Inspiration

As you probably know the Finnish education system is scored high on European standards. We think there is much to improve. Now after living in Germany and having seen also the German education system we believe there are some common problems that can be solved with better communication.

Therefore our team started developing an idea of an Open Source communication platform for schools & parents. Open Source because it allows for a community to decide and develop the platform further. This also prevents vendor locking as no single revenue driven company can decide everything. The solution is also low cost as there is no commercial license required.

Finland has had such a platform in use in public schools for about 20 years but it has a multitude of issues and the usability is very poor. For example it is not usable on mobile devices. Basically everyone using it, dislikes it. Some parents even refuse to use it despite having no alternatives. We can do better!

We want to bring the communication between school and home to modern world standards by creating a platform to serve parents, teachers, school administration, parents council and the students in the best possible ways.

What it does

Features:

  • News - School can make announcements that are visible to all users in the news page
  • Messages - Users can easily find recipients and message each other
  • Calendar - School can import their event calendar for everyone to view. Also parents council can import their events in iCalendar format. Teachers and administrators can manage calendar events.
  • Polls - Parents council can create polls to collect votes on freely formed questions.
  • Timetable - Students and parents can view weekly schedule of the students cources.
  • User profile - Users can identify other users and easily contact them when needed.

How we built it

  • The application is built on open source technologies.
  • Postgres - Worlds most advanced Open Source database
  • Django framework - For professional developers with deadlines
  • Docker containers - Development environment replication

Challenges

Usage

  • Teachers want to be able to easily forward messages from parents to more suitable recipients like the school administrators.
  • Ability to understand connections of a particular user is important (To know who are who´s parents and teachers) Currently teachers are having difficulties to map out the people and relations which makes it difficult to communicate via messaging.

Security

  • Approval process is needed for new users. Teachers and administrators should be able to confirm who joins their groups and gains access to targeted material.
  • Teachers want to be able to control user access due to legal regulations in cases where child custody changes.

Technical:

  • One question regarding the solution is whether the application should be provided in form of Platform as Service (multitenant - all schools in the same database) or Platform for self hosting (single installation per school)
  • Mobile version should be able to use the notification system. Notifications should be possible to mute.

Accomplishments that we are proud of

  • Some main features like login, registration, profile and news section are now complete.
  • Messaging works but the group aspect must be added.
  • Calendar data can be imported from an iCal file.
  • An automated development environment was implemented so that other developers can easily join the fun.
  • http://www.qlma.f website got translated to English and German
  • Test data got translated to English

What we learned

  • We learned how to implement translations for the http://www.qlma.f website. The solution is javascript based and I added translations in English and German.
  • A lot of ideas for new features came up during the Hackathon event. Especially from teacher perspective.
  • The solution would benefit from a technical implementation for mobile that allows notifications.
  • Many new user requirements

What's next for Qlma

  • Rebooting the development community.
  • Implementing groups management feature and user connections graph.
  • Make the solution generally available.
  • Piching the solution to educational organizations
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