Bringing simplicity & transparency to school operations
When Glenmore Christian Academy (GCA) needed a platform to unify all of their fragmented functions and engage with parents, they turned to Launchcode!
Glenmore Christian Academy (GCA) is a private Junior Kindergarten to Grade 9 school in Calgary. Started in 1980, today, the school has more than 750 students and great infrastructure at the campus based in the Southwest quadrant of the city.
Modern solution for a modern school
Modernization efforts in organizations across sectors have been a norm in the last decade or so.
Schools have been increasingly focusing on using technology to not only simplify many processes, but also digitizing a lot of their records.
Student and parent profiles, finance records, and other details come together to help schools take informed decisions, provide better care for their students, and prioritize needs.
Glenmore Christian Academy wanted to step away from paper-based documentation and records keeping, bring in transparency between the institution and the parents, while also introducing some much-needed efficiencies into their procedures.
Launchcode developers created the myGCA portal in response and it was all that the school needed and much more.
The web-based external- and internal-facing platform features online applications, re-enrollment, accounting functionalities, document center, family center, field trip forms, enrolled programs, school history, and more.
Integration with an accounting software and a student information system were successfully completed to create a well-rounded platform.
Need for modernization & embracing tech
Like most organizations out there, schools have a complex ecosystem of their own. While some of the functions cross over from a typical commercial business - HR, accounting, IT, etc. - there are others that are very specific with their own set of challenges.
There are multiple stakeholders that are invested in the operations at a school, and many would say that the external stakeholders (read parents) are perhaps a lot more invested in the day-to-day functioning of the organization as compared to a conventional business.
Understandably then, for GCA, their modernization and digitization plan was not only about integrating various workflows in their organization, but also about transparency and giving parents a more hands-on easy-to-use access portal.
Organizations, including schools, also want to future-proof their operations, create a consistent user experience across profiles and reduce cost.
Schools also have a few functions that are largely repetitive in nature and can benefit from automation. For instance, field trip forms are a constant across an academic year.
Manual processes, Excel spreadsheets and paper-filing systems may have served organizations well over the years, but as processes grow more complex, compliance becomes tougher, numbers increase, technology can help.
With changing lifestyles, parents look forward to simpler collaboration tools and processes, and easy-to-use touchpoints.
An inclusive solution
GCA wanted a solution that not only simplified student and form management processes for them, but also something that helped parents stay abreast with the school programs, make payments, stay updated on events, activities and application statuses, etc.
The platform also had to be able to integrate with a student information system the school already had, and speak to the ERP software they used for accounting purposes.
In short, the platform had to bring all their existing systems together, besides being able to add functionalities, and simplify processes.
The rules of the game
The audience GCA intended to reach was varied, especially when it came to the technology they used and their tech-savviness.
Launchcode developers chose to create a platform for a web-based environment to ensure wide adoption that wasn't dependent on the brand of computers, phones or operating systems parents used.
Integration with two existing solutions that the school used - a student information system and an ERP software - was non-negotiable.
React, with its versatility, became an automatic choice for frontend, while PostgreSQL was chosen for database. The stack would also have simplified development of mobile apps in the future.
In the quest for a school management platform
GCA has been part of the Calgary community for decades together and being able to help a community-focused organization become efficient has been part of Launchcode's DNA since the beginning.
And when kids of the company partners are enrolled in the said school, the motivation just goes a notch higher. After all, you have insights and are privy to the kind of conveniences parents would like, among other things.
This helped with the discovery stage of the process. Coupled with what the school administration wanted in terms of features and functionalities, insights of Launchcode personnel as parents was key.
Following the agile sprint methodology, Launchcode developers first focused on creating software architecture, user relationships, authentications, profiles, etc.
For the platform to work seamlessly and efficiently, two core applications were to be created - Family Portal and GCA Portal.
The Family Portal focused on creating an easy-to-use solution for families to access all GCA services, while the GCA Portal intended to streamline the business management side of the school.
Development progressed through multiple sprints, dealing with integration of already existing software, creating student and family profile options, and creating a repository of forms and documentation for parents to access.
With schools organizing multiple field trips through an academic year, one of the focus areas for the platform was to simplify parental consent forms for these trips.
The school had a very meticulous and structured multi-stage admission process that meant a lot of paperwork and led to ambiguity for parents. The myGCA portal sought to create an online module that not only made it simpler for the administration to manage the process, but also helped create transparency with the parents.
Parents could also get details about and/or register their kids to be in GCA programs, and then be able to track the application status on the platform itself. The tool allowed parents to talk about their reasons for applying to GCA programs, provide a statement of financial commitment, while also gaining access to GCA's Beliefs and Statement of Faith.
From an events and activities calendar to a message board, the family portal was emerging as a one-stop platform for everything that the parents needed.
On the other end of the spectrum, the priority with the GCA portal was to keep all the information up to date without any manual intervention and assist with day-to-day management through a logic- and process-based workflow.
The application gave administrators access to student and family profiles, enrollment in programs, program management, events and activities calendar, and message board to name a few.
The Application Central provided administrators a complete admission management module, including a real-time dashboard and key metrics.
School management & much more
The myGCA portal was everything that GCA was aiming for and then some more.
With its two core applications, myGCA managed to automate a lot of the workflow, reducing manual intervention and chances of human error.
For instance, the field trip module made it simpler for parents to provide consent for their kids, while reducing paperwork for the same for GCA administrators down to zero.
The admission and student registration process was taken online, making it paperless and efficient at the same time.
The portal also facilitated payments for tuition and other fees.
With all GCA services available online and touchpoints, parents found themselves in sync with the progress of their kids and much more engaged.
On the administration side, a lot of the manual processes were automated and processes streamlined. The application made it simpler for GCA to keep track of payments, forms, and parental consent, while also digitizing student and family profiles.
It helped GCA to tailor its programs and services depending on the needs of the students much more efficiently.
Clients love us!
Given how simple myGCA made it for parents to make payments, provide field trip consents, and keep track of events and activities at the school, the application was well-received by them. The transparency that the application fostered was appreciated.
The application helped the school move into a rare league of educational institutions that had embraced technology.
The customer service function at the school was a lot more streamlined and in tune with the needs of the parents and the students.
Innovation never rest
The myGCA portal was built in React keeping in mind the functionalities and accessibility needs of the client and their audience. What it also did is give the clients an option to create native apps for Android and iOS as and when they decided to take the next step in their modernization journey.
Technology made GCA future-proof, transparent and efficient, but it also allowed the administration to think further and beyond. On the table for future are features that would allow to integrate third party student information and performance management system through an API as and when they are available, connecting with alumni, fundraising progress, donor profiles, and tax receipts.
With the right foundation and people, the sky is the limit. Just like how a school functions!