Sneak Peek: Our New Platform

We may have dropped a hint in our last post that a sneak peek of our new platform was just around the corner.  Well here we are, around that corner.  For the last several months, Simon has been working with the brilliant Patrick at DriveUX to help us give our current platform a major upgrade and make our teacher-volunteer-matching dreams come true.  We've added features that allow teachers, volunteers and school administrators to sign up, create profiles, schedule meetings, approve references and oh-so-much-more.  After several iterations, it is looking sharp, user-friendly and the School Square team is feeling pretty proud of our new tech-knowledge.  Words like UX design, beta, wireframe and MVP are now part of our everyday conversation and we love it!  But, don't worry if those terms sound like gibberish to you.  We understand.  And that's why we've included lots of pictures in this post and a few definitions. 

So, drum roll please...

We are proud to present a sneak peek of School Square's up-and-coming platform and matching feature, but first a little background on what we have now.  We've been following the Lean Startup approach, and as such our current platform is what we call a MVP, or minimum viable product.  Essentially, it's the most basic form of of a product that still allows us to gather validated learning about the product and keep developing it.  Thanks, Wikipedia.  

But School Square is anything but basic, and we've been hard at work making our volunteer-matching system come to life in order to streamline the volunteer process for teachers, volunteers and administrators.  That has required identifying some major problems with the current system and developing solutions that School Square can deliver on.

Problem #1: Paper and pencil applications are a thing of the past...

In today's day and age, a good portion of the forms and profiles and applications we create are online.  So, the paper and pencil applications we currently require of volunteers seem outdated, not to mention a major barrier to getting people engaged quickly and efficiently from the application through the reference phase.

School Square Solution: Online and streamlined application and reference page!

Volunteers can now easily sign-up online and submit two references, too.  Even better than doing this all online?  Administrators will also receive applications and references via our platform and can easily review, check references and ultimately approve volunteers all through our secure platform.  We might need a Staples button...because that was easy.

 Volunteers can quickly sign-up to volunteer with our online format.

Volunteers can quickly sign-up to volunteer with our online format.

 Volunteers can quickly provide the names and contact information of two references.

Volunteers can quickly provide the names and contact information of two references.

 School administrators will be able to approve or deny volunteers, electronically, based on background and reference check information.

School administrators will be able to approve or deny volunteers, electronically, based on background and reference check information.

Problem #2: Teachers' time is of the essence!

Let's face it, teachers are busy people and while a volunteer is likely to add some major value to their students' classroom experience, the process of finding someone can seem disproportionate to the value-add.  

School Square Solution: An amazingly easy filtering system.  

With the click of just a few buttons, teachers can filter for volunteers across 4+ categories and within seconds are presented with the smiling faces of community members eager to help them out.  Volunteer profiles are displayed in a clear, easy to read format allowing teachers to quickly decide who is the best fit.  Voila!  

 Our easy to use filtering system allows for teachers to quickly find and contact volunteers in the community who meet their classroom needs.

Our easy to use filtering system allows for teachers to quickly find and contact volunteers in the community who meet their classroom needs.

Problem #3: Schedules change frequently, and the back and forth via email is too much.

Again, people are busy and inundated with so many emails as is.  The back-and-forth that can happen when trying to schedule a volunteer engagement can, again, make the process seem like more effort than impact.  

School Square Solution: We've designed an internal scheduling system.

Teachers can request volunteers and provide all of the details upfront, cutting down on unnecessary back and forth.  With this, volunteers also have all the information they need to decide if they can make the commitment the teacher is asking for.  Once an engagement is confirmed, the visit shows up on the Administrator's dashboard, allowing them to easily see all of the volunteers coming in and out of a school on any given day.  Talk about a nice view!  

 By providing detailed information regarding the visit, teachers and volunteers can eliminate much of the back and forth and potential miscommunication that can happen with changing schedules.

By providing detailed information regarding the visit, teachers and volunteers can eliminate much of the back and forth and potential miscommunication that can happen with changing schedules.

Problem #4:  Data collection takes time...but it's so important!

We don't currently have a system in place in our schools that helps to account for the volunteers coming in to schools.  Without a centralized system to gather this information, data collection (and ultimately data-driven decisions) are tedious and challenging to make for school administrators. 

School Square Solution: An easy check-in and check-out system!

We have designed an easy to use check-in and check-out feature available to school administrators on their secure portal.  School staff will be able to easily view all of the upcoming volunteer engagements on any given day or week, who has checked-in and who needs to be checked out.  From there, we will be able to gather critical data about volunteerism in our schools and its impact on student learning. 

 The volunteer check-in and check-out system will allow school administrators to monitor volunteer activity in their schools and collect important data on their impact on student learning. 

The volunteer check-in and check-out system will allow school administrators to monitor volunteer activity in their schools and collect important data on their impact on student learning. 

Now that you've seen a sneak peek of what we're working on, stay tuned for some really exciting updates and details on the official launch of our platform!  We have some major things in the works...