New Upgrade: Spanish Translation for Parents

Greetings from PTCFast.com.  We hope everyone is having a good summer.

PTCFast.com is happy to announce an important upgrade that will be of special interest for many users in the United States: Spanish translation for parents.  As with most of our upgrades, this is a direct response to dozens of requests we have received from users.

At the bottom of the Manage Conference page, check the box next to “Turn on Spanish translation option for parent communication”.

When you pick this option, pages used by parents will display a US and Spanish flag in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.  When a parent clicks on the Spanish flag, the system will switch over to displaying screens in Spanish (in this session and in any subsequent sessions and emails).  Parents can switch back to English (and vice versa) at any time.

To insure fully translated emails and displays, you will need to provide a Spanish version of the language you have “customized” for your conference, such as location, special greeting, and so forth.

All the customized-text fields that require translation are marked with a little note below the text box that reads: “Translation text: ‘English##Spanish’“ (you only see this little note if you have selected Spanish Translation checkbox.)

For example, one such field is Location on the Emails page.  If your English text were to say “Room 232 in the main building”, you could instead insert “Room 232 in the main building##Habitación 232 en el edificio principal”.  Parents who self-select Spanish would then see “Habitación 232 en el edificio principal”, everyone else would see “Room 232 in the main building”.

There are only seven fields that allow you to add a translation: four on Emails, (Location, What to tell users without internet, Final sentence, and Who letters are from),  one on Reports/Deadlines (What to tell parents if all appointments are taken), and two on Manage Conference (Special Requests note, and Intro to the School Web Page note (if chosen.))

Note: you are not required to provide a Spanish translation of all seven of these elements.  If you only provide English in some of them, that English text will be displayed to everyone, which might be perfectly adequate for your purposes.  Also, note that if you uncheck the Spanish Translation Option, the any text you have entered (separated out by ##s) will still be there in the text box but will not be displayed to parents, so you wouldn’t have to go and edit it out.

We are looking forward to user comments on this new feature.

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Announcing: Secure Data Encryption

PTCFast.com is pleased to announce secure 256-bit data encryption has been implemented on the website.

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New Video for School Administrators

Today PTCFast released its first screencast video for school administrators.  The video, approximately 12 minutes in length, covers the process of setting up many appointments for teachers at a school, and the various choices that PTCFast offers.

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Fall 2014 Upgrades

Greetings to our returning and new users. We just completed a number of new upgrades to the system.

Access Account by Multiple Users: The most common request we had last year was to make it possible for more than one user to work in the account at a time.   With the new upgrade, simultaneous work within an account becomes possible so long as users don’t try to work on the very same conference.

School Web Page Formatting.  We have had many requests from users who would like to be able to add basic formatting to the message that appears on the “School Web Page.”  Support has just been added for italics, bold, and paragraph breaks.  To utilize this, users will need to understand a little bit about the basic HTML commands <p>, <i>, <b>, and <br> (a Google search for ‘basic html’ brings up lots of links to tutorials.)

Mass Unlaunch Function.  A new “Mass Unlaunch” feature has been added on the Manage Conference page (“Unlaunch All Conferences”). Click on the link and you will be shown a list of all launched conferences; then you can specify which ones to unlaunch.

Purge Function.  On Manage Conference page, there is a new option to “Purge appointments and unlaunch, so this conference can be re-used.” This function operates on the selected conference and checks to make sure there are no active appointments (i.e., appointments scheduled for the future).  Assuming there are none, the system deletes all appointments and unlaunches the conference.  This should be useful for situations in which a user wants to update their conference times for 1the new semester (or allow their teachers to do the updating).

Reminder Termination.  When parents register but do not make an appointment, the system sends them reminder emails.  Sometimes parents worry that they will be getting these reminders “forever” (which does not in fact happen), but to put such concerns to rest, the reminder letters themselves now contain a link which a parent can click on to suppress further reminders.

Finally, in response to feedback from users, we’ve also systematically worked to make many of the system messages–to parents, teachers, and admins–clearer and more understandable.  This is challenging, because what’s clear to one person can be confusing to someone else, and if the on-screen explanations get too long, people tend naturally to gloss over them.  We always welcome additional suggestions on how system messages might be improved.

With best wishes for the 2014/2015 Academic Year…

PTCFast.com Team

 

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First PTCFast.com Video now Available

Many users have told us that they would like how-to videos on the use of the system.  The first video, for individual teachers setting up their own conference, has been created, and you can find it here.  Over the next few months we hope to release several additional videos, including one for school administrators setting up many conferences.  In the meanwhile, have a look at the recently created User Guide.

As  always, we welcome all your comments and suggestions (please write us at support@ptcfast.com).

Mike & Ed, Founders, June 23, 2014

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User Guide Now Available

PTCFast.com was designed back in 2008-2009 with the goal of making a scheduling system so simple that no user guide would be needed, but complex enough to support the needs of large schools as well as individual teachers. Tens of thousands of school administrators and teachers have used it without a guide, and close to one million student  appointments have been made on the system.  By typical standards of the software industry, the rate of user support requests that we get is remarkably low, suggesting that users find the system pretty “natural”.

However, the capabilities of the system are quite numerous now, as we have added features in response to requests and suggestions from users.  Moreover, some special needs are complex, such as team teaching.  Therefore, at this point it seemed that a brief user guide would probably be helpful to many users.  So… we have created one–you can download the guide here in pdf format.

As  with everything we do at PTCFast.com, we welcome all your comments and suggestions (please write us at support@ptcfast.com).

Mike & Ed, Founders, December 11, 2013

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Upgrades for Fall 2013

Welcome returning and new users!

 We have just instituted a number of important upgrades.

 1. PARENTS CAN SEE ALL APPOINTMENT SCHEDULES AT ONCE

 Effective immediately, parents who need to make appointments for more than one class will see all their schedules for all their conferences on the same screen.

  This works best if your school uses the School Web Page option, in which case your parents can immediately select multiple conferences, and the system will show them all the appointment time options on the same screen.  This way, parents can more easily “clump” all their appointments.

 2.  NEW PARENT SCHEDULE REPORTS

 On the Reports section on Manage page, you’ll find several new report options under the header “Appointment Summary Report”.  You can now get a list of all appointments for any parent (based on their email address). We had multiple requests for this to help schools quickly find the appointment schedule for parents.

3. ALPHABETICAL LIST OF APPOINTMENTS.

 Under Reports section on Manage page, there is now an option “List appointments alphabetically by last name“.

 4. QUICK LIST OF ALL CONFERENCES AND LOCATIONS

 Also on Manage, a list of all the conferences at a school and locations. This was requested so staff could quickly direct parents to their appointments.

 Like many of our past upgrades, these changes were designed and implemented in response to feedback from you, the users.  Please keep that feedback coming–let us know how the system can be made most useful for you!

 PTCFast.com

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Upgrade Plans for Summer 2012

We are just wrapping up our largest conference season to date, having experienced very rapid growth in usage over the previous year.   PTCFast has now made well over 160,000 parent-teacher appointments!

User feedback was very encouraging on some of the “power user” features added last year, especially tools to speed things up for repeat users who–at the beginning of a new semester–wish to update a large number of their prior conferences at the same time without having to re-enter information that they previously entered about teachers, conference settings, and so forth (as described in our FAQ item).

However, it has become apparent that some users never discovered these powerful features that might have saved them a lot of time.  This summer, in addition to making a few modest feature upgrades, we will be upgrading the online help provided to new users to help make sure multi-conference organizers do not overlook opportunities to speed up their work.

As always, we are continually improving the system in response to feedback from users–so please keep the comments and suggestions coming!

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Important Upgrade for Regular Users in Spring 2012

Many of our users use the system once or twice a year to set up a large number of conferences, most of which they wish to set up quite similarly each time (same teachers, same preferences).  Following up on a suggestion sent to us in October 2011 by administrative user Tony in New Jersey, we have just introduced a new tool that we believe will make it much easier for these power users to get a new slate of conferences set up.

Suppose you organized 20 conferences last semester and now wish to run conferences for mostly for the same teachers this semester. On Manage Conference you will find a new link to “Set up next semester of conferences using last semester as a template (to save time)” which takes you to a page which includes a tool called “Copy Schedule from One Conference to Others”. This will copy a Time Block Schedule from one conference to multiple others. Here’s how you use it: First, select one of your old conferences to serve as a schedule template. Go to the Time Blocks page for this conference. If there are old appointments, you’ll need to use “Delete All Appointments” to wipe them out. Then create the schedule you want for the new semester. Now you’re ready to go to the Manage Conferences page and click on the “Set up next semester of conferences using last semester as a template” link. You will be asked which conference you want to copy the schedule from: choose the template conference you edited. Next, you will be asked which conferences you want to copy the template schedule to: click on all 20 of your old conferences. Presto! Your conferences now have the new schedules–but all the old option selections (teacher emails, notification settings, etc.) just as they were last semester.

Most of our upgrades respond to user suggestions–as this one does–so please keep sending us your ideas for how we can provide enhanced convenience for you!

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Upgrade for Fall 2011

Greetings to PTCFast.com Users!

We have just installed a significant upgrade to PTCFast.com. The main focus is on helping those school administrators who organize many conferences at a single school. Here are some highlights of the additional features you will be seeing:

Faster Creation of Additional Conferences. When you create a new conference within an account, if you pick another conference to use as a template, it will ask seven short questions and copy all the rest of the information (not just Time Blocks) into the new conference. You’ve told us that most of the time, these seven items are all that need to be changed from one conference to another.

Batch Launching. In the past, administrators had to launch one conference at a time. Now, from the Manage page you can launch all of your conferences with a single click.

Overlapping Appointment Times. If your school needs to have multiple appointments at the same time, for example if you have “Team” conferences, who you can now create “overlapping” time blocks. For example, if there are three teachers per team, they can set up three sets of openings for each time.

Reduced Email Volume. We will now consolidate administrators’ Signup Reports rather than a separate email for each conference. Similarly, parents making several appointments will now receive a single email with their schedule instead of one email per appointment.

Breaks between Conferences. You can now specify gaps between appointments, for example, 15 minute appointments with 5 minutes between appointments.

Parents View of Appointments. When parents set up multiple appointments (whether for the same or different children) they see them all on their signup page (on the lefthand side of their screen) so they can see their schedule at a glance.

There are other improvements as well. As always, please keep in touch with your suggestions, and do let us know about your experiences with the system. We can be reached at suggestions@ptcfast.com and support@ptcfast.com.
Ed and Mike, founders

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