TESL Saskatchewan is a major accrediting body in the province of Saskatchewan for the work of teaching English. They’re a fun, industrious, and passionate group of people who are determined to help newcomers transition into Canadian life and the English-speaking workforce with as few roadbumps as possible.
As a small administrative team with hundreds of members to serve, they process a never-ending torrent of paperwork — event registrations, membership renewals, accreditation applications, professional development logs, and more — swirling in like a blizzard of owls by email, phone, snail mail, even fax.
With just a few months to go before their major member conference, they reached out to discuss a way to streamline all of this. I was glad to get to work with them to make their work processes easier to manage, and enjoyed the chance to attend their member conference and showcase the new system to their membership and board.
Clean, intuitive design
We rebuilt the frontend website on a custom platform built for speed and scalability. Though everything “under the hood” is completely new, we were careful to retain visible and functional similarity to the old website so that longtime users wouldn’t find themselves lost or frustrated by sudden change.
Previously, the TESL Sask team had used personal email accounts to run the organization. But this was proving insufficient amongst all the strides they have been making as an organization. I migrated their inboxes onto G Suite for Nonprofits to give them maximum control over the provisioning of teslsask.com accounts, and so they could work with public-facing email addresses that match the professionalism of their operation.
Flexible, custom forms
The website’s admin controls include a custom form builder which allows admins to create forms in minutes. Forms are audience-controlled so that admins can determine if a form should be visible to the public, to verified members, or both. This form builder vanquishes the paperwork blizzard, allowing the TESL Sask team to capture exactly the types of information they need, without having to squash their workflows into a pre-existing mould.
In addition, we built in some custom form behaviours, allowing them to do things like conduct board seat elections and member polls through the same system. And when the results are in, admins can download the full contents of form entries.
A foundation for greater member interaction
By means of many conversations about the workflows and needs of their members, we created a set of member features which alleviate admin workload and allow members to handle the bulk of their own administration. These initial tools form a foundation we can build upon as TESL Sask’s membership grows and changes over time.
Professional development logs are required when teachers submit accreditation applications. In the past, members had to keep their own log records, often in the form of a spreadsheet or Word document, and kept a folder of supporting documents, such as receipts, event tickets, and certificates. And then they would have to send a combination of emails, faxes, and snail mail to get all their documentation into the TESL Sask office.
To simplify this application process, we created a tool to allow teachers to create their logs and to upload supporting documents right within their member accounts. Logs are then submitted automatically with accreditation applications, which allows members to get their applications in quickly, and allows admins to see everything associated with an application in a single glance.
The TESL Sask team labours to encourage continuing education for the membership by offering curated resources and learning opportunities. WIth the website’s audience controls, admins can mark posts as “members only” to make those resources accessible only within the website’s members area.
One of TESL Sask’s representative functions is to connect the English-teaching community together. Because Saskatchewan is such a geographically dispersed place, teachers can sometimes feel isolated if they are teaching in some remote corner of the province. One of the member connection tools built into the members area is a searchable list of members, allowing them to see where and at what accreditation level their fellow teachers are working.
Account status and information
The website’s members area is an authoritative place to find one’s member information, such as membership renewal dates, member number, payment history, etc. Since membership renewal takes place within the members area, members are alerted when their membership is nearing expiry.
One of TESL Sask’s services to the public and the broader teaching community is to offer a list of employment opportunities in the province. Jobs can be submitted by members for admins to review before posting to the public.