Test proctoring

Just in time for Christmas, something new for you: test proctoring!

Test proctoring lets you require that a third party keep an eye on your online students when taking a test. It uses SMS messaging to give the proctor codes to "check in" and "check out" to verify that he was there the entire time the student was taking the test. Here's how it works:

  1. When setting up the test, you can specify whether or not to require proctoring. You can also require proctoring for specific students by adding a proctoring exception.
  2. The student goes to take an online test in Populi as normal.
  3. Before he can start the test, Populi asks for contact information from the proctor, including a mobile phone number. The proctor fills it out right there—no separate login required!—and submits it.
  4. Populi sends the proctor an SMS with a check-in code. The proctor enters the code and lets the student back on the computer.
  5. The student takes the test.
  6. After the student submits the test, the proctor receives another SMS with a check-out code. After entering the code and checking to confirm that the student took the test without cheating, it's all done!
  7. If everything is above-board, then no further action is needed. But if the proctor has concerns, she can contact the school; likewise, the course faculty will find the proctor's contact info attached to the test.

Test proctoring should come in handy for schools of all stripes, especially those that administrate a lot of online tests. Read more about proctoring in the Populi Knowledge Base.

We released a bunch of other new things alongside test proctoring. Take a moment to look at this week's Release Notes (and while you're at it, subscribe to the forum so you don't miss anything new!).

Campus Life

Campus Life lets staff and student workers add selected fees, manage room and board assignments, and track non-academic violations and consequences (things like parking tickets or student code violations) for anyone at your school. The new features, reports, and workflows help you take care of lots of lower-level tasks so your high-level staff can concentrate on the big picture. Here's a look at Campus Life:

Room & board

Campus Life users can manage room plans and housing assignments for anyone at your school—everyone from students to visiting professors staying in college residences. The Rooms report gives you a complete look at the housing situation, and the new room management page lets you add occupants and keep notes. Room and meal plans can be managed on the new Profile > Campus Life tab (which syncs this info with the same items on Profile > Financial > By Term). As part of the release, we've also given facilities a new home in Campus Life > Settings.

Campus Life fees

You can now select certain fees that Campus Life users can apply to students and others at your school. Those fees can be triggered by infractions or added as-needed. Each Campus Life report also includes an Apply Fee action so you can charge students in bulk. Fees are then invoiced as normal by a financial user.

Violations & Consequences

Violations and consequences let you record a student or other person's non-academic infractions. Did a freshman start a ramen fire because she left the saucepan on a hotplate? Drop a room damage fee on her! Has that new assistant coach parked his junky '85 Datsun in the president's spot again? Ding him with a parking ticket! Did that exchange student flout the dress code and dress in cutoff jeans and sleeveless tees all semester long? Time for a visit with the discipline board!

Both violations and consequences can trigger a fee; you can also set up consequences to apply when a student gets a certain number of violations in a given time period. You'll have a full record of the whole thing right on the Profile > Campus Life tab and the new Violations and Consequences reports.

Get to know Campus Life

Check out the Campus Life documentation in the Populi Knowledge Base to get a fuller sense of what it does and how it works.

We're always pleased when we can give our customers something new, and we hope Campus Life helps your school get even more out of Populi!

The miracle

You're reading this because it is possible to transmit information around the world by making electricity move through melted sand in a particular way.
Paul Ford:

A computer is a clock with benefits. They all work the same, doing second-grade math, one step at a time: Tick, take a number and put it in box one. Tick, take another number, put it in box two. Tick, operate (an operation might be addition or subtraction) on those two numbers and put the resulting number in box one. Tick, check if the result is zero, and if it is, go to some other box and follow a new set of instructions.

The near-infinite possibilities of computing come down to little numbers in little boxes getting added to or subtracted from one another.
Because of this basic fact, at its heart, software is as rigidly and uncreatively literal as one of Archimedes' levers, pulleys, or wedges, but made out of electricity that moves in mysterious pulses through melted sand.
The near-infinite possibilities contained within a human being—let alone humanity itself—are manifestly not the product of little numbers in little boxes being manipulated by basic math.
There are two kinds of problems encountered with software. The first is that when software works, mighty labor is involved in making what is essentially a lever, pulley, or wedge communicate meaningfully with a human that skipped breakfast because he was making his infant daughter laugh at him. The second is that when software breaks, it's because at some point, a human skipped breakfast after getting his infant daughter to laugh at him, and then sat down and wrote some code.
When you buy software, you're really buying someone's promise that the code he wrote after skipping breakfast to make his infant daughter laugh one more time will reliably, predictably cause the result(s) you're after.
When software is broken, the problem is referred to as a bug. That's because a moth once got caught in an old tube-based computer and made the thing stop working.
An error message simply means that the command, "[IF A, B, or C happens, THEN produce ERROR message]" worked. That's because software is rigid, literal, and uncreative. When something's wrong, the software doesn't know that. It also doesn't know when anything is right, either. If the power's on, it just goes.
A moth's flight is erratic and unpredictable. Software bugs, while appearing to be random and disorderly, are actually predictable and repeatable if you know how to trigger them. They're usually as predictable and repeatable as the parts of the software that are working properly. A bug means that code was successfully executed; it's just that a human wrote code that did something unreliable, undesirable, or unpredictable.
We write code and fix bugs in Populi using software that itself has bugs and produces errors. We design Populi around bugs in web browsers, errors in programming languages, and the limitations presented by an extremely literal line of code that must meaningfully communicate with a human who is sleepy from too much breakfast and a night spent comforting an infant daughter with a cold.
It's frankly a miracle that anything works at all.

New help and profile drop-downs

We just released a small but handy update to the personal and help links in Populi.

Your name now has a drop-down that lets you go to your profile, view and update your personal account settings, and log out of Populi.

The orange Help button now lets you link directly to different, helpful tasks in our Knowledge Base:

  • Go straight to the Populi Support home page
  • Open a new support request
  • Search for articles in the Knowledge Base
  • Make a feature request
  • Check out the user forum

Small things can prove pretty helpful sometimes. We hope you like the new drop-downs!

The Populi user forum

Ever since we launched Populi, we've included customer support free with every pricing plan. Our schools get help via email, phone, and the Knowledge Base starting the day they sign up and every day following. We've always wanted to make it easy to get answers about Populi.

But some questions come our way that are a bit beyond what we're fit to answer. What's the best way to use Quickbooks for a non-profit? How do you handle access for accreditation staff? What's your policy for online course attendance? And so on. These are questions not so much about Populi as they are about the best way to run your school (and how Populi fits into that). On those matters, we like to defer to the experts: other users. Among our hundreds of customers, we have schools with a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and missions—and, we're sure, someone who has puzzled through your very problem and now has wisdom to share.

You can seek out that wisdom—and share your own—on the Populi User Forum. The Forum lets our users pose questions about best practices, school policies, workflow ideas, and so on—basically, anything having to do with running your school (including how to use Populi to make that happen). We encourage you to get on the Forum; a simple way to keep an eye on it is to subscribe to email updates. These will alert you to new topics, comments, and replies. Here's how to subscribe:

1. Go to the Knowledge Base

Click the orange help button in the upper right corner of Populi. Or, go to Populi Support and log in with your regular Populi login credentials and your school's Populi URL.

2. Go to the User Forum

In the right column of the Populi Support landing page, you'll see a list of Forums. Click User Forums.

You'll then see links to the User Forum and the Feature Request Forum. Click the User Forum heading.

3. Subscribe!

Near the top of the screen, you'll see a subscribe link. Click it, and you'll be subscribed—that's it! Now, whenever someone posts or updates a new topic or comment, you'll receive a message about it at the email address marked Primary on your Populi profile.

Of course, everyone here is keeping an eye on the User Forum, too. We think it's a great opportunity for our users to help each other out and learn more about making Populi do the most for your school.