We're pleased to release one of our customers' most-requested features: SMS Notifications!
It's really simple:
First, your users opt-in to receive emergency notifications via SMS in their personal settings. Once they've submitted their verification code, they can now receive SMS messages from you via Populi.
All you need to do is go to the new Emergency Notifications tab in Communications. Compose a message, hit send, and it'll go out to all of your active faculty, staff, students, and advisors who've opted-in (you can also select specific campuses). If any of the recipients haven't opted-in to receive SMS messages, they'll get an email instead.
To help ensure your recipients can continue to get emergency notifications, we lock in their SMS number on their profile so it can't be changed by anyone, not even Staff.
Each of our three Pricing Plans comes with a certain number of SMS messages included for free. Small gets 500, Medium gets 1,000, and Large gets 2,000. If you run over your free allotment, additional SMS are just two cents per SMS recipient.
"We're pleased as a pig in punch in a poke at how our customers have responded to this new feature," added Hill, who then also added, "Really, growth like this is unprecedented. Really, really unprecedented and robust."
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The Populi crew took the evening of President's Day to release a bunch of new features. Here's a look at what we did...
New stuff in organizations
Organizations now have an Activity Feed; a Members tab to track members, employees, and students with that contact Org; custom info fields, and images.
Email dropboxing is a new feature that lets you post email to a person's Activity Feed from any email client. Check out the video to learn more about how it works.
We also now provide bounce/spam reports for email addresses on Profiles.
New personal settings let you select your local timezone, hide your profile from non-staff users, keep your birthday off the News Feed, as well as let you choose a default Activity Feed visibility setting and generate your email dropbox. We also moved your email signature here.
Library got some new reports and workflows, including:
Resource batches and Inventory in the Catalog
Circulation reporting by loan, resource, resource type, home library, and home location
Browse resources is now exportable
A few new financial items:
You can now bulk-add tuition schedules from the Data Slicer
Invoice and transaction numbers are now generated sequentially (previously they were generated every-other-number to avoid potential conflicts)
You can now print financial aid award letters
We loosened the financial aid workflow: you no longer need to package aid before invoicing charges to have the aid auto-apply to those charges
Overaward alerts now exclude declined financial aid
More detailed totals under Profile > Financial Aid > Summary > Total Aid
A new setting lets you select the Term you wish to begin automatically generating pending charges—this will be really helpful for schools that want to back-enter financial and billing data
The Populi development team is plugging away at our next release. Here's a glance at some of it:
Personal settings for all users
Depending on your user roles, you'll have different options—Timezone, birthday announcement opt-out, Activity Feed visibility, plus a few other things.
Organization Profiles are getting the look and functionality of regular Profiles. In addition to an Activity Feed, there'll also be a Members tab that lets you keep track of people in your system who are associated with that organization.
Associating people with Organizations will be easier—add new Orgs right from a person's Info tab. You can also specify the relationship (Employment, Member, and for College type orgs, Student) and the timeframe of the person's involvement with the Org.
Also: custom info fields for Organizations!
New reports and workflows in Library
We'll be releasing a Circulation report with multiple perspectives on your active loans. In addition, there will be Inventory and Resource Batching tools in the Library Catalog.
The other marquee feature is email dropboxing. Dropboxing works by giving you a secret email address. When you copy or forward to that secret address, Populi will figure out the recipients and post your email to their Activity Feeds. The best part is, you can do this from any email client—Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, iOS Mail app, etc.—not just Populi. This will make your communications easier than ever to record, and will make the Activity Feed a more complete record of your correspondence with prospects, students, and other contacts.
Say your small college is a family of five, you're shopping for a car, and you're wondering what's out there. Here's are some of your options:
On the low-cost end you find:
The Word and Excel approach. This is like tying two bicycles together and calling it a car. It's cheap, it rolls, and you're gonna lose your groceries if you try pedaling home on that thing.
The roll-your-own Access-based system. This is a bicycle tied to a wheelbarrow, or perhaps a Flintstones-style, foot-powered car: either way, there's lots of hard work involved to make it go anywhere.
The K-12 program wedged into a higher education context. This is a riding lawn mower used as family transportation.
The fly-by-night company that barfs out something software-ish. This is the shifty used-car salesman pushing a beater '85 Plymouth with no muffler and the stuffing pulled out of the back seats. Also, it's on fire.
Then there are the big guys:
The giant hosted database with no interface. This is a 48' shipping container. I guess your family could just watch it sit there.
The LMS with all the bells and whistles. This is the luxury tour bus with the helipad and built-in swimming pool that gets two miles a gallon on the highway because it's too expensive to give it an oil change.
The open-source LMS. This is a school bus built out of parts from other vehicles and painted up to look like the luxury tour bus. Slightly better gas mileage on downhill slopes, though.
The huge, endlessly-customizable SIS with a three-year implementation period. This looks like you've ordered a custom-built Ferrari but by the time all the parts get bolted together you've ended up with a surplus U.S. Army transport.
Further, you'll need a team of mechanics to make sure your fleet of vehicles fits together. You'll also need a warehouse full of spare parts and some long-term maintenance contracts. Oh, and for some reason the window glass on the bus is all blacked-out—so you'll need to hire a third-party automotive glazier to design you a clear windshield.
Is that it?
Is that all that's available to a small college? Of course not. This is the Populi blog, and so now we're gonna liken Populi to the perfect family car... ready? Here goes:
Very few people use it any more—it accounts for about 2.3% of Populi logins (see the above chart)
Its worldwide usage is dropping*, and it's unlikely that future customers will be using it
Continued support of IE7 diverts resources away from more worthwhile long-term projects
What should you do?
If you're using Internet Explorer 7, it's time to stop! IE7 doesn't just have problems with Populi—it doesn't play nice with a good part of the internet, and it's only going to get worse. The solution is easy: download one of these free web browsers (links below). It'll take just a few minutes and make for a much better online experience overall.
And if you're running Windows Vista or 7, you can also try IE9...
*In this article, Microsoft itself says that it is "pleased IE6 and IE7 usage share continues to drop (by 0.85% in October); it’s an indication that customers recognize the benefits they can realize when using a modern browser."