Preparing for the GDPR

On May 25, 2018 the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into effect. The EU enacted the GDPR to give its citizens more control over their data and require certain security and transparency measures from the businesses and organizations that keep that data. The GDPR regulates any entity that controls or processes the personal data of any EU citizen—which affects not only Populi but also many of our customers. Here is a guide to how we are preparing for GDPR and the tools we’re building to help our customers who are affected by the new regulations.

Legal language

As contemplated by the GDPR, Populi, as a data processor, provides the tools and services our customers—who are data controllers—may use to collect, store, and maintain personal data about EU citizens (data subjects in GDPR parlance). In light of this, we’re reviewing our public legal documents and will be updating the appropriate sections of each policy. We’re also reviewing our internal Security Policy regarding data deletion, customer data backups, and our own security precautions.


By May 25, 2018, we plan to have released the following Populi updates. These new features will give our customers the tools to comply with the data protection, transparency, and portability requirements of the GDPR for data subjects stored in Populi.

  • We’ll be adding a way to track your “lawful basis” for keeping data about a citizen of the EU, including a report to let you identify people in your system for whom you may need to establish that lawful basis.
  • We’re building a data portability tool that will allow citizens of the EU export data kept about them in Populi.
  • We’re updating our customer data retention procedures to keep in line the GDPR’s requirements for permanent data deletion.
Services we use

The GDPR will not just affect the relationship between Populi and our customers. We ourselves do business with several companies to provide Populi to you. For example, we use Zendesk to provide crucial aspects of our customer support. Our internal review process will cover our own responsibilities in light of these relationships—we will examine our vendors’ own updates to make sure they avail us of the processes and tools we will need.

Your own review

Between these tools and our own internal changes, we’ll be doing our part to prepare for the GDPR. If your school maintains data on any EU citizens (whether in Populi or another system), you may also benefit from your own internal review.

Updates are coming

As we release updates to our software and legal documents, we’ll make sure to inform you via Populi’s system notices, our weekly Release Notes, and other appropriate media.

Course Conferences with BigBlueButton

course conferences

New in Populi courses: Conferences! We've added an integration with BigBlueButton, a web conferencing service designed for online learning. With Conferences, your faculty can offer live video streaming, presentations, a virtual whiteboard, chat, and live discussions right inside Populi courses. Here's how you can get your school started:

  1. Your school gets a hosted version of BigBlueButton through Blindside Networks. Blindside provides BBB hosting and support services to schools around the world. (You can also set up your own hosting environment for BigBlueButton.)
  2. You'll plug some API credentials from Blindside into Account > Integrations.
  3. Immediately, all of your courses will have the new Conferences view. Your faculty and students will be able to start using BBB right away.

Conferences will let you do even more with online courses in Populi. For more details, have a look at the Populi Knowledge Base.

Plagiarism checking with Unicheck

We're pleased to announce the release of one of our customers' most-desired features: plagiarism checking!



We've added a new integration with Unicheck, a web-based plagiarism-checking service. Unicheck compares documents in a wide variety of formats with Internet-based sources, open access libraries and journals, and documents already uploaded to your school's account. After running the check, it presents its findings in a clear, easy-to-read report.

To use the plagiarism features...

  1. Your school sets up its own Unicheck account. Tell them you're a Populi customer and you'll get a month-long free trial!
  2. Enter some credentials in Account > Integrations.
  3. You're ready to go!

After completing these steps, your faculty can start setting up assignments  to check for plagiarism. File and Essay assignment types (including the Peer Review versions) have new options for plagiarism checking. You can choose to check student submissions automatically, and whether or not to share the plagiarism report with the student.



When viewing a student's submitted assignment, just click Check for plagiarism. After a few moments, you'll see a link to View plagiarism report; this opens a panel showing you Unicheck's findings. You can then download the report to PDF; Unicheck also gathers up statistics from the submissions for inclusion in its high-level reports.

The new feature is available right now. Have a look at the Knowledge Base to learn more about plagiarism checking in Populi.

Coming soon: Online attendance tracking and reporting

Coming soon to online courses: automatic attendance tracking. It'll save your faculty a lot of time and will make for more accurate attendance records for your online courses.

Active participation interface

The current attendance workflow for online courses looks like this: Courses are given a single, weekly attendance meeting time. Then, once a week, the course faculty reviews the previous week's student activity—discussion posts, lesson progress, assignment submissions, and so on—and marks student attendance for the week based on that activity (or lack thereof). The attendance stats are then pushed to the various reports in Populi, including the SAP report in Financial Aid, where that weekly date supplies the all-important date of last attendance.

With the new features, all you need to do is set a course to use an online delivery method (you can use Populi's built-in Online method or a custom method you designate as such). When you do that, Populi will automatically record certain Federally-approved student activities (submitting assignments, starting or posting in discussions, taking tests) as "participation". In turn, participation stats are included in the new Online Attendance report in Academics, the Data Slicer, and the SAP report in Financial Aid—where participation is used to determine a student's date of last attendance.

Populi will do all this whenever you use an online delivery method, whether at the beginning of the term or even later on. In the latter case, Populi will backfill participation data based on the records it already keeps of student activity. Of course, faculty will also be able to manually add participation records if need be. Additionally, mixed campus/online courses will include both attendance options—the regular meeting times for classroom events as well as the participation records that comprise online attendance.

Less work and better record-keeping: we think you'll like it! We hope to have online attendance tracking in your hands in the near future—make sure to follow our Release Notes to see when it's live!

Attendance beacons in Populi's mobile apps

Populi's mobile apps for iOS and Android have a really cool feature we want you to know about: attendance beacons! Here's how they work...

When class starts, the professor launches the app to set an attendance beacon for that particular meeting. The beacon uses the phone's Bluetooth radio to send out a unique code to nearby devices running the app.


When students arrive in class and fire up the app within range of the beacon, they'll see a check-in button on their dashboard. When they tap the button, the beacon notes what time the student checked in and sets them to present, tardy, or absent depending on their arrival time.

If the professor needs to call roll for students who didn't check in, she can also record attendance using one of the other options in the app—they're super-simple and the record automatically pushes right to your school's Populi database.

Attendance beacons in Populi's mobile apps free up class time, do away with busywork, and help make for more accurate record-keeping.

Step-by-step instructions for faculty are here, and the student guide is here.