I can’t say I recall what the plan for the coming year was twelve months ago, but it’s probably safe to say 2020 did not go according to it. Instead, we had the distinct honor of assisting a multitude of you excellent people doing what was necessary to continue educating your students in the face of unexpected challenges. It’s been a privilege, and we want to thank you all for keeping us so busy this year.
As always, from everyone here to all of you who made 2020 a great year to work at Populi, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
P.S. More on this later, but in late 2019 we embarked on a project long dreamed of: a Populi headquarters built out specifically for us. We moved in a couple days ago. Here’s a little video we made to document moving day.
We just released a new bulk Import People feature in Contacts. It lets you add groups of new people to Populi all at one time by uploading XLSX or CSV files. The importer will be a great help to admissions staff who need to enter large groups of leads from conferences, referral service purchases, and standardized tests. Here’s how it works:
In Contacts > People, you’ll see a big fat Import People button right next to Add New Person. Click that and upload your file to Populi; from thence you’ll be whisked to the column-mapping screen.
Mapping columns lets you choose where the information from your file will plug into Populi’s built-in and custom fields. Populi will automatically match the obvious stuff like “First Name”; you’ll decide how to map the other columns using the drop-downs, which contain options for Person-related (contact info, other info, custom fields) and Admissions-related fields (course of study, etc.). For example, you may have a spreadsheet of leads with a column for “Career Interest”, the options for which correspond to your own custom Admissions field “Area of Interest”. Link them using the drop-down, and Populi will pull that column’s data into that field for all the imported people. If you later upload a file with the same column headings, Populi will remember how you mapped things last time, making future imports preposterously simple.
Once you’re done mapping, you’ll have a chance to review the records. Populi will find potential problems and warn you about them—possible duplicates, information that can’t be imported—as well as reject records that can’t be imported (people with no first or last name, or bad data in those fields).
Once imported, you can easily find the group of new people by using the Import condition in Contacts and Admissions > Leads,
We’re pleased to get this out to our users—it’s gonna save a lot of people a lot of time. Have a look at the Populi help article for all the details on how it works.
When James and I started Populi back in 2007, visual identity was not something we discussed. We knew what we wanted Populi to be—a comprehensive online system that any college could afford—very early on. We also settled on the name Populi pretty quickly, wanting something simple that didn’t try too hard to explain what it was; something we could imbue with meaning through our services and interactions with our customers. I remember thinking at the time that if The Beatles weren’t the greatest band of all time (don’t @ me) we’d all think that was kind of a silly name. Populi seemed like a name that we could define as opposed to it defining us.
So we had a name, and part of what you might call a brand strategy, but we didn’t have a logo in the very early days. Eventually, when we put Populi on the market, we, as one does, needed one. By this time Populi had been acquired by EMSI, and I remember saying something to the in-house designer like, “How about the word Populi with a person shape inside the O.” I chose Lucida Grande as the typeface because that was the Apple system font at the time, and “Apple-like” software was something we aspired to. He produced a bunch of ideas, and I picked one. That was it. Kind of a placeholder, really.
A little while later Populi became independent again, and we just kept pushing forward; improving Populi and trying to bring on enough customers to be sustainable. Our logo was never something we were particularly proud of—we’d sometimes (lovingly) refer to the person-in-the-O mark as “bathroom sign man”—but we were focused on making Populi the best it could be to serve our customers as well as we could.
Fast forward ten years, and we aren’t the same scrappy start up we used to be. Our logo has gone from a kinda goofy placeholder to a reminder of our humble origins to something of a liability. We’d actually achieved a level of acumen (so we’ve been told) at the things we originally set out do, but our visual identity didn’t reflect that. While I've always admired brands that resisted the temptation to rebrand as trends changed, it became clear that our never having gone through the process of establishing a visual identity had become glaringly obvious, and was letting Populi down.
So in 2019, with all those years of experience building Populi into what it is now, we finally set about figuring out how we wanted to present Populi, the brand, to the world. Luckily, we didn’t have to look too far to find someone to guide us through the process. Isaac’s brother JT has extensive experience in brand strategy and identity, and, naturally, already had some familiarity with Populi. After a few conversations, confident that JT understood where we were coming from and where we needed to go, we embarked on a process of refining Populi’s brand and coming up with our new visual identity, our new logo.
We started with a series of discussions with key staff members to identify which of Populi’s attributes are most important to us and our customers, and how to talk about how Populi can help customers to get from where they are to where they want to be. This involved a lot of sticky notes and flash cards, but the upshot is that it helped us all to get on the same page so that JT could begin to develop a visual identity that fit with how our customers see Populi. One advantage to going through this process after so many years was that we all already had more or less the same ideas about what Populi, the brand, represents. This phase went pretty smoothly.
After several weeks, and exploring dozens of concepts, JT presented us with three different takes a new Populi logo. One was the clear front runner from the get-go, but we liked the new shade of cyan proposed from another. After a few rounds of refinements we presented the new logo to the team. Naturally, seeing a radically different design for the first time comes as a bit of a shock, but there was universal agreement that it was a big improvement.
Next, we updated our website and social media accounts with the new logo with plans to publish a story like this one soon afterwards. But instead we all ended up working from home for the next couple of months, and felt like you’d rather we write about things related to online learning for a while. Eventually it really seemed like high time to say something so here we are. We hope you like the new logo as much as we do.
P.S. If you’re using Populi’s old branding anywhere on your website please reach out to Populi Support so we can get you updated images. Thanks!
P.P.S. Want a new Populi “pop” sticker or two? As a reward for making it to the bottom of this post, just fill out this form and we’ll send them your way.
Your Populi courses can now use Zoom, the video communication platform. Zoom lets you conduct live online meetings, webinars, chats, and more.
To use the new integration, your school will need a Zoom account—if you don't have one yet, have a look at their education page or sign up for a paid account here (your school will need, at minimum, the Pro Plan—but you'll likely want to look at one of the education plans). After entering your Zoom credentials in Populi, your faculty will be able to use Zoom via the Course > Conferences view.
With a lot of colleges suddenly needing to consider online learning options, we hope the new integration makes things at least a little easier for our customers to continue serving their students.
Have a look at the Populi Knowledge Base for instructions on how to set up and use the new Zoom integration (as well as our existing BigBlueButton integration).
The word Quarantine is on everyone’s minds nowadays—and everyone’s sorting out what that might mean as many routine things of life are suddenly subject to interruption. In case you were wondering about Populi and whether it would be available, we wanted to take a moment to allay your concerns.
Populi is now, and has always been, one hundred percent set up for remote work. While we do have a headquarters where the majority of our employees have a desk, all of our essential functions are completely online. So, whether or not someone is at the office, they can perform all of their particular duties in the same way.
This means that even if we can’t come to the office for whatever reason (and provided we have internet access) we can still answer your support requests, do training sessions, take your calls, keep tabs on our servers, fix bugs, and share memes with each other.
Things can change, but as far as we can tell, Populi will remain available for everyone at your school amidst the uncertainty of the coming weeks and months.
If you have any questions or concerns about this, or anything else, please reach out to Populi Support.
Amid growing concerns about COVID-19 many schools are moving, or considering moving, classes online. If your school is using Populi, you already have access to a full-fledged online learning management system (LMS), and we’re here to help you make that transition.
To that end, next week we’ll be hosting an online webinar for administrators and faculty members who aren’t yet familiar with, or just want to brush up on Populi’s online learning features. You can sign up for that webinar here. While you’re there you might want to click Follow in the Live Trainings forum so you can stay informed about other sessions.