A lady set up a blog and on October 22nd, 2013 she published a post about her search for an on-line system. Since she had put so much time and effort into researching the available options she decided to compile the information into a blog post to help others in the same situation. I have kindly been sent copies of the blog, which was erased without the owners permission and sadly she didn’t have a back up.
With the owners permission I have recreated the blog post below (less the comments which will be blogged about separately) to help those comparing online systems. Please not the information was compiled in October 2013 and may be out of date. I have amended some of the information but can not guarantee it’s accuracy entirely.
“Posted on October 22, 2013 by Sarah — 61 Comments
Online learning journeys are becoming increasingly popular with childminders to help reduce the amount of time spent completing paperwork and promote partnership with parents. I started off with a paper-based system but am in the process of changing to an online system. There are several different options available but it can be difficult to find unbiased information, so I thought I would share my research and opinions to help any other childminders considering making the switch. I have full or trial access to all of the systems in this review and the information comes either from their websites or from emails answering my questions.
Cost: Free. The website is funded by paid advertising within the family section of the website. The evalution, tracking and reporting functions are only available once 50% of active children are linked to parents.
Features: Orbit allows practitioners to:
- Collect observations of each child
- Assess learning in line with the 2012 EYFS Framework
- Create a personalised album of each child’s experiences
- Evaluate children and track progress over time
- See “All About Me” information about each child and their family
- Receive postcards of each child’s at-home learning experiences.
Security: Orbit uses an extended validation certificate and data is stored remotely in Cloud servers. Their safeguarding information sheet explains that the app does not permanently store data on mobile devices, to ensure that there is no data protection issue if the device is lost or stolen. Orbit scored an overall rating of A in the independent Qualys Security Assessment, and the site uses most recent and secure TLS 1.2 protocol.
Usability: The site is extremely simple and easy to use. This means that practitioners can have the system up and running within a very short time. There is a comprehensive help section including video tutorials and a forum.
Apps: There is an app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, but there is no Android app available at the moment.
Positives: I liked the way that observations are saved first and you can then add an assessment linking it to Characteristics of Effective Learning, Development Matters or Early Learning Goals at a later time. This would be really useful for taking a photo or writing a quick note, without having to worry about filling in all the details there and then.
Negatives: Although parents can send “postcards” with photos and details about what the child has been doing at home, they cannot comment directly on the observations made by the practitioner so two-way communication is limited.
Summary: Perfect for easily creating and printing Learning Journeys, but has limited communication with parents when used as an online system.
Cost: Free. The website is funded by advertising.
Features: megaMinder provides both learning journals and other communication and administration tools, such as a noticeboard, policies, risk assessments, fire drill records, incident reports, medication records, outing permissions, questionnaires and invoicing. As well as daily diaries and observations, there are tools to complete initial assessments and 2 year assessments, and a milestones section to view achieved Development Matters statements in each area of learning.
Security: Data is stored on UK-based servers and backed up daily. There is a Privacy and Cookies Policy available to read on the website. megaMinder scored an overall rating of A in the independent Qualys Security Assessment, although the site uses the older TLS 1.0 protocol rather than the more secure TLS 1.2.
Usability: The website is fairly straightforward to use, although the number of features means that it takes longer to setup fully than a simple learning journey system. Parents must navigate to daily diaries and observations by date, although there is also a gallery for each. There is a support ticket system and a set of tutorial videos.
Apps: As a recently launched site, apps are not available at the moment.
Positives: The system allows for excellent two way interaction between parents and practitioners. Parents can accept policies, sign permissions, provide additional information and comment on daily diaries and observations.
Negatives: Currently there is no way to download or print learning journeys, although this will hopefully be implemented in the near future.
Summary: Lots of features and excellent partnership with parents.
2Build A Profile
Cost: £29 per year for a childminder.
Features: The system consists of an app to take photos, add a writen observations and select Development Matters statements. There is also a web management suite where you can setup classes and learners, download pupil portfolios as a PDF file, or view coverage and progress through areas of learning.
Security: There is general information about privacy, security and data protection available on the website. The 2Build A Profile web management suite scored an overall rating of F in the independent Qualys Security Assessment, due to using the obsolete and insecure SSL 2 protocol.
Usability: The app is straightforward to use and the website is simple, but rather basic and dated. There is a user guide and tutorial videos.
Apps: Available for both Apple and Android devices.
Positives: Covers the Welsh Foundation Phase, Scottish CfE Early Level and Australian EYLF as well as the EYFS.
Negatives: Next Steps and Characteristics of Learning have to be filled in manually. Does not include many features for a paid system. There is no built-in parental involvement unless you buy 2Engage Parents at a cost of £199 per year.
Summary: In my opinion, the features are rather basic considering this is a paid system. For some practitioners, this system will be “too simple”.
Cost: £36 annual subscription for childminders in one of the 40participating local authorities, with a full refund within the first month if you are not satisfied. Practitioners in other areas will need to purchase a £24 Foundation Stage Forum membership first.
Features: Learning journeys can include notes, photographs, videos, EYFS assessments and characteristics of learning. Parents can add their their own observations and both staff and parents can comment on observations in the child’s learning journey, which enables excellent two-way communication. Journals can be downloaded as PDF files.
Security: There was no easily available information about data privacy and security, so I had a quick look through the forums. It seems that the data is held on UK-based servers with regular backups. Mega Minder scored an overall rating of A in the independent Qualys Security Assessment, although the site uses the older TLS 1.0 protocol rather than the more secure TLS 1.2.
Usability: The website is well-designed and easy to navigate. Adding children, parents or relatives and observations is very simple. There is a support ticket system and a forum with tutorials.
Apps: There is an app for iPhone and iPad, with an Android app in the final stages of beta testing.
Positives: I particularly liked the analysis section. The overview shows statistics about all the children and observations, such as what percentage have been replied to by parents. You can also select individual or multiple children to analyse their progress and the thoroughness of observations. Tapestry also promotes excellent partnership with parents.
Negatives: Tapestry is not designed to do anything other than observations and learning journals.
Summary: Excellent for observations and partnership with parents, but may not be the right system for childminders looking for additional features.
Cost: This is the most expensive system, at £108.99 per year or £119.88 if you choose the monthly subscription option. You cannot cancel your subscription within the first 12 months. (Please note these costs are no longer accurate, it now costs £118 per year or £143.88 if you pay monthly. Both options have a £11.99 set up fee. It is unclear if you’re tired in for 6 months or 12 months as the information varies depending on which page on the website you look at.)
Features: However, it also has the most comprehensive features. Some childminders may find that they only want to use a few of the available features, whilst for others the system may completely replace any written paperwork. The list of features on the website includes: Policies, Permissions, Contracts, Diaries, Menus, Progress, 2 Year Progress Check, Statistics, Bookkeeping, Invoices, Expenses, Short Term and Medium Term Planning, Next Steps, Observations, Individual Learning Plans, Attendance Registers, Risk Assessments, Daily Check List, Fire Drills, Fire Plans, Occupancy Levels, Medical section incorporating Short and Long Term Medications, Accidents, incidents & Existing Injuries and Concerns, Temperatures, Photograph Galleries, Newsletters, QuickMessages, Audio clips, complete Parental Access allowing your parents to view their children’s data and photographs and more.
Security: The website provides lots of details about how the data is kept secure. Their servers are in the UK at a ISO 27001 certified data centre. Information about data backup and their data protection registration with ICO is also available.
***The link to the independent security assessment has been removed after I received a phonecall on my private mobile number threatening legal action if I did not remove the information within 1 hour. I received a further 20 missed calls within that hour and then a call on my home phone number, demanding that I remove all mention of the company and issue a public apology, which I refused to do.***
Usability: In my opinion, the layout is cluttered and confusing. The complexity of the system means that it can take a long time for practitioners to be confident in using it. I found the parents’ side of the website less engaging than some of the other systems. There is a support ticket system and help videos are available for each section of the site.
Apps: There is no app available at the moment. The site can be used on tablets but is fiddly on phones.
Positives: New features are added regularly. Some childminders may find the next steps, individual learning plans, short term plans and medium term plans useful.
Negatives: As far as I can tell, each area of learning has to be printed separately rather than in traditional learning journey style with chronological observations and photographs. Personally I prefer an informal scrapbook-style format with photos and notes to engage parents, rather than progress statistics and tables. Many users seem to have problems with emails being blocked or placed into junk/spam folders.
The Baby’s Days response is that the problem is due to the email providers, and that users should use Gmail and check their spam folder, but personally I don’t find that to be an acceptable solution.
Apparently there are also issues with certain browsers. I have designed a few websites and in my opinion it is the developer’s responsibility to test and ensure that their site is compatible with all major browsers, rather than suggesting that users are responsible for using a certain browser.
Summary: This system can replace almost all paperwork.”