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Learn about the latest news from the Parents’ Evening Booking System

Video Meeting Troubleshooting

By News and Info

There are three main errors which may occur:

“Cannot access your device due to a hardware error”

This means the webcam/mic are not ‘available’ for your internet browser to use.

Potential solutions:

  1. If you did not ‘allow’ permission for your webcam or microphone to be used when prompted, you can use the blue ‘Video Settings’ button on this page to reset your preferences and allow you to approve these.
  2. If you’ve recently had a Teams/Zoom meeting, make sure these are closed (even try a CTRL+AT+Delete to close them, or a computer restart). You may need to try a different computer/smartphone/tablet if you can’t find the cause to this error.
  3. Lastly, make sure that the internet browser your are using does not have a webcam or mic icon in its website address bar which needs clicked on to ‘allow’ the browser to use your webcam/microphone.

If you do not have a webcam or microphone ‘installed’ on your computer, please use a different ‘device’ (computer, smartphone or tablet). Video meetings cannot take place without a webcam, or where you do not allow Parents Booking to use your webcam.

“The user did not give permission to access your media”

This often means the internet browser is blocking access to the webcam.

Potential solutions:

  1. Look at your internet browser’s web address bar and check if the video symbol is ‘blocked’. If it is, unblock and refresh the web page.
  2. Press the Video Settings button at the top of the video meeting page and Reset settings. This should give you another chance to approve your webcam and mic’s use by Parents Booking.

A grey box where you should be seeing yourself or the teacher, when the meeting should be taking place:

If your video meeting’s video area is still a grey box, even after your video meeting should have started, this means your computer is not able to connect to the video meeting.

When your video meeting starts, you should be able to see yourself (like a mirror) at least. If this is not the case, and you’re just seeing a grey box, there’s a problem connecting to our video server. This is most likely caused by your internet connection (home or work network) or, perhaps more likely, your firewall ‘blocking’ you joining the video meeting. It could also be your choice of internet browser, or some security settings on your device, but those are less likely.

Potential solutions:

  1. Most likely situation: Your internet connection is blocking the video meeting, possibly because of your home or work firewall. If you think your firewall is strict, and this could be the reason, try using a device which will allow you to connect to the internet outside of your firewall, e.g. using 3G or 4G mobile data, to see if there’s a difference, and if so you know it’s your internet/network connection/firewall.
    1. You could also try running the Twilio Network Test, which does take a moment or two. You can afford one of the top two items to fail, but not both. Similarly, you can afford one of the bottom two tests to fail, but not both. If 3 or 4 of these top two and bottom two tests are failing, it is a network/firewall issue, and the only solutions will be to NOT use the internet connection you’re on currently, or try to unblock your firewall if you feel confident in trying to do so. You’ll need to whitelist “twilio.com”, and allow the moist local IPs to you found here, e.g. Irish and German IPs if you’re in the UK or Europe, and USA IPs if you’re in America.
  2. Your computer has some other sort of issue stopping it connecting (in which case we would recommend you try a different device, e.g. smartphone, tablet, computer).
  3. Least likely situation: Use a different internet browser. E.g. Try Chrome instead of Edge, or vice-versa. Its possible you are using an internet browser that is incompatible (or might need ‘updated’)

Parent and/or teacher cannot hear each other

Potential solutions:

Sometimes the microphones on laptops / computers can be in “mute” mode. Hopefully this can be rectified via a setting in the internet browser (near the address bar?), and this is sometimes ONLY found when looking via “Classic control panel” could this be seen:

Steps:

  • search cpanel
  • find sound
  • go to recording tab
  • right click view properties of device
  • then go to “levels” tab and the button was on mute.

Creating a .CSV file to upload your school’s pupils, parents and classes

By News and Info

Schools who use MIS/SIS databases that do not integrate with Parents Booking can create a custom .CSV file that can be uploaded. This blog post features instructions on how to create your own .CSV upload.

This two-spreadsheet approach involves linking two spreadsheets using pupil, parent and teacher IDs.

Spreadsheet 1 lists all of the pupils and parents, while spreadsheet 2 links the students to their classes and creates the teachers’ accounts (using the student ID number to link both spreadsheets).

To begin with, please download our spreadsheet 1 template and our spreadsheet 2 template. These are vital to your success.

The data fields required for spreadsheet 1 are:

  • Student ID
  • Student Forename
  • Student Surname
  • Student Name (this field is [forename] + [surname] typically. Do not use commas.)
  • Student Date of Birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • Student Registration Group or Year Group
  • Parent ID
  • Parent/carer Title
  • Parent/carer Forename
  • Parent/carer Surname
  • Parent/carer Mobile/Telephone
  • Parent/carer Email
  • Emergency Priority Number (schools usually denote a ‘Main Contact’ as priority 1, and lower priority parents as 2, 3, 4, etc. If you are uploading multiple parents for a student, you will see in our spreadsheet example that you do this by adding each parent to a new line, with the same student details on each row. Giving one of the parents priority 1 in this column will help us understand who the ‘main contact’ is).
  • Receives Email? (Set everyone to “TRUE” in this column unless you have some parents who do not wish to be contacted by email, in which case set them to “FALSE”).

You can list a pupil on two different rows to link them to 2nd parent/carer.

Rules: Do not extract parent/carers who do not have “parental responsibility” / legal rights.

Save this spreadsheet as a .CSV file (in UTF-8 Format if possible) by going to File > Save As.. and underneath the file name choose “.CSV UTF-8 (Comma Delimited)”.

The data fields required for spreadsheet 2 are:

  • Student ID
  • Teacher ID
  • Teacher Title
  • Teacher Forename
  • Teacher Surname
  • Teacher’s Email Address
  • Subject Name
  • Class Code

Again, save this spreadsheet as a .CSV file (in UTF-8 Format if possible) by going to File > Save As.. and underneath the file name choose “.CSV UTF-8 (Comma Delimited)”.

These spreadsheets are then uploaded in the following order:

  1. Spreadsheet 1 – Pupils and Parents
  2. Spreadsheet 2 – Classes

How to Run a Video Call Test

By News and Info

We recommend that schools run tests of video call module before using it for real parents’ evenings, to ensure it will work as well as can be on the day.

It is also vital that networks/firewalls are configured to ‘allow’ the video calls to take place on the school’s network and teacher ‘devices’ (see more on this at the bottom of this article).

The two tests we suggest are below:

 

Test One: Run a Network test using the Twilio Network Tester:

https://networktest.twilio.com/
Please also note the information at the bottom of this post about information for your IT team.

This network test does not need to show a Pass for all results. So long as one of the top three results, and one of the bottom two are Passes, the video technology should be able to connect teachers to parents on your network. If you are at all unsure, copy the ‘Output Log’ (right hand side of the test) into an email and send, along with your school’s name, to support@parents-booking.com to ask for advice.

 

Information for your IT/server team:

Media / UDP Network Settings :

– Schools need to allow Port 443 / HTTPS traffic and IT/network teams should be aware these video calls will happen over an encrypted peer-to-peer (P2P) connection, making any network adjustments required.

– Ensure *.Twilio.com URLs are whitelisted.

– Crucially, we advise whitelisting the most local “media servers” from this list of Twilio IP address ranges. You can also go to your school’s Parents Booking ‘admin area’ > Set Up School page > Preferences page button (bottom left corner, orange button) and choose a region to match the IPs you have whitelisted, rather than using the default “Global Low Latency”, if you want to be certain about which IPs should be whitelisted and will be used.

– Smoothwall/firewall users should add Twilio.com to ‘authentication exceptions’ in Smoothwall’s policies. Some Smoothwall users have also had to modify the’ default outgoing policy’ to allow ‘any internal interfaces’ to access ‘any external interfaces’.

– Our video meetings through Twilio.com generate lots of UDP connections, which school firewalls (or ISP DDOS blocking software) may well be setup to block/drop if they consider them to be a UDP flood attack, and we have seen this on rare occasions. Consider disabling UDP flood protection, or adding Twilio.com as an exception to this part of your firewall, if you find (while using the Twilio Network Test) that the number of UDP connections allowed is much lower than it should be, or if video/audio quality is poor during real video meetings (because these should be crystal clear). Video meetings with anything less than a perfect video, or where the audio and video are not in sync, should be taken as a clue to some sort of disruption caused possibly by a factor such as this.

– We’re also aware that adding chunderw-vpc-gll.twilio.com into to the SSL Inspection exceptions for a firewall has been of significant help to some schools, including those who use Sophos SG UTM as their firewall.

– We are also aware that some schools/local authorities need to ‘allow’ “amazonws.com” to be able to connect to the Twilio servers. We are learning more about why, but assume this is because Twilio use Amazon AWS servers.

– In one case a Scottish local authority has to allow “Dublin.turn.twillio.com” direct out of the firewall, and so this is being noted here in case it is of use for others too.

 

Information for Edinburgh Council schools:

At the time of writing schools/teachers should not use the LTAD network for their view meetings as this seems to be blocking the video meetings (although it does seem to work at some schools). Please advise teachers to use either the LTAP_P or LT_Open networks.

 

Information for South Ayrshire Council schools:

We have been asked to make sure schools are aware that software called Zscaler, on teachers’ devices/computers, needs be have a blue icon showing in the bottom right corner of teachers’ Windows task bar, meaning it is enabled. If the icon is grey it has not been enabled and would not allow the video call to take place.

 

 

Information for HP Laptops/Computers

One school has reported that where there were issues with the camera and mic not working on HP laptops and computers, this was resolved by removing the Cyberlink YouCam application.

Not recommended: Rrunning a Test with Teachers

Schools should check that the devices teachers plan to use are compatible with the video call technology. This can be done simply by asking teachers to login to their Parents Booking account and click the ‘Video Settings’ button on their Dashboard. This will allow them to test their internet browser is compatible, and that their webcam and microphone work. Teachers can also run the ‘network test’ detailed in Test One above.

The instructions (PDF file) for teachers on how to join the video calls goes into further detail on internet browser and device compatibility.

This blog post details how to set up a more cumbersome but in-depth test, where you set up fake parent accounts and have teachers and ‘fake parents’ book appointments between each other.

 

https://networktest.twilio.com/
Please also note the information at the bottom of this post about information for your IT team.

This network test does not need to show a Pass for all results. So long as one of the top three results, and one of the bottom two are Passes, the video technology should be able to connect teachers to parents on your network. If you are at all unsure, copy the ‘Output Log’ (right hand side of the test) into an email and send, along with your school’s name, to support@parents-booking.com to ask for advice.

 

Information for your IT/server team:

Media / UDP Network Settings :

– Schools need to allow Port 443 / HTTPS traffic and IT/network teams should be aware these video calls will happen over an encrypted peer-to-peer (P2P) connection, making any network adjustments required.

– Ensure *.Twilio.com URLs are whitelisted.

– Crucially, we advise whitelisting the most local “media servers” from this list of Twilio IP address ranges. You can also go to your school’s Parents Booking ‘admin area’ > Set Up School page > Preferences page button (bottom left corner, orange button) and choose a region to match the IPs you have whitelisted, rather than using the default “Global Low Latency”, if you want to be certain about which IPs should be whitelisted and will be used.

– Smoothwall/firewall users should add Twilio.com to ‘authentication exceptions’ in Smoothwall’s policies. Some Smoothwall users have also had to modify the’ default outgoing policy’ to allow ‘any internal interfaces’ to access ‘any external interfaces’.

– Our video meetings through Twilio.com generate lots of UDP connections, which school firewalls (or ISP DDOS blocking software) may well be setup to block/drop if they consider them to be a UDP flood attack, and we have seen this on rare occasions. Consider disabling UDP flood protection, or adding Twilio.com as an exception to this part of your firewall, if you find (while using the Twilio Network Test) that the number of UDP connections allowed is much lower than it should be, or if video/audio quality is poor during real video meetings (because these should be crystal clear). Video meetings with anything less than a perfect video, or where the audio and video are not in sync, should be taken as a clue to some sort of disruption caused possibly by a factor such as this.

– We’re also aware that adding chunderw-vpc-gll.twilio.com into to the SSL Inspection exceptions for a firewall has been of significant help to some schools, including those who use Sophos SG UTM as their firewall.

– We are also aware that some schools/local authorities need to ‘allow’ “amazonws.com” to be able to connect to the Twilio servers. We are learning more about why, but assume this is because Twilio use Amazon AWS servers.

– In one case a Scottish local authority has to allow “Dublin.turn.twillio.com” direct out of the firewall, and so this is being noted here in case it is of use for others too.

 

Information for Edinburgh Council schools:

At the time of writing schools/teachers should not use the LTAD network for their view meetings as this seems to be blocking the video meetings (although it does seem to work at some schools). Please advise teachers to use either the LTAP_P or LT_Open networks.

 

Information for South Ayrshire Council schools:

We have been asked to make sure schools are aware that software called Zscaler, on teachers’ devices/computers, needs be have a blue icon showing in the bottom right corner of teachers’ Windows task bar, meaning it is enabled. If the icon is grey it has not been enabled and would not allow the video call to take place.

 

 

Information for HP Laptops/Computers

One school has reported that where there were issues with the camera and mic not working on HP laptops and computers, this was resolved by removing the Cyberlink YouCam application.

Not recommended: Rrunning a Test with Teachers

Schools should check that the devices teachers plan to use are compatible with the video call technology. This can be done simply by asking teachers to login to their Parents Booking account and click the ‘Video Settings’ button on their Dashboard. This will allow them to test their internet browser is compatible, and that their webcam and microphone work. Teachers can also run the ‘network test’ detailed in Test One above.

The instructions (PDF file) for teachers on how to join the video calls goes into further detail on internet browser and device compatibility.

This blog post details how to set up a more cumbersome but in-depth test, where you set up fake parent accounts and have teachers and ‘fake parents’ book appointments between each other.

 

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Help with identifying ‘leavers’

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Identifying Leavers

Our newest software release features a great new feature: help identifying students who are now “leavers”.

Next time you run a data upload, you will be shown a notification on your Dashboard if we think that some students have left the school but are still in our database. Rather than delete the students automatically, we’ll show you a list and you can either mark the students as having left (in which case we will delete their record from our database) or you can make them as still being on the school’s student roll.

We are changing our product’s name

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In an exciting change that we hope reflects our commitment, not just to parents’ evenings, but to all school-parent ‘electronic booking’ matters, we’ll soon be changing our flagship product’s name from Parents’ Evening Booking System to Parents Booking.

This is a cosmetic change at its heart, but more than ten years after inventing the world’s first ‘parents’ evening booking system’, we’re a bigger company offering schools and colleges, both across the UK and around the world, much more than our original parents’ evening tools.

Beyond parents’ evenings, we help schools with their events, breakfast clubs, after school clubs, trips and student performances’ tickets, place-booking, reservations and facilitate their payments. We’ve integrated with some of the best #EdTech products in the UK and we’re continuing to seek out new, exciting partnerships to grow our capabilities and usefulness. We hope that our new name makes clear that we’re the solution to all ‘parent booking’ requirements.

Our new logo and branding will be introduced over the coming weeks. The product itself looks exactly the same though; there’s no reason to worry about a re-brand causing any navigation or software logic issues.

Wishing customers, partners, schools and parents all the very best.

Parents Booking / Netmedia Ltd.

We’re ‘Cyber Essentials Plus’ Certified

By News and Info, Software Updates No Comments

For several months now we’ve been working to achieve our ‘Cyber Essentials Plus‘ certification. We received news on Friday that we’ve passed our inspection, and taken receipt of our certificate.

If you’ve not heard of “CE Plus”, it’s a UK government information assurance scheme operated by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). Its certification guarantees our protection levels against the most common cyber threats, and demonstrates our commitment to cyber security. Although not a requirement for our business, we undertook the “CE Plus” certification, which includes having independent security experts examine our servers, software and IT infrastructure.

To view our certification certificate, click here.

The hard work is never done, and we’re already underway with our application to achieve ISO27001 certification, which is an international standard which demonstrates that an organisation has defined and put in place best-practice information security processes. We hope that we’ll have good news related to achieving this further certification later in the year.

New case study: Boroughmuir High School

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We recently visited the brand new Borughmuir High School in Edinburgh. They have been a customer for a number of years, and a huge supporter of our services, but were also recently named Scottish state secondary school of the year by The Sunday Times, which makes their recommendation of us all the stronger.

Take a little look at the case study below:

Welcoming in 2018

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Dear all,

We want to begin by wishing all of our customers a prosperous 2018. We’re excited to continue working with you and we’re thrilled you’ve chosen us to help you with your parents’ evenings.

2017 was a super year for us, and the product has continued to grow in strength, in particular after a series of excellent new features were added to help schools have even more control over their parents’ evenings. As usual, we’re working away every day to make the product better still and look forward to bringing information of new developments soon.

We’ll be changing this website soon, condensing down the amount of information shown and presenting a new look. We’re also working with some talented filmmakers to bring a new advert for the front page.

Last but not least, this year will of course also bring about legislation changes in terms of GDPR, and should you have any questions please do reach out. We’ll be writing to all customers in plenty of time with an updated Data Protection Policy, but you should have no fear about the changes related to your use of us. We’re legally taking on a little more responsibility, and we need to ensure we have your consent to process the data you provide, but beyond that we’re doing what we do every day: providing a safe place to host your parents’ evenings.

Best wishes for 2018 – here’s to another brilliant year!

Netmedia Ltd.

Helping to Close the Gap in Attainment

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Helping to Close the Gap in Attainment

Education Scotland’s “How Good Is Our School” (HGIOS 4) and the National Improvement Framework lay out the six key drivers which will help schools to close the gap in attainment. We feel very strongly about helping schools achieve these ambitions and we’re sure our Parents’ Evening Booking System can be a strong contributor to the task. We help schools with Parental Engagement, School Improvement, Assessment of Children’s Progress and Performance Information Here are some of the ways in which we directly help when schools use us to run their parents’ evenings online:

  • Parent and Teacher communication channels immeasurably improved. When parents http://canadapharmacy-drugnorx.com/ make their appointments online they can tell teachers about any concerns, issues or discussion topics ahead of time. Teachers can message parents before parents login and book as well (i.e. “Make me a priority booking please”). This leads to better prepared and more effective meetings
  • Parents who do not typically engage with school events, or who don’t usually attend parents’ evening, can be encouraged through the use of technology and with the promise of a better structured appointments schedule, picked by them, at times that suit them, in an order they want
  • Parents’ evening attendance will be improved by encouraging sign-up from parents who don’t normally attend (as discussed above), but also by providing the school with the reporting tools to see who has not booked yet and the communication tools to pro-actively contact them, as well as by sending reminder e-mails to thos ewho have booked
  • Increased parental participation is key to the necessary implementation of observation, assessment and recording, meaning raising attendance for parents’ evenings will have a direct impact on students’ education
  • Schools save huge amounts of school admin time (setting up events takes minutes, and there’s no other work necessary by any colleagues in the school)
  • Classroom and curriculum time spent on parents’ evenings eliminated completely
  • Teachers need only check their schedules online OR have these printed off by the office for them (which can be done in one click)
  • We help schools save paper, but we can even help schools go completely paper-free for these events
  • We help schools save money on paper, printing, stationary and of course postage, where applicable

You can read further specifics on how we help schools close the gap in attainment here:

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