Populi

Archive for the ‘Bloggable’ Category

Stripe ACH Rate Change

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Populi recently participated in a beta version of Stripe.com’s ACH product which allows many of our colleges* to easily accept tuition payments and donations at a much lower rate (0.5% + 25¢) than credit cards (2.9% + 30¢).

Stripe recently brought their ACH features out of beta and published new pricing. So, as of August 1st, 2016, we’re pleased to announce a major rate decrease for larger transactions! The new rate is 0.8%, with a 25¢ minimum transaction fee and a $5 maximum transaction fee.

For small transactions this new rate may be slightly higher, but for larger transactions it’s a huge cost savings. For example, for a $5,000 tuition payment:

Old rate:
$5,000 * 0.5% + 25¢ = $25.25

New rate:
$5,000 * 0.8%, with a 25¢ minimum and $5 maximum = $5

Either rate represents a substantial savings compared to credit cards (accepting a $5,000 credit card payment via Stripe would cost your school $145.25), but in this example your college would now pay one fifth of the old ACH rate!

We’re confident this price change will allow more of our clients to benefit from the convenience of accepting online payments and donations, without the substantial fees associated with credit card transactions.

*Because of regulations regarding the ACH network we’re not able to offer this service to all colleges; typically only to established, accredited colleges. Please contact support to see if your college qualifies.

Localization: now you can translate Populi into other languages

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

New in Populi: localization. Localization lets you translate the various interface elements—text, buttons, links, and so on—so your non-English-speaking users can access Populi in their own language. Here’s how it works:

1. Go to the new Localization view in Account

Your school’s Populi account administrator goes to the new Localization view in Account > Account Settings. He’ll name the localization and select the language to which Populi will default for untranslated words. Finally, he’ll choose a flag to go along with the translation.

2. Start translating

The translation section is straightforward: find the base text on the left, enter translations on the right. You can translate Interface Text (every field, button, column heading—everything that we’ve given a name to) as well as your own text (application field names, tuition schedules, and so on). As you translate, Populi saves your entries automatically.

3. Continue translating

I’m not gonna lie to you: it’s gonna take awhile! There are around half a zillion named things in Populi, and the developers are adding more all the time. If need be, you can just translate certain areas of Populi—for example, translate courses and financial info so foreign students can take classes and pay their bills.

4. Assign locales

Once a localization is completed (or complete enough for your needs), you can set up individual users so that they’ll see the translated version of Populi when they log in. All you need to do is click the flag icon below a person’s profile photo, select the locale, and click ye olde Save button (you can do this for yourself, too!). The localization will take effect immediately.

We’re really pleased to get this out to all of our customers. Many schools have been using Populi to serve international students—conducting courses in German, for example, or setting up applications in Portuguese. Localization lets you complete the experience for your non-English speaking users.

One caveat: worldly and seasoned as we are, we remain unrepentant English-speakers here (a few of us know a little Latin and Greek), and new development will remain in English. So, when we develop new features or heavily rewrite existing ones, you’ll need to update your translations. Likewise, we’ll also conduct customer support in English and we’ll have to assume you’re asking about Populi as we wrote it (not as you may have translated it). If you’ve translated every instance of the phrase “Academic Term” to “Melon Baller”, understand that we probably won’t know what you’re talking about when you write in with a problem on the Melon Baller report.

That said, we look forward to seeing what you’ll do with localization!

Your data is yours

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Your data is yours. We really mean it.

Let’s say you want to stop using Populi and you need your data imported into another system. Populi lets you download your core data once every 24 hours from Account > Backups. The backup file includes:

  • Academics—everything from transcripts to transfer credits, from course lessons to the course catalog
  • Financial transactions—invoices, payments, financial aid, and donations
  • Admissions applications and all the information you have for your leads
  • All the people in your system together with all their contact and other personal info
  • Your entire Bookstore and Library

Here’s how you (well, your school’s account administrator) can get your data out of Populi:

1. Go to Account > Backups

After logging in, click Account and then go to Backups. If it has been more than 24 hours since your school last retrieved this file, you can click Request a Backup.

2. Confirm

Before creating the backup file, Populi asks you to confirm that you want to do this. Remember: this file contains a bunch of sensitive data—academic records, financial information, Social Security numbers, and a lot more! You’ll want to take special care with this file, and this confirmation is one part of that.

3. Wait and download

The backup file can be pretty big and so it may take a little while to generate it (up to several hours). The moment the file is complete, Populi sends you an email. Once you receive the email, go to Account > Backups and download the file.

(You can also use the API to download data backups—see the API documentation for details)…

And that’s it! The backup file with all your Populi data is in your hands, no strings attached. You can keep your own secure backups (in addition to ours) or load it into your school’s new system… or whatever else you might need.

We’ve worked with a lot of schools that needed to get their legacy data from their old system. Many software companies really made them work for it. Some didn’t provide backups in the first place—they had to improvise a way to extract the data from their system. Others provided data that was missing crucial items (transfer credits, anything entered before 1996, you name it). Some had “business” in mind and charged schools to retrieve their data. One avaricious outfit compels their schools to sign another year-long contract!

Lock-in tactics range from the lazy to the vile. Our business plan—no long-term contracts, month-to-month billing, customers can cancel any time—means we have to win back all our customers every month. Free, no-strings-attached, comprehensive data backups mean we’ve made it easy to leave, and that we’ve got work to do if we want you to stay.

Update (June 8, 2016)

We’ve been asked about how the backups you can download relate to the regular data backups we already perform. Here’s the low-down:

  • There are two kinds of backups: Customer-requested, which are what is described above; and our Regular backups, which we automatically perform on an ongoing basis.
  • Regular backups are securely stored in a separate location and are meant to restore your data in case of emergency and provide historical data “snapshots” for various uses. Customer-requested backups are meant for your own needs and uses.
  • We perform these backups as follows: Hourly backups for 36 hours, daily for two weeks, weekly for 30 weeks, and monthly for 10 years. Each backup is a complete copy of everything in your Populi database; there are up to 200 backups per customer.
  • Think of it like an actively-curated photo album: At any given moment, this photo album contains 36 pictures of the last two days, 14 of the last two weeks, 30 of the last 30 weeks, and 120 of the last ten years. As time moves on, a portion of your older snapshots are deleted, but new ones are always being added.
  • We keep your data around as long as you’re a customer; if you cancel your use of Populi, we delete your archived data after 90 days.

Bookstore returns, discount codes, and other good stuff

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Populi Bookstore has a bunch of great new features this morning. As part of a general rewrite, we gave Bookstore improved return/refund processing, discount codes, and better inventory management (plus lots of interface improvements and upgrades). Here’s  a look at the new stuff:

Returns and refunds

Bookstore now makes it easy to process returned items and refunds (let’s be honest: it was not easy before). Returns are handled in Point of Sale: just click Return Items, scan or search for the items to return, and connect the returns to the original order. You can handle the entire refund right there, too: just pick your refund method from the drop-down (you can even refund to a student account) or use the refund to reduce the amount of a new purchase. Bookstore now also handles credit card refunds—it contacts your processor and reverses the charge without you having to do anything.

Discount codes

Discount codes let you offer your customers price breaks on items and shipping costs. You can specify a dollar or percent discount, whether the code applies only to certain items or customer types, minimum order amount, expiration dates, and more. Codes can be applied by customers at the online checkout or by you at Point of Sale. So now you can offer, say, free shipping on all online orders over $50, or give faculty and staff a 10% employee discount on books and apparel.

Inventory improvements

Bookstore now features a number of improvements to inventory management.

  • Each item segment now has better inventory tracking. Inventory batches let you record when you received a new shipment and the cost-per-item. Adjustments let you correct inventory for things like loss/damage or clerical errors. Each sale and return is also figured in so you know for sure what’s in stock.
  • The new Inventory tool in Admin lets you add inventory batches for any item, while the Returned Items report lets you manage which returned items go back to your stock and which are counted as shrinkage.
  • On the accounting side, new settings let you specify your inventory cost flow method (FIFO or LIFO) as well as accounts for purchases, shrinkage, and COGS.
  • Of course, all those lovely reports have been updated to take all the new data into account.

We’re really happy to get these Bookstore improvements out to our customers. They give you more control over your inventory, make everyday tasks easier for your Bookstore staff (and your school’s accountant), and let you offer even more to your customers.

For more details, have a look at the Populi Knowledge Base.

Library shelf view

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Also new in Populi: Library Shelf View. Shelf view shows you what’s in the physical vicinity of the resource you’re currently looking at. Just scroll to the bottom of any resource page and there you’ll see it; click the left/right arrows to wander your way through the library shelves. The view is ordered by call number and makes it easy to discover resources you might not have thought to search for.

Texting everywhere!

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

There are a lot of new buttons and links in Populi today, and just about all of them say… Text.

Texting is now almost as common in Populi as email. Formerly, it handled emergency notifications and password retrieval for staff and faculty (of course, it still does that!). Now, it does a lot more. Need to tell a prof’s students that he’s out sick and class is canceled? Text his students right from the course roster. Wanna send a quick thank you to your $100-$250 donors? Use the Text donors button in the Donations report. Have an accepted applicant you want to tell the good news? Now you can send her a text right from the accept application dialog.

The new features give your admissions staff swifter ways to communicate with leads. When an inquiry or applicant fills out the initial form, they can verify their mobile/text number on the spot. You can then respond to their questions via text, and they can reply in turn. And when you accept an applicant, you can import her verified number right into her profile.

We want to make communication at your school as friction-free as possible, and we’re really pleased to give you these new texting features. If you’d like to get your Populi user account set up to receive text notifications from your school, read this article. And if you want to keep an eye on how many texts your school has sent so far this month, have a look at Communications > Campus Notifications (remember that additional texts are 2¢ each).

New attendance report and test question analysis

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

We recently released a couple new academic reporting tools.

Attendance report

The new Attendance report in Academics > Reporting lets you look at every detail of every attendance record at your school. You can look at attendance by student, by course, by term, and even get a report of all your attendance data—every term, every course, every meeting, every student. Use the spiffy new reporting filter to narrow down your searches and then export anything you find to XLS or CSV.

Several of our users have asked for more detailed attendance reporting, and we’re pleased to make this available.

Test question analysis

The new Analysis view in tests shows you the big picture of how your students are faring against your online test questions. The data helps you evaluate whether your test questions are enough of a challenge—or too much of a cakewalk—for your students. It can also help you pinpoint your students’ strengths and struggles in a way that overall assignment grades can’t.

For example, your students average 75% on the mid-term exam. Test analysis reveals to you that they bombed the short answers from one particular textbook (but otherwise did just fine), and that’s what dragged everyone’s grades down. So now you know that you either need to spend more time reviewing that text or ditch those questions when it comes time for the final exam.

Populi welcomes Jordan Smith

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Man, our contact page is going bananas. Emily Hoos came aboard in October to bring order (and an unreal beverage selection) to our office. And now, three months later, behold: Jordan Smith, our new support representative, who officially came aboard January 1st and made an appearance at our 2015 Christmas party. We’ve known Jordan for many years. Most of us worked with him back in the EMSI days, and he’s Joel Penney’s brother-in-law.

Jordan brings with him years of troubleshooting and technical support. As Help Desk Team Lead at EMSI, he kept everyone’s laptops and Salesforce integrations in fighting trim; as owner-operator of Palouse PC, he did IT consulting for a variety of small businesses and institutions here in Moscow, Idaho. While still getting the hang of everything Populi does, he definitely knows what our customers need. He’s already essential to handling support alongside Isaac and Josh.

A native of Amityville, Long Island, New York, (yup, that one) Jordan is the husband of Kara and father to Isla. We’re really happy to have him working with us!

Forgetting the Internet

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Listening in on a sales demo the other day, it struck me: we no longer need to explain web-based software the way we used to. Back in 2008, a good chunk of Nick and Joseph’s time was spent telling schools about the ABC’s of web-based software: browser-based, hosted on our hardware, available anywhere, maintenance and updates on us. The Internet was not new, nor was Populi on the cutting edge of cloud-based software. But the notion of a small school getting real work done using the web was novel enough that we gave it a whole page on our website.

In 2016, the web is part of everything. It’s not just that we’re used to web-based productivity software—it’s that the Internet is applied, seemingly, to all problems. Think of it: in 2008, the web was largely accessed via the desktop browser. In 2016, we use it just as often on our phones. And we use those devices not just to check email and look at websites, but to control network-connected things like light bulbs, refrigerators, and, wonderfully, diapers.

Image credit: Engadget

So, yeah, if the baby poops, we want the Internet to tell us. The web is enough a part of life that people will throw money at this idea expecting to make it all back. So of course schools now come to us taking it for granted that we’re web-based. That means that the web is something that we now expect, a utility like electricity or running water that we don’t notice unless it’s not working. Benedict Evans observes this phenomenon:

Our grandparents could have told you how many electric motors they owned – there was one in the car, one in the fridge and so on, and they owned maybe a dozen. In the same way, we know roughly how many devices we own with a network connection, and, again, our children won’t. Many of those use cases will seem silly to us, just as our grandparents would laugh at the idea of a button to lower a car window, but the sheer range and cheapness of sensors and components, mostly coming out of the smartphone supply chain, will make them ubiquitous and invisible – we’ll forget about them just as we’ve forgotten about electric motors.

Before everything had a network connection, you thought about the Internet more. But as it’s shoved into every object imaginable, it becomes invisible. And that’s when it goes unexamined. Unexamined things can change us in ways we will not see. We now expect the world to work a certain way, a way that replaces a brief sniff test on the diaper with a Bluetooth notification on the phone.

Here’s how unexamined it is already. A moment ago, I said that we “expect the world to work a certain way” and you didn’t notice. Earlier I wrote that “the web is part of everything”, and you didn’t care. I’m going to let Alan Jacobs take us to task:

“Technology is shifting our way of seeing the world.” “The internet really has changed the world completely.” Pray tell, what is “the world”? Seriously, I want to know what people mean by this. If “the world” has been changed completely, why does the silver maple outside my window still stand as it has for decades? Why is the gazpacho at Emilio’s as good as it was when I first tasted it, twenty-five years ago? Why does the prose of Sir Thomas Browne still delight me as it did when I first encountered it at age nineteen? Why do I still love my wife?

If you answer, “Well, that’s not what they mean by ‘the world,’” I counter, “Then what do they mean? Because all those things I just mentioned are in the only world that I know.”

Jacobs concludes:

No more essays about how “technology” or “the internet” is “changing everything.” They all say the same thing, which in the end amounts to: absolutely nothing. So let’s get down to cases. What technologies did you rely on today? What did they help you do? What did they allow you to avoid doing? What did they prevent you from doing that you wanted to do? Specify. As the proverbs tell us, both God and the Devil are in the details.

Another sage, Nicolás Gómez Dávila, once put it thus: “Intelligence consists not in finding solutions, but in not losing sight of the problems.” Jacobs’ questions keep the problems in sight, and as the web is woven into every solution and the din of modern life, this is what we must remember when telling people about Populi.

What problems do we solve? What new problems might we create? Can we address new issues and things we can’t predict? Will we remember the world apart from the web? It’s where the low winter sun catches the roofmelt off the grain elevator. Where the cheese on a Humble Burger fuses just so with the sauce. Where Thomas Tallis wrote a 40-part motet. Where sons dash across the surf as the Pacific crashes into California.

Image credit: Humble Burger

Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink and his soul should enjoy good in his labor.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016 From Populi!

Thursday, December 17th, 2015
Populi Christmas 2015

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

From everyone here to all of you who made 2015 a great year to work at Populi, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

* Future employee #spoilers