Note: These release notes follow our normal format of presenting new features first, followed by updates, and concluding with changes to modules. Normally, this format is the best way to put the most important things up front. This build is a little different from our previous builds because it features significant changes to the Service Learning Module (SLM). If your site uses SLM, you may want to skip down to the Service Learning Module section of these notes. Updates outside of the SLM are covered in Updates for All Sites.

Version 2.12 Advance Release Date: December 4, 2017

Public Release: February 5, 2018

Click below or scroll down to learn about the newest enhancements to your Connect site.

Note: These updates do not apply to the Legacy (1.0) version of Get Connected.

New Features for All Sites

The following features have been added to all Connect platform sites.

Scheduling Features

New updates allow site managers to coordinate volunteers more easily and efficiently.The schedule that appears in Volunteerism > Responses now allows for a shift-based view. From this view, you can see how many volunteer slots are still open, and you can see which of your volunteers are available for open slots. In addition, you can message volunteers about available shifts or schedule volunteers as needed. You can go to Site Settings to turn this same feature on or off for agency managers. Click here to learn more about the new scheduling features.

Text Messaging

Volunteers can now validate their phone number, and you can text validated numbers. This is yet another way that you can reach out to and engage your volunteers. The feature requires that you purchase credits, but it otherwise works the same way as the email blast.

Volunteer Self Check-in

Volunteers will receive an email the morning of their shifts, and it will allow them to check in when they begin working. This increases access to the check in feature, but agency managers and site managers can still retain control over the status of hours. Click here to learn about self check-in for volunteers.

Expected graduation date

One of the most important pieces of information a site can capture about a student volunteer is when that student expects to graduate. Students can now mark the season and year of their expected graduation in their profiles, and they can update that information as needed. As a site manager, you can use the User Filter and Email Blast to search and email students by their expected graduation date.

User ability to filter needs by user group

Volunteers can now filter needs by user group.
This new feature is especially handy now that needs are can be assigned directly to user groups. If a user group does not have any needs assigned to it, it will not appear in the Search by drop down shown above.

User group import

If you want to create a large amount of user groups at once, you no longer have to create them one at a time. You can now create an import file using our template for user group templates. If you need to create user groups quickly for a Day of Caring or the start of a new semester, this method may be for you.

Updates for All Sites

The following features have been updated for all Connect sites.

Needs can be assigned directly to user groups

After a great deal of feedback about how user groups and initiatives could be improved, we have added the ability to assign a need directly to a user group. Previously, a user group and a need had to share an initiative. That is no longer the case. Needs can still be assigned to initiatives, but the privacy rules no longer flow through initiatives.

This feature is available on both the back-end and front-end need-posting forms; this means that both site managers and agency managers can assign needs to user groups.

For more information on how the rules for privacy, initiatives, and user groups have changed, click here

Agency managers can now make needs private

The front-end need-posting form, used by the agency manager (and, on SLM sites, some course instructors), now includes the option to mark a need public or private. (All needs are public by default.) Because they can both mark a need private and assign needs to user groups, agency managers can easily assign private needs to groups.

User imports accommodate user groups

User imports can now include a comma-separated list of user group IDs so that users can be imported into existing user groups. This feature will be most useful to colleges and universities who create semesters full of courses all at once.

User groups appear in more places

User groups are increasingly useful with this build, so user group information has been added to a number of tables including the site manager's tables of responses and hours tables and the agency manager's time-tracking table. User groups are also included as columns in the accompanying exports.

Gender options have been updated

A fourth option has been added to the user Gender field in the user profile to allow volunteers more flexibility in their answers. 

Service Learning Module

Clients with the Service Learning Module now have new suite of tools to help coordinate students' service. The existing SLM module, which will now be called Legacy SLM, will continue to be accessible for site managers who wish to use it.

In the new SLM, processes are no longer isolated in a separate area of the site, with its own needs, agencies, and ways of doing things. Instead, the new SLM uses standard needs that can be assigned to specialized user groups called SLM user groups. An SLM user group is essentially a course, and each SLM user group can have one or more leaders (the professor or instructor), who can manage the volunteer activity and data for the course.

Also in the new SLM, features such as shifts, cross-platform sharing, and more are now available.

The SLM still has four primary roles: site manager, agency manager, instructor, and student. As you will see below, each role has more capabilities and better-streamlined processes than before. For more details on the various roles and their capabilities, see the article Service Learning on Your Connect Platform.

You'll find links to other articles in the descriptions below. For more details on how these can be set up, continue reading and refer to specific articles as necessary.

Service-learning needs are standard needs

The SLM now uses standard needs that are posted in the standard need-posting areas for agency managers and site managers. This means:

  • There is no longer a unique area for posting and managing service-learning needs. Apart from connecting the needs to SLM user groups (courses), there is little to no special set up required for service-learning needs.
  • Service-learning needs have all of the features of standard needs. They can now have shifts, appear on the map, get assigned to initiatives--and basically do anything standard needs can do.

Click here to learn more about adding a need to a course. This article for agency managers shows all of the fields and types of data that can be included for each need posted.

Service-learning needs and agencies work across domains

Many SLM clients are associated with a local "hub" site used by the agencies in their community. The new features are designed to take advantage of standard needs, which move between domains with ease. Connected sites no longer have to ask their agencies to register on each site, since "hub" agencies can now have their service-learning needs appear on the university site. Agency managers can even control privacy options to make sure that only students see them.

SLM user groups act as courses

An SLM user group is a special type of user group that has features unavailable to standard user groups. For example, SLM user groups have leaders who can manage the user group, approve or deny submitted student hours, add needs, view group statistics, and more. In addition, SLM user groups can be assigned to blocks, can have specific end dates, can have volunteer-hour goals for each student, and can have reflection questions for students to answer when submitting hours.

Click here to learn how to set up an SLM course.

Blocks are still the organizing mechanism for courses (SLM user groups)

Like Legacy SLM, the new SLM uses blocks to separate academic periods. Once you've created a block, you can begin adding SLM user groups (courses) to the block. When viewing service activity, both instructors and students can select a block and then view data for the user groups they are associated with from that block.

Click here to learn more about how blocks are used in the new SLM. 

Leader portal for professors, instructors, and course assistants

Professors, instructors, and course assistants can be designated as user group leaders. User group leaders can access an environment where they can see details of their user groups, including the user group members, responses, hours, and assigned needs. Leaders can view data by "drilling down" or by seeing information for whole blocks at a glance. They can also create needs for agencies that have been assigned to them, create responses and hours for their students, and approve or decline hours.

The Leader's Guide to SLM is a series of articles for professors, instructors, course assistants, and others who will be managing an SLM user group (course).

Student portal for SLM user group members

Students can quickly access basic information about their hours for service-learning needs. Their SLM User Groups area, designed to be read easily on a mobile phone or tablet, displays charts showing progress and includes the ability to view, add, and edit volunteer hours.

The Student's Guide to SLM is a series of articles for students who are using the new SLM on your site.

Volunteer check-in adjustments

Because students need to submit reflections much of the time they are working with service-learning needs, the Agency Check-in area has been updated to show reflection questions as students check out.

Other Modules

No changes have been made to the Advanced Event Module (AEM) or the Disaster Response Module (DRM) with this release.