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Avoid the embarrassment of a mass email blunder

March, 2015

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A couple of weeks ago, Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, was left red faced after hundreds of students received incorrect acceptance letters. 800 prospective students received an email congratulating them on their enrolment offer to a very select program. This was followed up several hours later with a retraction email and apology stating that actually, students had not been accepted, sending hundreds of students to voice their outrage on social media.

This is not the first time this has happened in the last couple of years, two other major American Universities mistakenly sent incorrect acceptance letters and financial aid instructions to large groups of unqualified students.

Ensuring that emails are not sent to the wrong groups of students can greatly affect whether your message is received and interpreted properly. Carnegie Mellon’s mistake definitely got the message through to students, but it was unfortunately aimed at the wrong people.

New Zealand schools wouldn’t necessarily suffer as dramatically as the above examples, but it is still important to avoid mass email mistakes. Emails to specific, targeted groups of students can streamline communication processes around events, cancellations and other important information and is a useful tool for administrators. The lists are usually correct when they are first created, but as time goes on and students move in and out of different groups, it can become difficult to tell if you have the most up to date information, putting you at risk of information being received by the wrong students or applicable students missing out.

However, there are two contributors to this maintenance – the school and the parents. If the lists are correct, but the contact information for the parents is wrong, the message is never going to reach its intended destination.

To make it easier for administrators, we have put together some tips to ensure that the message is getting through to the right people:

  • Send regular reminders to parents to update their contact information with the school. The start of a new school term is always a good time to do this as newsletters aren’t too full with vital information and general housekeeping is expected.
  • Send regular reminders to coaches, tutors and group leaders to check their student lists and ensure they are up to date. Again, this can be a start of the term activity where you can encourage group leaders to get into the habit of running a quick check of their lists.
  • Miscommunication can also be an issue, so creating clear and concise messages can help to avoid this. State the important information at the start of a message with any actions required afterwards to help effectively communicate to parents what is going on and what they need to do.

Hopefully, the systems that you have in place will avoid a large scale embarrassment like that faced by Carnegie Mellon University, but taking extra steps to avoid smaller mix ups and miscommunications is also important. Remember that school communications is a two-way relationship so try to build a culture of the school and parents regularly updating information to ensure your messages get to the right people.

For more information on how to ensure a message gets through to parents, check out these helpful guides with tips, checklists and templates.

The risk of having incorrect parent contact information

February, 2015

Message Delivery FailedThere have been a few instances in the news lately where the importance for maintaining up to date contact information for parents has been highlighted. In these cases, schools have tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with parents when their child has failed to turn up to school.

Most schools have a system in place to instantly contact parents when a child is absent or an important message needs to be sent home. However, this is completely irrelevant if the parent doesn’t receive this message because of old and incorrect contact information.

We’ve put together three key tips which you, as a school, can implement to help ensure that parent contact details are kept up to date.

Regular reminders
Instead of relying on parents to remember a message they received when they first arrived at your school, send them regular reminders to update their contact information. The beginning of a new term is a good time to do this as everyone is fresh and because this only occurs four times a year, it isn’t seen as a nuisance. Including a note in regular newsletters can also be a friendly, non-invasive way to remind parents to update their information.

Maintaining member lists
The member lists that you keep for teams, groups and classes are a good way to easily contact specific groups of students and their parents. Keeping these as up to date as possible will help to ensure the right people are receiving the right message. When children leave or join teams, groups or classes, update them in your member lists. This way you can ensure that you have done everything you can at your end to get the message through to the parents.

Building early relationships
A child arriving at your school for the first time is a great opportunity to get parents accustomed to updating their contact information. If they understand the importance of keeping contact details up to date from the start, the chances of them continuing this throughout their relationship with your school are much higher.

Avoiding communication breakdown is so important between schools and their parents. Ensuring you have done everything possible to keep parent information up to date can help to alleviate future issues from arising.

Our October Tech Tip

October, 2014

EN Student Report

For schools actively managing students with attendance issues and using School-links for their Early Notification we offer a very useful tool. When it’s time to look at the communications with caregivers regarding the student’s attendance many of the Student Management Systems (SMS) don’t provide the information you need.

Using our ‘EN Student Report’ under ‘Absences’ you can get a printable report of every instance of an EN message to the Caregiver(s) for the selected timeframe. It will show you the student’s name, the date and time of the initial transmission, the recipient’s name and phone number/email address, any replies and the date and time of the reply.

Not only can patterns be readily discerned, e.g. absent every Thursday, but the times of messages and replies are available.

Here’s how it works:

Login to your School-links portal page and click on the ‘Absences’ menu item.

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From the ‘Absences’ menu select ‘EN Student Report’:

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You are presented with a search screen. Put in the student’s name. Partial searches will work, e.g. ‘sam’ will find ‘Samuel’ and ‘Samantha’. You may need to experiment a little with the name a spelling to get the correct student, we can only store what the SMS sends us in the EN batch, it could be the preferred name or the legal name, depending on your SMS settings.

Note: to include batches sent on the day of the search you need to change the Search ‘Date To’ to tomorrow’s date.

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The result:

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You can see the batch number, when it was sent, student’s name, caregiver’s name (Sent to), phone number/email address, and any reply.

You can then use the Print function in your Internet browser to print it off. Or highlight, copy and paste into a document.

Trick: Call the listed Caregiver’s phone number prior to your meeting to confirm that it is in fact a current number for them. Some people may have changed their number without telling you, or simply deny it’s their number even though it is.

If you need help with this please call us on 0800 333 480 or email [email protected].

Selecting an Early Notification (EN) Provider

May, 2014

There are only three approved EN providers in New Zealand and they all conform to the protocol established by the Ministry of Education in 2006.

This protocol sets out the rules of engagement between your Student Management system and the EN Provider. Despite this, not all EN providers are the same or offer the same services and features.

These are things to look for when choosing an Early Notification provider:

  • Complete integration with your Student Management System. Messages go out and replies are received in, allowing efficient management of unexplained absences
  • The ability to readily set and edit your outgoing message wording
  • The ability to view EN batches (sent messages and replies) outside of the Student Management System via an Internet connection, allowing school management to track progress remotely without needing access to the Student Management System
  • The ability to view archived batched going back more than two weeks
  • The ability to search and report on notification responses relating to a specific student
  • Training specific to the Student Management System and the education sector
  • Support that is knowledgeable of the different Student Management Systems and how their Attendance Management systems work
  • Both ongoing costs and the ease and expense of support. Does the EN provider have a 0800 support phone number? Do they provide EN training? At what cost?

Want to learn more? Enquire now.

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