Coming soon: Custom Locks

We have a big update for student locks right around the corner. Here’s a look at what we did and what you can do with Custom Locks.

Not stretchy enough

Populi currently has three built-in locks: Registration, Grades/Transcript, and Financial. They work okay for some schools, but other schools need each lock to do a little more or a little less—or maybe even something else altogether. One popular example: if you want to restrict a student’s access to his unofficial transcript but not to his current grades, you’re out of luck because the Grades/Transcript lock hides both things from that student. User access for adding and viewing locks is also a bit too rigid. In short, locks need to be far more flexible than they currently are.

The update will let you tailor Populi’s locks meet your school’s needs. You’ll be able to customize each lock in three different ways:

  • Lock Types: You can name your own locks.
  • Lock Areas: You’ll decide what parts of Populi each lock closes down.
  • Lock Permissions: You’ll choose who can add, remove, and view each lock.

Lock Types

In addition to the current set of built-in locks, the update will introduce a new, highly-requested type: Courses, which bars the student from accessing any course content. Via support request, you can ask us to modify any of these built-ins, add new locks, or remove an existing lock altogether. You can have as many lock types as you wish and customize each one’s areas and permissions (more below). You can even set up "redundant" locks for use by different departments—for example, a Course lock for Registrars to bar academic discipline cases and another, separate Course lock for financial staff to handle students with unpaid bills.

Lock Areas

Here are all the areas of Populi that the new locks can affect—each of your custom locks can have as many or as few of these as you need (or even none!):

  • Grades bars access to in-progress course and assignment grades.
  • Transcript keeps students from exporting their own unofficial transcripts.
  • Registration prohibits self-service, online course registration.
  • Charge to account removes the ability to charge bookstore purchases to that student’s account.
  • Courses zaps the student’s access to courses.

Lock Permissions

Anyone with the Staff, Faculty, Advisor, or Academic Auditor roles can see any lock type once it has been added to a student. Beyond that, Custom Locks let you specify who has access to other information about the lock. You can set which roles can add, remove, or change each lock type, as well as who can read the lock reason (besides the student). Permissions can be set for individual roles or whether the user is the student’s advisor.

Additionally, you’ll be able to apply the same lock to a student multiple times. F’rinstance, you might have a Registration lock available to Academic Admins and Advisors. A student’s Advisor applies that lock because the student needs to meet with her before registering. Then an Academic Admin applies that same lock at the same time because of an incomplete course from the previous term. Now the student has two Registration locks for two different reasons—and even if she deals with one lock, the other one can remain until she deals with that issue, too.

A few other things

Besides the lock reason in which you explain to the locked student why he’s in this predicament, you can also leave internal notes visible only to users who can add, remove, or change that lock type.

Reporting has been tuned-up, too: where once you had to look up locked students by searching for the system tag in the Data Slicer, you’ll soon be able to search by lock type.

If you like the current locks, you’ve no need to do anything. But if you’d like to have us customize your school’s locks, get ahold of us once they’re released and let us know what you’d like. And how, you ask, will you know they’ve been released? Head over to our Release Notes and click the Follow button!

We expect to release Custom Locks in the next few weeks.

New features for online tests

We just released a bunch of new features for online tests. Here's a look...

Points calculation


The new Points Calculation feature gives you three options to determine how the test's points will be distributed among its questions:

  • Fixed points: You manually distribute the points while you design or edit the test.
  • Weight questions equally: As you add questions, the test's points will be evenly distributed among all the questions, automatically.
  • Question points total: The test (and assignment) points will add up whatever points you assign to individual test questions.
Edit all question points at once

If you want to change how many points each question is worth, the new Edit all Question Points function lets you do that for the whole test all at once—no more need to edit each individual question (though you can still do that, too).


Importing tests and questions

The course Test > Questions view now lets you import questions from other courses to which you have faculty or admin access. We also spruced up the Import Test feature—now called Import Test Sections, it lets you import individual questions, headings and text, or even the entire test.


Duplicating questions

When editing an existing question, you can now choose to edit the original question (and change it everywhere) or duplicate the question and edit only the copy.


Recurring payments now work with

You can now use payment gateways to take recurring payments and donations in Populi.

To get started, head to Financial > Settings > Payment Gateways in Populi. Point your Tuition & Fees or Donations uses at it. Then make sure recurring payments are enabled in Financial > Settings > General or Donations > Settings. And that's it (on the Populi side, anyway; you may also need to jiggle a few settings in your merchant terminal).


After enabling recurring payments and donations, your online payment forms will give donors and payers the option to make this one-time or recurring monthly payment. Students can also choose a payment plan and have the recurring payments follow the plan's schedule. To help you keep track of recurring payments, Billing and Donations both include Recurring reports that show you all the details, including amounts, timeframes, and payment methods. You can also manage a person's recurring payments on their Profile > Financial page or send them a link to take care of it themselves.

Stripe customers have had these features for years, and we're pleased to now be able to offer them to our users as well.

Interface updates for assignments

Some assignment interface updates are coming soon. Here's a look...

In the student assignment detail view, we're moving the assignment feedback interface into the right column. Doing this gives us more room to devote the main part of the screen to the student's work. It will still work just as it did before: students and professors can comment back-and-forth and share files.

Grade-only assignments will consist solely of the feedback panel:

File assignments will present students with a file uploader right in the center of the screen. This uploader lets students easily upload multiple files at a time—and also removes the extra step of clicking the Submit button:

If a student uploads work to the feedback panel, a new option lets the professor set that file as the student's submission:

For test assignments, the student's test history will occupy the main part of the screen. If she only took the test once, her test record will display. If there are multiple test attempts, the screen will show links to each attempt. Whatever the case, the professor will be able to enter or edit answer grades and leave comments right in the assignment detail view:

Our users have provided a lot of great feedback for how we can improve Populi assignments, and we think the new updates will scratch a lot of itches. Look for the refreshed features real soon!

Special offer from Unicheck for Populi customers

Last March we released our integration with Unicheck, a web-based plagiarism-checking service. Since then Populi users have checked tens of thousands of student assignments for plagiarism against Unicheck's index of Internet-based sources, open access libraries and journals, and documents already uploaded to their school's accounts.

Unicheck has a special offer for Populi customers: If you sign up for an annual subscription by March 31st, 2019, you'll get two months of plagiarism detection for free. For more details, contact Unicheck and let them know you're with us.

Using Populi to detect plagiarism is simple. After entering your Unicheck credentials in Account > Integrations, your faculty will have options to check student submissions for file- and essay-type assignments (including peer review assignments), discussion comments, and test essay questions.

As students submit work, they'll be checked automatically or ad-hoc (however the faculty has set it up). Once the check is completed, you can access the Unicheck report right from the assignment, discussion post, or test question. You can also see the Unicheck originality score on assignment pages, letting you see at a glance which submissions need a closer look.

Get all the details you need in the Populi Knowledge Base, and read more about Unicheck's Originality Report at their support site.