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This time of year is often a reflective period, as schools around the country start to wrap up for the holidays and attention is focused on planning for what comes next. It’s no different for our team here at VSware where we have been looking forward into the new decade. For now, as Christmas draws ever closer and schools begin to wind down for a much needed break, we take a look back at the last 12 months at VSware.

Security remained a key goal 2019

Further GDPR security changes continued in 2019 centring around our Users and Groups feature. These brand new screens which allow schools to manage users and their permissions were created based on the needs of our customers. 

We know that each school is unique and roles and responsibilities can be divided up in lots of different ways. These screens not only increase security by making it easier for a school to manage who has access to what data, therefore ensuring sensitive student data isn’t available to those who don’t require it, but it also cuts out a lot of the cumbersome work secretaries do associated with managing permissions on a user by user basis.

So how does it work? With this new system, a school is now able to manage all users and also create bespoke user security groups. For example, you can decide to create a group of year heads, class tutors, career guidance, attendance officers, teachers with timetabling permissions etc. 

Previously, it was only possible to grant permissions on an individual basis, meaning that you would be forced to go to the account page of each individual year head for example and grant the specific permissions you wanted them to have.

The layout of the new screens means that this is no longer necessary. It has been simplified so that everything is contained in just two screens, one to create the security groups and allocate the permissions associated with them, and one to drag and drop the names of the relevant users into those groups. It’s that simple!

Read the guide here

Password changes gave control back to the user

In July of this year, we made some significant changes to the way in which VSware handles user passwords.

Essentially, users were allowed to update their own passwords, something which had never been possible before. 

All parents, teachers, secretaries, principals and all school staff can now reset their own passwords without having to go through the school admin staff with the exception of students who must still contact the school. 

Some extra points to note about the change: 

  • Permanent passwords (the ones created by the user) are never visible to anyone but the user themselves, even to secretaries and principals (admin)
  • Passwords can no longer be generated in a list for either individual users or groups of users
  • There is a new report that generates a list of which household contacts or student accounts are missing a password

Click here for the guide on how to reset passwords and here for the full manual.

Teacher App Launched 

In October of this year we introduced our brand new Teacher App. Now available on both Android and iOS devices, the Teacher App puts the power in the hands of teachers. Our aim was to improve the user’s experience by ensuring that any changes were dictated by the needs of teachers. An important part of this was to open the app up to Android users, which make up a significant proportion of our users. 

Rather than further adapting our existing app and making small improvements to it, we decided to entirely re-invent it so that teachers could not only enjoy an updated look and feel, but could get real value from a product that they interact with on a daily basis. 

By creating this app from scratch, we were able to both redesign the screens, as well as ensure that some of the issues associated with the old app – such as photo upload errors – could be removed entirely. We’ve added in some great new features, like the calendar screen which enables teachers to plan ahead and the student overview screen so teachers can ensure their students keep on track with their attendance and behaviour.

Ultimately, this app exists to empower teachers. We want to make the daily tasks associated with attendance, behaviour, time management etc., something that teachers can do without noticing, therefore freeing up time to allow them to focus on teaching. 

Since our launch in October, we have added some extra features which allow you to do the following: 

  • Keep up to date with your student’s schedule with the new individual student timetable screen
  • Have access to the contact details of parents and guardians with the new ‘Contact’ page
  • View an individual student’s personal details at a glance on their ‘Personal’ page
  • Monitor student attendance information on the ‘Attendance’ page. A new interactive drop down menu allows you to view the reason for the absence

Development of Classroom Based Assessments  

Later in October we launched the new Classroom Based Assessments feature. CBAs provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and skills in a way which would not be possible in a formal exam. 

In order to accommodate the changes resulting from the reform of the Junior Cycle that were introduced by the Department of Education, we worked to bring you a feature that was intuitive and easy to use for both admin staff and teachers. This was officially launched in late October. 

In the months leading up to the launch, we had been piloting this system in a small number of schools in order to iron out any issues with usability. State CBA is now available for schools to use with subjects that need to be synchronised with PPOD. We are working towards expanding the system so that further assessments can be created by teachers for individual class tests and assignments in the future. Keep an eye out for further developments. 

Read more about CBA here.

Firefly & VSware – an exciting new partnership 

This year at the 2019 NAPD Conference (National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals) in Kilkenny, we announced our partnership with Firefly Learning. Firefly is an online tool that streamlines the way in which teachers, students and parents engage in online learning with a focus on individual class assignments, homework and tasks.

Firefly are a perfect fit for VSware as a partner, sharing in our common goals. In both cases it can be said that we are born for schools, fit into your unique school’s culture and enable whole community engagement. 

What does the partnership mean for our Irish schools? It means we are able to put you in touch with the right people in Firefly to help you get started on your journey of online learning. It’s really exciting for us to be working with them, and we hope that we can help bring their platform to a wider audience. 

Read more about it here.

Extra Curricular Activities 

This year has been a busy one for all at VSware HQ. We’ve been to Websummit in Lisbon, hosted a Vue Java Script Meet Up, Celebrated international Women’s day in style, endured some serious obstacles at Hell & Back in aid of Jigsaw, and held a Jersey Day in aid of Samaritans. 

Jigsaw 

Jigsaw was our charity of choice for 2019. Jigsaw is the National Centre for Youth Mental Health with a mission to create an Ireland where every young person’s mental health is valued and supported. Jigsaw provide early intervention services & work to break down the stigma around mental health which can be all too familiar in Ireland. We have been so proud to have had the opportunity to further this mission in the school community we work within & make a positive change. To learn more about Jigsaw, visit their website

With genuine thanks to every student, parent, teacher and member of school staff in the VSware community, we wish you the very best holiday season and look forward to working with you again in the New Year.