Preparing for the GDPR

On May 25, 2018 the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into effect. The EU enacted the GDPR to give its citizens more control over their data and require certain security and transparency measures from the businesses and organizations that keep that data. The GDPR regulates any entity that controls or processes the personal data of any EU citizen—which affects not only Populi but also many of our customers. Here is a guide to how we are preparing for GDPR and the tools we’re building to help our customers who are affected by the new regulations.

Legal language

As contemplated by the GDPR, Populi, as a data processor, provides the tools and services our customers—who are data controllers—may use to collect, store, and maintain personal data about EU citizens (data subjects in GDPR parlance). In light of this, we’re reviewing our public legal documents and will be updating the appropriate sections of each policy. We’re also reviewing our internal Security Policy regarding data deletion, customer data backups, and our own security precautions.


By May 25, 2018, we plan to have released the following Populi updates. These new features will give our customers the tools to comply with the data protection, transparency, and portability requirements of the GDPR for data subjects stored in Populi.

  • We’ll be adding a way to track your “lawful basis” for keeping data about a citizen of the EU, including a report to let you identify people in your system for whom you may need to establish that lawful basis.
  • We’re building a data portability tool that will allow citizens of the EU export data kept about them in Populi.
  • We’re updating our customer data retention procedures to keep in line the GDPR’s requirements for permanent data deletion.
Services we use

The GDPR will not just affect the relationship between Populi and our customers. We ourselves do business with several companies to provide Populi to you. For example, we use Zendesk to provide crucial aspects of our customer support. Our internal review process will cover our own responsibilities in light of these relationships—we will examine our vendors’ own updates to make sure they avail us of the processes and tools we will need.

Your own review

Between these tools and our own internal changes, we’ll be doing our part to prepare for the GDPR. If your school maintains data on any EU citizens (whether in Populi or another system), you may also benefit from your own internal review.

Updates are coming

As we release updates to our software and legal documents, we’ll make sure to inform you via Populi’s system notices, our weekly Release Notes, and other appropriate media.

Course Conferences with BigBlueButton

course conferences

New in Populi courses: Conferences! We’ve added an integration with BigBlueButton, a web conferencing service designed for online learning. With Conferences, your faculty can offer live video streaming, presentations, a virtual whiteboard, chat, and live discussions right inside Populi courses. Here’s how you can get your school started:

  1. Your school gets a hosted version of BigBlueButton through Blindside Networks. Blindside provides BBB hosting and support services to schools around the world. (You can also set up your own hosting environment for BigBlueButton.)
  2. You’ll plug some API credentials from Blindside into Account > Integrations.
  3. Immediately, all of your courses will have the new Conferences view. Your faculty and students will be able to start using BBB right away.

Conferences will let you do even more with online courses in Populi. For more details, have a look at the Populi Knowledge Base.

Plagiarism checking with Unicheck

We’re pleased to announce the release of one of our customers’ most-desired features: plagiarism checking!



We’ve added a new integration with Unicheck, a web-based plagiarism-checking service. Unicheck compares documents in a wide variety of formats with Internet-based sources, open access libraries and journals, and documents already uploaded to your school’s account. After running the check, it presents its findings in a clear, easy-to-read report.

To use the plagiarism features…

  1. Your school sets up its own Unicheck account. Tell them you’re a Populi customer and you’ll get a month-long free trial!
  2. Enter some credentials in Account > Integrations.
  3. You’re ready to go!

After completing these steps, your faculty can start setting up assignments  to check for plagiarism. File and Essay assignment types (including the Peer Review versions) have new options for plagiarism checking. You can choose to check student submissions automatically, and whether or not to share the plagiarism report with the student.



When viewing a student’s submitted assignment, just click Check for plagiarism. After a few moments, you’ll see a link to View plagiarism report; this opens a panel showing you Unicheck’s findings. You can then download the report to PDF; Unicheck also gathers up statistics from the submissions for inclusion in its high-level reports.

The new feature is available right now. Have a look at the Knowledge Base to learn more about plagiarism checking in Populi.

Coming soon: Online attendance tracking and reporting

Coming soon to online courses: automatic attendance tracking. It’ll save your faculty a lot of time and will make for more accurate attendance records for your online courses.

Active participation interface

The current attendance workflow for online courses looks like this: Courses are given a single, weekly attendance meeting time. Then, once a week, the course faculty reviews the previous week’s student activity—discussion posts, lesson progress, assignment submissions, and so on—and marks student attendance for the week based on that activity (or lack thereof). The attendance stats are then pushed to the various reports in Populi, including the SAP report in Financial Aid, where that weekly date supplies the all-important date of last attendance.

With the new features, all you need to do is set a course to use an online delivery method (you can use Populi’s built-in Online method or a custom method you designate as such). When you do that, Populi will automatically record certain Federally-approved student activities (submitting assignments, starting or posting in discussions, taking tests) as “participation”. In turn, participation stats are included in the new Online Attendance report in Academics, the Data Slicer, and the SAP report in Financial Aid—where participation is used to determine a student’s date of last attendance.

Populi will do all this whenever you use an online delivery method, whether at the beginning of the term or even later on. In the latter case, Populi will backfill participation data based on the records it already keeps of student activity. Of course, faculty will also be able to manually add participation records if need be. Additionally, mixed campus/online courses will include both attendance options—the regular meeting times for classroom events as well as the participation records that comprise online attendance.

Less work and better record-keeping: we think you’ll like it! We hope to have online attendance tracking in your hands in the near future—make sure to follow our Release Notes to see when it’s live!

Attendance beacons in Populi’s mobile apps

Populi’s mobile apps for iOS and Android have a really cool feature we want you to know about: attendance beacons! Here’s how they work…

When class starts, the professor launches the app to set an attendance beacon for that particular meeting. The beacon uses the phone’s Bluetooth radio to send out a unique code to nearby devices running the app.


When students arrive in class and fire up the app within range of the beacon, they’ll see a check-in button on their dashboard. When they tap the button, the beacon notes what time the student checked in and sets them to present, tardy, or absent depending on their arrival time.

If the professor needs to call roll for students who didn’t check in, she can also record attendance using one of the other options in the app—they’re super-simple and the record automatically pushes right to your school’s Populi database.

Attendance beacons in Populi’s mobile apps free up class time, do away with busywork, and help make for more accurate record-keeping.

Step-by-step instructions for faculty are here, and the student guide is here.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 From Populi!

Populi Christmas 2017

From left: Josiah Frazier, Adam Sentz, Josh Stevenson, Caleb Stevenson, Matt Jepsen, Jordan Smith, Nick Holloway, Patrick Swanson, Christian Amos, Joseph Schoolland, Mark Ackerman, Toby Robinson, Brendan O’Donnell, Isaac Grauke, Joel Penney, James Hill

From everyone here to all of you who made 2017 a great year to work at Populi, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Cross listing and other academics updates

The Populi developers have been cranking out new academics features at a steady clip. Here’s a look at some of what’s new:

Cross Listing

You can now cross-list courses at the course instance level. After adding a course to an academic term, you can then cross-list it with other courses right on the Info view. Cross-listed courses let you set up assignments for students in one course or the other; otherwise, they share all course content, meeting times, faculty, and so on.

Registration lottery

The new advanced options for online enrollment let you introduce a delay/lottery for student registrations. You can set all registrations to process at a certain date and time, and randomize submitted registrations so that the earlier requests aren’t prioritized over the later ones.

Custom Student ID numbers

You can now customize the Student ID numbers automatically-generated by Populi when you create new students. You can include variables for last name, month/day/year, random numbers, and sequential number counters. If you want to set that up for your school, start by reading this article.

Release notes

This is as good a time as any to remind you to check out our weekly Release Notes, published every Friday in the Knowledge Base. If you like, you can also subscribe to them—just click the Follow button and choose whether you’d like to receive email about New Articles or New Articles and Comments.

Email dropboxing

Email dropboxing lets Staff and Faculty users attach emails sent from outside Populi to a person’s Activity Feed. It’s been part of Populi since Presidents’ Day, 2012, and we’re soon to release an update that will introduce a few handy front-end and back-end improvements.

Here’s a look at dropboxing from stem to stern—how to use it and how it will work after the update.

Get your dropbox address

To start using your dropbox, go to your personal Populi settings. Generate your dropbox address and create a contact for it in your non-Populi email program. That’s it!

Oh, and make sure to keep your dropbox address to yourself—there’s no need for anyone else to know it…

BCC and forward emails to your dropbox

To use your dropbox, just BCC it when you send an email from an address listed in your Populi contact information. Or, if you receive an email you can just forward it to your dropbox. As long as you send it to email addresses listed for people in Populi…

  • When you BCC an email, the message will attach to the activity feeds for anyone with email addresses that are in the To and CC fields.
  • When you forward a message, it will attach to the activity feed of the person who sent it to you. If you forward a message you previously sent, it will go to the activity feeds of the people to whom you earlier sent it.

New stuff and other details
  • Emails on activity feeds will include any reply chains—just click read more to see them.
  • If multiple people have an email address, Populi will pick someone to whom to attach it. You’ll also get an email telling you who else could have had it attached together with links to profiles to fix any aberrant contact info.
  • If the email addresses aren’t in Populi, then you’ll get an email telling you so.
  • Have a look in the Populi Knowledge Base for full details about dropboxing.

Friendlier names in Populi

The Preferred name field lets you enter a nickname or a common name for a person and have that appear in place of their first name in many places throughout Populi. If Eleanor Rigby goes by “Ellie”, or Aloysius James Quincy wants to go by his middle name, you got them covered—Ellie Rigby and James Quincy. But what if everybody at your school calls you Pastor Ken, or Sister Ramirez, or Dr. Stein? The Preferred name doesn’t quite work—you could enter bad data into Populi’s name fields… or you might just be out of luck. We’ve always given you all the fields you need for good record keeping, but not what you needed for an online community.

Enter Populi Name.

The Populi Name is what everyone will see if they look at your profile or a class roster or see your name on the Students Table… or anywhere else your name displays. By default, it automatically fills in with your First or Preferred name followed by your Last name. This is what already displayed most of the time. But with the new, separate Populi Name field, school staff can enter whatever you wish to be known as in Populi. Dr. Alice Charlotte Smith can now be Dr. Smith. Sister Lena Ramirez can now be Sr. Ramirez. And that art student who is known around campus as the Fire emoji? No problem.

The Populi Name name will be used in Populi itself and display for all users; documents like transcripts and financial statements will still use legal names. On the profile, Staff users will have the option to see a person’s full legal name with a click, or, if they prefer, they can choose to see the full name by default via a personal setting.

We’re always trying to make Populi friendlier and more familiar for all our users, and to that end we’re willing to look at anything—even something as basic as how a name displays.

Files update

We’re soon to release a big update to Files. Here’s a look at what’s coming…


It’s one of our top feature requests: subfolders. Just like the name sounds, it’s a folder within a folder that helps you better organize your files. Of course, we also added functions that let you move or copy files from one folder to another.

More storage

Previously, every user at your school was given 50 MB of file storage. With the update, your school’s Populi Account Administrator can set file storage limits by user role. For example, you could give faculty 2 GB of file storage and limit students to 500 MB.

Improved file sharing

Sharing files is much improved. You can send files to other Populi users or share folders with individuals and people with certain user roles. When sharing folders, you can specify what level of access a role or person has—they can view files, edit (add new ones, delete, rename, etc.), or manage (share the folder with others, for example).

Large file uploader, viewer, and file options

We updated the file uploader—now you can easily upload big files by dragging-and-dropping (the same way you can in courses and other places in Populi). Audio and video files play right from the built-in media viewer. The document viewer lets you look at PDFs, images, word documents, spreadsheets, and more right in your browser. And if you need to download, send, rename, or delete the file, those functions are near at hand.

A few notes

We’re moving the Files link up into the top-level navigation bar (it’s currently next to the My Profile tab).

In the old Files, you would upload files into the Shared folder and specify which user roles could access that item. To accommodate the update and its expanded pallette of folders and sharing features, we’ll transfer your shared files into new shared folders for each user role (or combination) with which you’ve shared a file. For example, if you’ve shared some files with faculty and others with faculty and advisors, those files will be transfered to two new folders: one called Shared with faculty and the other called Shared with faculty and advisors.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Populi support.

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