Intro to Orah Communications
Episode #2: Intro to Orah Communications
Orah Training Sessions with Ronan Quirke and Kurt Meyer

Get a first-hand look at some of Orah’s new solutions for secure school communications.
In this webinar, Ronan Quirke (Product Manager) & Kurt Meyer (Co-CEO & Head of Product) share the latest Orah developments regarding school communications. Quickly improve digital communications at your school to send and receive SMS, email & in-app notifications, by leveraging the data in your student information system. Orah connects to your SIS to pull groups, classes, student and parents records to enable you to send targeted messages to the right people when you need to. Orah’s school communications capabilities are also baked into attendance, behavior and well-being workflows that schools already use.
Intro to Orah Communications

It’s difficult for teachers to communicate digitally with parents, students and colleagues when there is no one place for them to go to do this. The resulting chaos of communication ensues when a teacher has to switch between an internal comms tool to another to message a parent, and then another to remind their students to submit their assignments by 10 am tomorrow…

If you want to improve school communications, you need to be able to provide a reliable, safe-and-secure way for that to happen – Orah has the solution for you.

Who is this for? Deans of Students, School Leaders & Directors of Technology.

Orah connects to your SIS to pull groups, classes, student and parents records to enable you to send targeted messages to the right people when you need to. Orah’s school communications capabilities are baked in to attendance, behavior and well-being workflows that schools already use.

In this webinar, you’ll discover:

  • The three tenets of student life.
  • How Orah helps schools improve communications, and why it’s particularly important that it’s secure and easy to use.
  • Strategies for ensuring your messages reach the right people, making your communications more effective.

How to get started with Orah Connect

If you are an Orah school

Email ronan@orah.com to set up your trial in just a few minutes. Hear Ronan explain how the process works in 30 seconds:

If you are not an Orah school yet

Please go here to get a demo of Orah.

An Orah rep will meet with you to learn more about your school and recommend some next steps for you to get started with Orah.

Webinar Slides

Here are the slides from the webinar.

Webinar Transcript

Kurt Meyer: Hi everyone. Thanks for tuning in today. we're excited to share a little bit about what we've been working on here at Orah to help schools improve communications. I'm here with Ronan Quirkee, our senior product manager. And he's going to talk a little bit about what we've been working on the student communications front. Connect is our latest product. , we started developing it just over a year ago. And we've had a lot of great feedback. And yeah, a really big response from our schools who've been using it. So we're excited to share a little bit more about how it's been developing and how we see it continuing to develop moving forward.

Ronan Quirke: And Kurt while we're waiting just for a few more to, to join in. So last week you did a webinar on attendance. So this one is about communications. I think you're planning on doing one on student care as well. So we cover the three, isn't it?

Kurt Meyer: Yeah, exactly. So we're planning to do a series of webinars focusing on the core tenets of student life, and we hope to do them more regularly so that we can, give an update once a quarter or so around each product and how they're developing and how we see them developing moving forward. Yep, the next one we have lined up will be around student care, and we've got a lot of big improvements happening on that side as well. And yeah, that's the plan.

Ronan Quirke: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess the these initial webinars are really about just giving you a sense of kind of our key areas that we're focused on and what we want to achieve. But maybe we, in the future, we might be deep diving into some of these topics a little bit more. Certainly keen to hear feedback from you as customers and schools in terms of what other topics or if you want to get into more in depth and some of the these issues as well. We certainly love to hear from that as well.

Kurt Meyer: Yep, absolutely.I think we can get started. So whenever you're ready, Ronan.

Ronan Quirke: Thanks Kurt. And yeah. Hello everybody. As Kurt said I'm Ronan Quirke based here in, in New Zealand with the Orah New Zealand team. Kurt is in Japan and yeah, we've got People and customers all over the world.

And just just want to welcome you wherever you are whether it's morning, afternoon or evening thank you for joining. As Kurt mentioned today's topic is about communications, and we we launched the Connect Communications project in a beta last year and we've been really getting some feedback on that in terms of what schools are looking for what they're trying to see from communications what their main pain points are and the beta version was really useful for us to.

Give something to schools to start using and just getting into it. And it's really useful and valuable for ourselves to actually be able to see how they've used it in ways that we didn't anticipate. So that really shone a light on different use cases and different pain points. And over the last few months, as I've become involved in the product I've really been looking to gather some more of that feedback and understand Schools are coming from and today we're just going to be replaying what we found and the insights and what we have done as a result of those insights and also what we're planning on doing in the future.

Because really, schools and their needs are driving the direction of this product in ways I actually didn't anticipate myself. So thank you so much for all of you who shared your feedback. So far. And really, if when I tried to boil it down in terms of what customers are looking for, what schools are looking for is less apps and better communication.

The. The overwhelming feeling is that there's just a lot of things happening in different places. It's hard to keep track of schools are concerned about their ability to have a sense of control and oversight over the communications to ensure that they're maintaining their duty of care.

And really in terms of end users as well, it's there's lots of wonderful communications apps out there already we all use many of them ourselves and my initial kind of instinct about this whole product space was, you If you've got WhatsApp, you've got Messenger, iMessage, do we really need to build something?

But the answer that schools are giving us is yes, because we need something that's fit for purpose for education. Because it's really quite a specialized area. When we talk about communication, we're primarily focused in this webinar, anyway, around student teacher student educator communication, the kind of the, not so much the sort of school newsletter stuff which there's lots of kind of good fit for purpose products out there at the moment, really the kind of the back and forth communication, the running of the school, the interaction with your faculty and your students.

Yeah, so that's where we're coming from. And yeah, so as I said, summary down from my point of view, it's about less apps and better communication and hopefully we come into play with the better communication part. So as we, as I mentioned as we talked to schools we've heard that communications are fragmented it's just so easy to pop an SMS to somebody or to pick up the phone or you've got a WhatsApp group or something like that already set up and all of a sudden you're communicating across all these different apps and services, some of them, which are school so official school communications channels, but.

We all know that people find a way to do things in the easiest way possible. And sometimes that's not aligned to the actual official communications channels as well. So lots of fragmented communications happen. And then of course that means silos as well. Maybe. A few people have an insight into what's happening with the student, but another educator may not have the same insight.

They only have part of the puzzle because it's not all in the one place. It's not in a shared, safe place for for different members of staff to appropriately access the right information. It's unorganized as well. Like I said, there are some fantastic tools out there already that are, your standard business communications tools, whether it's teams or Slack or something like that, that you, that sort of your standard Business organizations use, but they aren't organized in the same way that a school needs to be organized in terms of classes, years, grades, what have you they're not organized against student records in the same way you might need, because these aren't Right.

These aren't grown adults. These are obviously young people that we're raising and, you do need to have a a sense of organization of the, those key records and key information that helps them develop as we want them to. And really lack of visibility as well. Lack of visibility from from the perspective of other staff, but also from the school and as I mentioned, the duty of care that we have towards our young people, making sure that they're looked after in the best way possible.

Ensuring that that the school has access to key records and, of course, communications way more so than it used to be communications are key aspects of those records because so much is happening in digital forums that forms part of those student records as well or at least surface key issues.

That that need to be tracked and have, and so the school needs visibility of those communications as well. So these are the kind of the four key issues that we've heard. And yeah, so as I said school challenges, too many apps, lots of different tools, fragmented communications.

If we could wave a magic wand and put them all into one, that might be nice. But. Also, even if you did wave a magic wand and put all of those apps into one, one magic app you still need to make sure that important issues are surfaced to the right people in the school in a way that you can ensure that you're looking after your student body.

That's number two. And number three. As I said before, communications need to be structured and organized in the same way that schools are because that's how we work within within our schools. That's how we work in terms of the faculty focuses on different grades. Or what have you.

And so you need to ensure that that the right staff at the right point in time are able to support the right students and organizing and structuring communications, just like any other type of data is really important, I think for that especially with the sorts of issues and challenges that we're facing on the social emotional front in terms of students in this day and age.

So those are the challenges, and that kind of really motivated me to feel like, yes, there is something that we can do here. We have an opportunity from Orah's point of view, because we already have insights into how the student data is already organized in terms of student life and what Orah already does.

We are already organizing and structuring the data in a way that school, that makes sense to schools. And so I do believe that sort of, Orah has the ability to make. Communications clear and simple. And that's, that, that's really what it's all about from my point of view is because it's not good enough just to make another communications tool.

It has to be a better communications tool that's clearer and simpler for everybody who's using it. Because that's the only way it's going to be successful because otherwise, as I said before. It'll go back to the other apps and services that will people start jumping onto again if you don't make it clear and simple to use.

So it's a big challenge to be able to do that, but I think we're up to it and we've also already seen some great signs of success in terms of. What we're doing, so now I'm just going to take you through a little bit of where we're headed in terms of what we've already achieved and what we're doing next as an insight in terms of what we're delivering on this front.

So one of our our first kind of pieces of functionality was what I call simple broadcasts. So the ability just to let a bunch of students initially know that something is happening. You just want to let them know about something. Pretty simple but surprised I was surprised personally about just how popular that was because again, yes, there's lots of ways to do it, but there's not many ways to do it where you can actually find a specific student group, whether if you're in a boarding situation, you want to just send it to a specific house or you want to let it, in this example, if you're, you've got a really sharp eyes , we're filtering on the varsity Soccer the boys varsity soccer team and be able to drill down using your existing list of classes and groups and things like that, where the teams are classes and be able to find the right people and message them to their email push, if they're active on the app or SMS, if you really want to get a lot of cut through, sMS is quite a popular communications channel for schools in terms of making sure that key messages get some cut through. And yeah we've supported SMS from the outset. Some of the feedback we had is that schools also wanted to message not just students, but Student contacts, parents, other carers we delivered that capability just a couple of months ago and also the ability to send broadcasts to, to staff as well.

Yeah, simple, but powerful, mostly around how we're organizing and structuring your ability to actually send that communications to the right people and ensuring that we're getting, giving you the communications channels to do that push, if it's something that your student body is already active on the student app, email, if it's maybe just to A lower level of importance and SMS if you want to get something through right away.

So that's broadcast. That's what we've been doing in that space. I not showing it here as well, but one other kind of key enabler that we, we delivered just just a month ago in this space is the ability to control access to who can be messaged through permissions within the Connect Communications product.

So what we had was we had some feedback, because it's great that you can message everybody in the student body but from a school's point of view, that there's only certain people that they want to allow to be able to send broadcasts to everybody. So we changed the permissions model, if you're the the Dean of grade 12 looking, just want to allow access to grade 12 students or the sports teams then you can do that.

You can set up the coach or the grade 12 teachers to only message the students in that. So that sort of narrows down access and make sure that you're not over communicating, which is, of course, is a concern when you want to have effective communications. So that was simple broadcasts.

But then the next thing we heard from schools is that we want to be able to hear back in some shape or form about a broadcast. And the key thing here is that there are certain communications you want to do where you want to capture a response, but you don't want somebody saying, yes, yep.

Maybe. No, I'm not sure. You want a clear, defined response, and so broadcast responses just allows you to simply set you can set whatever values you want in terms of the response options That you yourself want to initiate in that, that, that response, and then you can capture what people are saying, whether it's this example, if they're confirming that they'll be able to participate, or they've got some concerns about participation that's a classic use case I also know my own school Parent teacher day is coming up and they do a half day, so they want to know which kids will need supervision until the end of the normal school hours.

This is a great use case for just capturing that saying, yes, I do. And then you've got your list of people that you want to follow up with from the broadcast response straight away. Again, simple, but very useful in the education context to have that structured response so that you're not getting, dealing with lots of free text responses and messages.

You really want to be able to just have your list and work off that list and just and also I know it's unlikely students are always so good at responding to messages. But if they haven't responded to messages, then you've also got that view as well. And you can chase chase those down a little bit further.

So those are broadcast responses that was only released yesterday. We're super excited about that. We've already seen the first few schools send out their broadcast responses. So it feels like it's definitely something that that was needed to ensure that we've got that capability in broadcasts.

There's lots more things we want to do in terms of the general broadcast capability. But Moving on from that, our next focus and what we're working on at the moment is your next key piece of feedback is that idea of getting a sense of what's happening in terms of school communications. So yeah, so having an overview page where school administrators can go and see what communications are happening.

Who is contactable? Who isn't contactable? We've got some super interesting ideas we're starting with one of the things we we've seen and heard is that there are just unresponsive students so they're not responding to broadcasts, they're not receiving broadcasts, even though you've got valid contact details, et cetera.

That's a concern. Because obviously, if they're not even doing that, that either says that there's something wrong in terms of contact details, or there's something wrong in terms of that student's engagement right now. So just zoning in on those things we think are super important for a start in terms of just getting a sense for.

For what's happening. So yeah, that's, I think that's really important for us to bring into our communications tool is to show the power of bringing those communications together. So you as a school from a management administration point of view. Can get a good handle on, on what's happening or indeed, as I said, what's not happening in terms of communications and response or receipt of those communications.

The next thing going on to visibility of communications. Is oversight of communication. So having a sense that as a school, you can ensure that you're able to access or monitor and specific messages are indeed create, watch lists where you can monitor for specific keywords or other things like that.

We want to start out with simple things like maybe triggering on key, keywords, being able to track specific conversations where there's feedback that there's something there that you might want to watch or, perhaps there's a student that needs special attention and then just tracking the conversations that student's involved with to make sure that they're getting the right level of support this we're not big on, on buzzwords and grand, grandiose plans here.

We're all about delivering real world solutions that, that, that can make a difference. So we're starting with kind of real things that you can get your teeth into, but. Personally, as a geek, I feel like in the future, this is something where AI could actually play some, have some real value by actually being able to automatically monitor things in a more proactive way than a computer.

Sort of doing some manual things. So we're excited about what we can do here in terms of the future, but really this first version or iteration is about providing you with tangible ways of getting started, which many schools don't even have already. So I think this is a great achievement, but it's really exciting to think about how we can.

Appropriately and safely meld new technology to even add, to add a lot more power to this oversight capability in the future. So yeah, so we're really interested in what your feedback or ideas are about this, because I know this is A big topic of concern for all schools really in terms of how to manage school communications in an appropriate way and make sure that nobody falls through through the cracks in terms of making sure that we're looking after the right people.

So that's communications oversight. So that's the next thing we're about to go into development on. And so it's really exciting to be working on this because This is really, I think, where a lot of the value from a school management will come from in terms of bringing communications together.

Finally organized communications. So getting into, so we showed you the, so that the communications broadcast capability of course, you also want to have. Two way communications with specific students. A few students or an entire class and being able to organize it in that way and again find the right, create or find the right group of students.

So for example, if you're the history, if you're the History 2 teacher you can just go ahead and just, create your History 2 group and have all the chats in the one place or really getting lots of feedback about. What you from an education point of view would really value in terms of messaging capability, making sure that you can see who's read a message, things like that, making sure that you can see when things get a thumbs up, et cetera, et cetera ability to also bring in other elements of student data as well into things Sharing different Orah record types is something that's come up as well.

We also want to make sure that this is as useful and as accessible to your staff as possible. So yes, we've got our standard sort of Orah web app. One thing that we've done quite successfully for a number of our products now is also create browser extensions. Super useful in the classroom setting where your educator can have The LMS or their current lesson or whatever it is open on their browser and you can open, you can have the The Orah communications browser extension sitting there side by side.

No matter where they're going, they can have open within their, the desktop browser as well. And of course, there's going to be mobile as well. We know mobile, mobile is important outside the classroom, but we also recognize that having a solution for within the classroom is especially important for your frontline educators.

Yeah. So that's really what we're doing in terms of organizing the communications. Yeah and I think it's come up already, so I'll just mention that. Feedback so far and where we want to go with this, as I said at the start about communications is it's very much focused on teacher to student communications.

We're not thinking yet about doing student to student or anything like that. It's very much focused on staff and student communications is what we're focused on at the moment. Open to ideas, of course but as many of you have said that you prefer not to go down that road just yet.

I'm sure we'll get to it eventually, but yeah, really solving the communications pain points for staff, student conversations, I think is the main thing that we want to focus on first. So that's a kind of a, Taste of what we've already delivered what we released just yesterday, which is super exciting.

What we're working on now and what we're working on after that. So yeah, so that's, hopefully that's useful and hopefully that's going to set off some ideas in terms of questions or comments you might have about communications. As I said, I was initially a skeptic that we should build another communications app but Kurt who has been thinking about this a lot longer than I have, poked and prodded me into action to go and talk to some of you and made me realize actually that We, this is something that is needed and so I'm excited about this.

But as I said really we can only build the right solution by partnering with yourselves. So we're really looking forward to getting any feedback and comments you have. I'd love to chat to you. Happy to jump on a call anytime. About, about that and get into more detail. So yeah, Kurt, maybe I'll hand it.

Back to you, just to just to, to sum up what we're doing at Orah and some of our customers around.

Kurt Meyer: Yeah, awesome. Thanks so much, Ronan. That was that was great. Everything's looking awesome and looking forward to it. So yeah we've worked with a number of schools around the world and communications has been a big issue around the student life aspect within the school. And just really answering that question. How do we communicate with our students and what's being said to them? And yeah, it's a really big problem now that everything's digitized as Ronan mentioned.

And, yeah, we're excited to help schools improve on that.

And, so yeah, if you are interested in helping us continue to develop Connect, please send Ronan an email at ronan@orah.com. And we'll also send a follow up after this with the recording of the webinar and the the presentation deck that Ronan's gone through as well so that you can share that with some of your colleagues.

Ronan Quirke: Yeah, thanks Kurt. And if you are an existing Orah customer, as you'd expect and if you don't have Connect already as you'd expect, it's super easy to get started and we'd be happy to set you up with a trial if you want to give it a quick go. It's really just a couple of button clicks to get that started because you've already got all the data loaded in already.

And as I said with the permission settings and things like that, there's, it's super easy. Very safe way for you to initially trial it if you want to just share it with a couple of staff members as well. Yeah, somebody asked, I think when I was showing the broadcast responses about two way messaging, so that that conversations as we're calling them is definitely something that we're working on very shortly.

But still really keen to get some feedback. We've also had some. Some requests around additional enhancements to broadcast around templates schedule sending, things like that. So keep all of that coming. We're definitely going to be working on that, but we, we really want to focus on the oversight sort of piece, as well as the conversations capability to bring in all of those key functions.

But yeah, we're just going to keep on developing this based on your feedback. So lots more to do, but we're very excited about what we can do.

Kurt Meyer: Awesome. I just got a comment. Love the browser extension. Fantastic. So yeah, thanks for that. That's exciting. The browser extensions so far cover our two other products, Nurture and Supervise for taking attendance and capturing behavioral notes and all the browser extensions work on Safari, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge.

So yeah, feel free to jump to any of those app stores and check it out if you want to install them. A couple of other questions on the Connect front, Ronan. I thought I'd throw out there is so you mentioned duty of care around communications. Can you talk more to how Connect can help improve duty of care and, maybe some of the privacy and compliance and liability aspects that we think we could help address with the sort of oversights and features that we're looking at.

Ronan Quirke: Yeah, sure. So there's a couple of things there. And I'll start with the kind of the student and kind of roll forward into the kind of the management part. So from a student point of view connecting all the communications. So you can see it as against their student profile is something we want to do.

So you can see at the student level, what communications. that they've been having. And then based on your own permissions, whether you're an administrator or not, you should, you would be able to access those and drill into those and view what's been happening there. So that's at the individual student level.

Then as With the right permissions for Connect itself, we're going to have that oversight capability where you can go in and find conversations. Of course there's going to be some privacy concern here, so I think there's that's something we want to work with in making sure that everybody understands how this works.

Of course there'll be permissions for who specifically can access that, because I think you know that those privacy concerns are entirely valid. But the ability to go through and find conversations as we showed, I think is quite key. And then but I think, yeah, those two things is having it against the student record, the communications and then the ability to kind of review and identify problems, I think is an important thing.

We've now got the concepts developed. I think what I would love to do is to work with some schools to figure out what the process should be. Because this is new for many of us in terms of haven't had that capability before. Great that you have it. Now what's the process that you should actually be following?

And that's often where schools are once, once they've adopted sort of Orah products is figuring out the right process to follow in terms of this, should somebody be reviewing that on a daily basis? How does that work? So that you have a. A risk management statement or what have you that's, that outlines how you're managing your communications.

We'd love to see if that, maybe that's something we could develop with some schools and make it into a template or something like that. Because I think it's new ground in terms of what we're doing here. We'd love to try and figure out a best in class approach to that. Because I feel like it's something that every school is struggling with individually.

And many of you doing super jobs at it already, but very manual and very haphazard in your ability to cover all the bases. So anything we could do to systemize that aspect as well, I think it'd be really interesting. Awesome.

Kurt Meyer: And one last one for me, maybe more of a open ended, more philosophical type of question, but.

One of our customers last year once said that we live in a post email world. Especially for teenagers and young people. And the alternatives at the moment are social media apps. For communicators and what they use. So with that context, what are your thoughts, Ronan, in terms of how Orah can fit in and what role we might be able to play?

Ronan Quirke: Yeah, so I think some of our feedback is things like SMS are being, are quite effective because students don't get many SMSs. So I think we need to be mindful of one of the reasons communications begin to erode and cut through is just sheer volume and people become less responsive.

But from our point of view, I suppose we have a philosophy of, we want to organize The communication. There's the message itself. And then there's what I think about is the channel or the app that message shows up in. And we're pretty open minded as to where that message shows up in. We've got three channels at the moment, email and push into the student app and SMS.

Maybe there's other channels. That would make sense from a student's point of view. That would make it the message to be responded to better but it still contained the sort of the records and the structure and the organization and the oversight is still contained within the Orah product from a school's point of view.

I think that's okay. I think so long as the school believes that's the appropriate thing to do as well, we can definitely look at doing integrations with different services, and maybe that's the thing in the future. I think that's, but yeah, separating the idea of like where the message shows up from how those messages are stored, recorded and managed, I think is gives us a little bit of flexibility there.

But again, I think that's a conversation we need to hear from schools more on to try and figure out the right, right path.

Kurt Meyer: Beautiful.

Okay, I think that brings us to the end of the session today we can wrap it up and we hope to hear from you soon and look forward to continuing to develop Connect. Awesome. Yeah.

Drop me a line. Thank you. Cheers.

Thanks, everybody.

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