The mission of Mercy Learning Center (MLC) is to provide basic literacy and life skills training to low-income women using a holistic approach within a compassionate, supportive environment.
MLC addresses individual student needs with a wide variety of learning environments which are rigorously monitored to maintain high efficiency and efficacy standards. The data management challenge is accomplished using a lightly modified instance of Salesforce.com provided at no cost by the Salesforce Foundation.
MLC staff and volunteers are dedicated to helping participants. They often juggle multiple competing responsibilities. Wherever possible support systems are designed to automate routine and mundane activities to provide staff and volunteers more time to directly support program participants.
A key ingredient for student success and an important reporting metric is class attendance. On any given weekday several hundred students gather in dozens of learning teams led by both professional instructors and volunteer tutors. Prior to CodeREADr, each learning team completed an attendance sheet (on paper) and submitted it to the office manager to be entered into a collection of spreadsheets stored on shared network drives. Data entry is a mundane task and delays entering data sometimes resulted in delays following up with students who had missed one or more classes.
In June of 2019, MLC began searching for a way to reduce the number of staff hours consumed by attendance tracking.
In September 2019, MLC deployed devices running CodeREADr software in its lobby and added QR codes to student ID cards. The QR code used for this application is a unique id assigned to each student by the LACES system which is operated by the state of CT which is integrated with Salesforce using CSV files uploaded in batches. The CSVs contain testing results and other relevant metrics that pertain to programs overseen by the state.
As students enter the building they scan ‘IN’ and as they leave they then scan ‘OUT’. Scan data is relayed from the CodeREADr app to Salesforce in near real-time. Each scan record is evaluated and mapped to appropriate student attendance records in SalesForce. Integration of CodeREADr and Salesforce was necessary because actual class hours can only be calculated by knowing what class(es) a student is enrolled in, when the student arrives, and when the class is scheduled to start. Neither system had the necessary visibility to do the whole job alone.
Both CodeREADr and Salesforce offer multiple integration options. MLC chose a webhook approach which is the simplest and easiest to implement (code samples available). Each scan results in a request with scan data encoded as parameters. Using the Salesforce “Sites” feature MLC exposes an endpoint for CodeREADr to relay data.
Using CodeREADr to automate attendance tracking saves MLC staff a ton of data entry time and improves their ability to follow up with absent students in near real-time. Providing encouragement and assistance when participants are experiencing difficulty is often pivotal to the success of the participant.
MLC uses attendance and testing data to satisfy reporting requirements for existing funding sources and to attract additional funding from foundations and individual donors.
Demonstrating the ability to use automation to improve organizational efficacy is increasingly important for NPOs when seeking funding to support growth necessary to meet needs in their community.
There is also an unexpected peripheral benefit of implementing MLC’s attendance tracking system. In March of 2020, COVID shook the very foundation of MLC’s in-person service model. The time invested to build the basic structure of attendance tracking onto our SalesForce data model allowed us to rapidly pivot into an online learning model and temporarily switch from using in-person CodeREADr scans to an email/web form front-end for attendance tracking that tutors and instructors complete remotely during online classes.
Everyone looks forward to the day when we return to our in-person learning model and we deeply appreciate the flexibility that the integration of CodeREADr and Salesforce has provided.
I work primarily as an advisor/developer with not-for-profits using Salesforce. Implementing fit-4-purpose salesforce customizations to support integrations and/or organizational specific requirements is both interesting and rewarding especially when my work helps the NPO expand services to people in need.
It is a pleasure working with CodeREADr. The CodeREADr service is well documented and the CodeREADr support staff is knowledgeable and friendly. I was able to stand up the basic “Hello World” integration with CodeREADr in a matter of minutes using some code that I previously developed for another webhook integration in Salesforce.
The bulk of my time on this project was spent developing the business logic needed to meet MLCs reporting requirements… not futzing with the integration with CodeREADr.
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