We’ve done a major update of our technology platform. We’ve given it a new name, MyConnects. And we’ve made it a more powerful tool that’s easier to use – for implanting and sustaining City Connects, and for conducting research. Plus we have more updates and new features coming.
In the old days our City Connects data system relied on paper records. Over time our data moved to a server, then a website, and eventually to a software platform that was launched in 2011.
“People would have to be heavily trained to know which information was available where,” Brian Ward, City Connects’ Manager for Technology Support and Administration, says.
Now, MyConnects lets us do this work more efficiently and effectively.
To develop MyConnects, we surveyed our City Connects Coordinators; they are our front-line data collectors, gathering student information during whole class reviews and individual student reviews.
“We came up with theoretical concepts of what the new system could look like and showed it to coordinators again,” Kevin Lopez Mader, our Manager of Software Systems and Development, says. “That helped us streamline the process.”
One important result: when coordinators look at students’ profiles, they’ll be able to see more data and more of that student’s story in one place.
“Instead of having coordinators do their job, and capture data later, we’re trying to make it easier for coordinators to enter data on the fly,” Ward says. “Our number one goal is to make data entry more flexible, both in terms of what coordinators enter and when they enter data so that they don’t have to carve out hours of time to enter data. Now it’s just an integrated part of their daily routine. It saves the coordinators time, which is precious.”
MyConnects is also flexible enough to let schools use the system in creative ways.
“We had broader ambitions,” Ward says. “We wanted MyConnects to be a platform that could be used in different ways by different school districts at different stages of their student support process.”
Schools and districts that are just starting to implement City Connects can focus on implementation. More experienced users will be able to go beyond the City Connects model and use MyConnects to develop new, customized ways to collect and analyze data.
One example of data that could be customized is the information that coordinators collect on the providers that they refer students to for services. This information is now easier for coordinators to use and shape based on their students’ and districts’ needs.
MyConnects has also been built to grow. This school year started with the launch of the core features of the system. Throughout the school year, additional features and enhancements are scheduled to roll out. Just as we did with the initial design of the system, we are making enhancements based directly on user feedback.
In the short-term, we will roll out new features to smooth performance and maximize user experience, including a new “notes” feature that coordinators can use to capture information from everyday interactions.
“We’re also trying to make sure that the new system can work for laptops, tablets, and mobile devices,” Lopez Mader says.
This growth potential will help as City Connects expands into more schools and districts, and our improved data management will help independent researchers who are learning from City Connects about the impacts of high-quality, integrated student support.
Ward sums up the impact of this work, noting, “We hope MyConnects will open up people’s understanding of what coordinators and City Connects are all about, and how much they can help students and help with new ideas and projects they haven’t even conceived of yet.”