Feature Spotlight: Roster management

Populi's course Roster tool lets you manage every aspect of your course's enrollment. In one place, you can see every student connected with that course instance—including enrolled, auditing, withdrawn, incomplete, and waitlisted students. It also gives you a quick rundown of key stats for your enrolled students, such as credits, attendance figures, and grades.

5-24-13 Roster

The Roster automatically updates with every registration event tied to that course instance. If your students enroll online, it's instantly reflected here—and you can also use the Roster to register enrolled and auditing students:

6-12-13 Add Enrolled

Once they're enrolled, you can manually adjust any aspect of that enrollment. Change the credits/hours, set up individual students for Pass/Fail, and if you use attendance hours, you can update the automatically-calculated figure here:

6-11-13 Edit Enrolled

If twelve students sign up for a course with ten seats, you'll see the extra two students on the Waiting List. Edit the List to change the order of preference for enrollment:

6-12-13 Waitlist

When your incomplete students have completed their work, you can enter their grades and send them on their way:

6-12-13 Enter Incomplete Grade

You can leave general notes about any of your students; these are available to faculty when entering final grades and preparing course comments:

6-11-13 Roster notes

Plus, there's the usual round of communication and export tools—email all your students, or create a PDF or spreadsheet of the Roster:

6-12-13 Roster Exports

Out of the box, Academic Admins and Registrars can do anything with any course's Roster, while Faculty have more circumscribed permissions. But some of our schools need their faculty to do more, so there's also a setting that enables faculty to enroll students:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 11.56.11 AM

Populi's course Roster gives you one simple and convenient tool to stay on top of all the registration details that are so important to running your school.

Populi Turns 5

Five years ago today the first user logged in to Populi. Here are some "since-then" stats to mark the occasion.

  • 52,000 users have logged in over 7.5 million times
  • 2.8 million student enrollments in over 500,000 courses
  • 2.7 million questions answered on 53,000 tests
  • 387,000 comments on 83,000 discussions
  • 2.9 million grades on 383,000 assignments
  • 47,000 degrees granted
  • 193,000 to-dos completed
  • 400,000 files uploaded
  • 478,000 library resources
  • 128,000 bookstore orders

Thanks to all of you for an awesome first five years. Let's see what we can accomplish in the next five!

Live chat: now in all your Populi courses

Plus, full LTI capability and other improvements

New in Populi courses: live chat! Now your instructors and students can converse in real-time right in any Populi course. Chats let you embed images (even from Instagram), videos from YouTube and Vimeo, documents from Scribd, and even use emoji characters. They're easy to set up: just schedule one and everyone in the class—students, auditors, profs, teaching assistants—can join the conversation.

5-8-13 chatroom

To use chat, the course instructor just needs to click Chat and start a new chat session. There's nothing to set up or figure out—it's live and ready to go in every Populi course.

Populi now has full LTI capability

A few months ago we added some basic LTI functionality, letting you link Populi courses to Moodle (or any other LTI-capable LMS). We beefed this feature up in two key areas:

  • The LTI connection now lets the external LMS pass grades back through to Populi's gradebook
  • Faculty no longer need to remember the consumer key and shared secret to link to the external LMS

Read more about it in our Knowledge Base.

Here's some other stuff we released recently:

The Data Slicer has a few new reporting options:

  • You can now get data for Cumulative Credits across All Terms (which lets you get data out of Populi that was previously tedious to retrieve)
  • We also added Unknown and Blank to the Exit Reason options in the Data Slicer, as well as a new condition called Student Role Status, which has options for Active and Inactive

The Degree Audit now shows incomplete courses in the "not completed" view.

Course evaluations have a new faculty visibility option: Available after 60% completion and course is finalized.

You can now create custom course Delivery Methods in Academic Settings. We also let you use Delivery Method as a fee rule. And, you can now include Delivery Method in the XLS export of the Courses Table.

Custom transcripts can now include course comments and progam-based honors (contact support if you'd like us to update your transcript template).

Weekly release notes

A story about breaking a habit

We recently began publishing weekly release notes in our Knowledge Base. Each week we post a list of Features & Improvements and Bugfixes that have gone live on our customers' sites. The list will capture everything we release, from the big to the small, from the really cool to the kinda mundane, from the hotshot new feature to the fix for that dumb ol' bug.

We haven't been very consistent with release notes over the past year. If you checked the dates, you'd be forgiven if you thought we hadn't done anything to Populi between March 2012 and April 2013. Of course, that's not the case. We've been very busy (and we remain so). But we've let detailed release notes fall by the wayside.

That happened because we changed how we develop and release new stuff. We used to save up a pile of things and dump them out onto Populi's servers during the wee hours of the night, all at once. This lent itself well to big blog posts and release announcements in the Knowledge Base. But now we develop, test, and release features and fixes individually*—it's a much better system that lets us be more agile and responsive in our development and support. But, it doesn't lend itself to the big announcement too well—after all, who wants a million posts about individual bugfixes?

For whatever reason, that notion of the Big Announcement stood in the way of actual communication for about a year. Something dumb like that shouldn't get in the way of getting the work done, but that's what it did. One day early in April, however, I (the writer) had a DUH moment: the Big Announcement isn't the only way to communicate about releases. So I started compiling the week's releases in a digest post in the Knowledge Base. No need for a big to-do: all our customers need is a regular update about what's new and what's been fixed. Small, quick posts: problem solved.

The takeaway from all this relates to something we wrote awhile back...

...software (like any tool) creates habits in its users—especially software that makes you do too much work. These “habits” aren’t limited to individual users, either: sometimes, entire schools shape policies and institutional workflows around the limits of what their old system could do.

Populi sometimes disrupts how a school runs itself because schools have adapted to their old software. And, it turns out, we did things a certain way because of how our old software "trained" us to inform customers about new releases. But our new development protocol obviated the need for the old "big-announcement" strategy. It was a minor disruption, but one that nonetheless affected our transparency and communication as a company.

And as it happens, the solution was incredibly simple: stop thinking in the old ruts.

* Do you like technical explanations? Here's what we used to do, and here's what we do now...

Feature Spotlight: Course cloning and syncing

Courses contain a lot of content. Links, files, reading lists, assignments, tests, lessons, and so on... and to make your courses as useful to your students as possible, it's good to throw it all in there.

But what if you have four sections of Business 201 to run, and the course is the same this year as it was last year? How are you gonna get all that content into this year's courses? Are you gonna go download all of that stuff and then re-upload it into each section? Sounds like fun!

That's why Populi courses have had cloning and syncing from the get-go. Cloning lets you import content from one term's course to another's. Syncing lets you share content among sections of the same course in the same term. They save you a ton of work: no re-uploading, no tiresome double-checking, no Did-I-remember-everything? night terrors. These features let you share the items you'd otherwise spend the most time creating: assignments (and groups), faculty-created discussions, files, lessons, links, books, supplies, and tests.


There are a few ways to clone course content:

When an Academic Admin is adding courses to a term, they have the option to Import Courses from any other term:

4-22-13 Import Courses

When doing so, they can simply import the courses, or also clone the course data (that is, the content)—as you might guess, this gets a lot of work done in just one step:

4-22-13 Clone From Course

Course instructors can also use the clone feature once they're assigned to teach the course. In the course's Info tab, just click the gear, select the items to be cloned, and go for it:

4-18-13 Clone

4-22-13 Clone selections

Academic Admins have an additional option here: they can clone content over from different catalog courses. If you need materials cloned from, say, MGMT201 into BUS201, just ask an Academic Admin user to do so.


If you have multiple sections of a course, you can sync them. Syncing not only lets you share content among course sections—it also automatically updates all sections if you make a change in any of the sections.

It's simple: in each section's Info tab, just check "yes" for sync.

4-17-13 Sync Edit Sync

After syncing sections, you can also un-sync them (just un-check "Sync") and then modify the content for each section. The synced content won't go away, and now you can edit it without affecting the other sections.

Read more about it

This article in the Populi Knowledge Base gives you all the details, plus a few tips.

Cute animals sell software

Webpop, a cloud-based content management system and code editor that lets you build websites, recently ran an experiment on the signup link for their 30-day free trial:

A while ago we launched an interesting little test to dig into the effect of emotional engagement. In this case we decided to test the click through rate on our call to action at the bottom of most of our pages where we urge people to give our 30 day free trial a shot.

They put up a picture of a black lab puppy gazing at the signup button; next, they compared the click-rate between the puppy-version and the text-only version. The results were startling:

It turns out, the puppy version had more than double the number of clicks on the signup button than the text only version, with a statistical certainty of more than 99.9% of this being more than just random coincidence.

Double the clicks! That's, frankly, amazing. Seeing that we were probably leaving money on the table, we cast aside our convictions about straightforward marketing and inaugurated an experiment of our own:

Introducing: the Signup Piglet

Not having any puppies around the office, we decided to make use of our ready access to piglets (not that we have piglets running around the office... though, a man can dream, can't he?). So, here she is—the Signup Piglet! Click anywhere on this little straw-covered cutie to go to our signup form, where you can contact us about a demo or subscribe to our newsletter.

We look forward to hearing from you!

signup piglet