Case at Hand
A software product is a system that carries out sets of instructions on a computer for specific goals. This is the basics. Going up, we see logical processes pertaining to specific domains, moving the data around, executing operations, and exchanging information.
This is all correct. The problem is that we tend to miss something when we look at such definitions, something quite important: the human factor.
A software product, be it simple or complex, is, after all, a tool; like a car. Run by different drivers, the car gives different performances. And this is the theme of this article.
Many schools run Skoolee, the student information and school management system by White Mountain Technologies. Each school runs it differently in a way that answers to its needs, yet also in ways defined by its human resources and their skills. Therein lies the difference between one school and another. There are aspects of Skoolee that, when taped into, make a great positive difference. To get there, a school might need, first and foremost, to leverage its resources.
To start with, the highest credits for a successful project goes to the school’s administration. If the administration does not embrace the systems and services, then no software products or services can make any difference at all. And if the administration does, then the solution will succeed remarkably and the results will be wonderful.
A case at hand: Les Filles de la Charité schools, or FDLC for short.
FDLC has been implementing Skoolee in 19 branches since early 2019. Of course, their decision to do so started by investigating the different solutions in the market, then rigorously evaluating those that were short-listed, then scrutinizing Skoolee.
Once the FDLC administration chose Skoolee, soeur Marlène Youssef, soeur Rania Azi, and their team went on representing FDLC and overseeing the implementation of Skoolee at the schools. In the time that followed, it was rather remarkable the way they led the project, going through the project management phases with the required diligence, precision, sharpness, and persistence. Development, implementation, change management, training, and user support rolled out smoothly and on time.
Two Years Later
Two years then passed and brought along challenges in ways no one could have ever foreseen. In late 2019, COVID 19 made its onslaught and spread to shut down the country and the world. This was unprecedented, and nobody was equipped to go through the all-encompassing lock-down. Then, amidst the Corona period, came the August 4th, 2020, Beirut port explosion. The devastation was overwhelming and incomprehensible, materially, socially, physically, and psychologically.
Checking with soeur Marlène to see how FDLC, with its administration, staff, teachers, students, and parents, has been doing amid all this, the conversation led to Skoolee and what it has been contributing through these times.
To soeur Marlène, data is the hindsight, the insight, and the foresight. It is the force behind the strategic and the decision-making moves. To her, you can do nothing if you do not have the data. Well, you could throw shots in the dark and hope for something good out of it. But if you have the data, then you are empowered tremendously. No wonder the effort that is being put worldwide on data gathering and data science.
“Which brings us to Skoolee,” soeur Marlène said. And she explained how Skoolee collects, organizes, and presents data, and how one can then proceed to easily and smoothly extract from it valuable information, reports, and analytics. Measured against matrices and KPIs, one could then monitor the performance and progress of the school and of every one of its members. In fact, from such data, you can go on to extract, build, and understand in ways that are not possible otherwise.
Of course, it is all wrapped inside the software platform. The Skoolee layer that handles the data and its structures is designed to work in an efficient and productive way. Data collection, storage, and retrieval must allow easy and fast processing of data and consequent extraction of information. For soeur Marlène and her team, all this is there. This data storage and management capability proved its worth in the aftermath of August 4. The school was severely damaged. Reconstructing the school was far beyond the administration’s means, the files and archives that were damaged seemed irretrievable, and re-launching the education was a challenge.
The Image – What Others See (and the reward that follows)
“Which brings us, again, to Skoolee,” soeur Marlène said. Then she explained how Skoolee was the platform that she needed to go through the well-informed assessment and decision steps, “and to demonstrate to the funders the transparency and precision that guide our work. The end result is that we saved our Cycle Complémentaire; we kept it running, retained all of our students, and retained all of our teachers.”
Donors are willing to donate on condition that what they give goes to where it should. This requires that the recipients exhibit professionalism, competence, and transparency. “Whatever information they requested, we put on the table right away. Anything they wanted was there in Skoolee a click away. Data, queries, reports, and analytics on admissions and graduations, families and students, school and teachers, tuitions and payrolls, recruitment and end of service were at their fingertips, in all due transparency, nothing was concealed, nothing was modified. The school’s strategies, plans, and progress were elaborate and crystal clear. The reassurance and satisfaction that this generated sealed the deal. The donors went on to rebuild and replenish the school to measures beyond what we were hoping and praying for. God be thanked, the reward for our effort was plenty,” she said.
The Wrapper, Again
Skoolee is equally a platform for communication between the school’s administration, teachers, students, and parents. COVID 19 and the Aug. 4 blast contended for the highest and longest damage. It severed the communication between the school’s entities. Children and teachers cannot go to school anymore, and that will be for a long time to come. At home, many parents lost their school files, transcripts, and receipts in the aftermath of Aug. 4. In fact, many parents lost their homes.
“It was Skoolee again, of course,” soeur Marlène said. In a time span of one day, the school replenished the parents with all the material that they had lost.
“And Corona had no impact on the school’s performance and continuity,” she explained. Skoolee has been driving all parents and teachers into the tech pool and putting them all on par in their technical know-how. It moved them to the online platform, and guided them through many intricate school processes. Effectively, they have been going online and virtual long before Corona. So, when Corona came, and with it the long lock-down, not a day of teaching was lost.
“Skoolee made the parents confident and comfortable, made the funders confident and comfortable, and established stability for the school,” soeur Marlène explained. “Skoolee set up a framework for the school, de-monopolized knowledge, and spread out the know-how. It boosted the teachers’ self-confidence, molded them into a team, and freed up their time to work more on pedagogical matters. As for the administration, we now maintain a keen view into all of our education processes, as well as into our teachers’ work and students’ progress. And we drew the parents into our pedagogical efforts; they are an inherent part of the process now. All things considered, we took the right step when we decided to implement Skoolee in our schools.”
For us at White Mountain, nothing can be more rewarding.