on behalf of the student. This is especially helpful with younger students; teachers can now use this to build and publish samples of their students’ work to share with the parents with just a few clicks.

New in Edsby: eportfolio

Parent-Teacher Scheduling

Schools struggle with the process of scheduling parent-teacher meetings. Many schools still do this with a paper process, which has many obvious limitations and costs. Some schools use standalone “point” solutions to address this, but they are a headache to configure and support.

Edsby knows about every class in a school or district, including who the teacher is, who the students are, and who their parents are. Many customers asked if we could leverage this information to ease the burden of doing parent teacher scheduling. So we did!

The new Edsby Parent-Teacher Scheduling subsystem takes into account the needs of all the stakeholders involved. The process is in three key steps:

  1. A school administrator sets up a booking period by creating the slots on a calendar (e.g. 10 minute slots on Tuesday and Wednesday night from 6:30PM until 8:30PM). The school administrator also determines which classes this applies to via a convenient Edsby class picker. The administrator opens up the schedule to teachers when ready.
  2. Teachers then review and block off slots they will not be available in (due to prior engagements or pre-booked meetings with specific parents or desired breaks).
  3. The administrator then provides access to the parents who receive an Edsby message alerting them that slots can now be booked. The parent can make their bookings and print out a summary list if they like.  If they have more than one child at the school, all students will appear on the same booking screen to assist with time management for the parent.

New in Edsby: pti

Note that this is an optional module available to Edsby sites at an incremental price.   

Parent and Student Sign-ups

Another great new subsystem is Edsby sign-ups. Sign-ups can be directed to either students or parents and are a fast and convenient way to get parent approvals for things like field trips, media releases and so on. Student sign-ups provide a great way to find student volunteers for helping out with an event, or which students want to go on an optional trip.

Sign-ups are easy to create – just pick a set of parents or students (by class, by grade, individually or elsewise), edit the body of your sign-up request, and send it off. The recipients get a form in their Edsby mailbox and can click an appropriate response.

Here’s what request form creation looks like:

New in Edsby: signups1

Once you’ve sent the sign-up request, parents (or students) will receive it in their Edsby mailbox, and they can respond with a couple of clicks:

New in Edsby: signups2

Edsby provides the originator with a status view to track the responses:

New in Edsby: singups3

Note that this is an optional module available to Edsby sites at an incremental price.

Watch for more that’s new in Edsby in the months ahead!