Workflow Solutions in Education

Intro | Define the Problem

Any complex organization will feature many processes of branched decision making. Substitute requests, vacation leaves, textbook assignments, payroll changes, are all common examples of process we face in education. As much as possible, we’d like to automate these processes in order to create efficiencies and simplicity.

Also, we’re nerds and like to tinker. Any solution we use has to be open-source.

This session will feature a framework for creating workflow solutions using open source applications. Note that while these applications are open, they do cost a bit of money.

What’s needed

A web server running WordPress. WordPress is the kitchen sink of the web running many a website. This session doesn’t cover how to setup and run a WordPress site, but there are thousand of tutorials that detail how a school can implement WordPress as a content management system. If you’d like to tinker with a simple WordPress install, I recommend Digital Ocean or Cloudways.

As a quick primer, WordPress consists of the following:

  1. Core WordPress files. The guts.
  2. Themes. Themes dictate how your website looks and appears.
  3. Plugins. Mini-applications that run on WordPress.

For this demonstration, we’re using two critical plugins:

  1. GravityForms. This plugin creates forms in WordPress. Think of it as Google Forms on steroids.
  2. GravityFlow. This plugin controls the “flow” of form information and allows users to provide inputs to the workflow.

While not critical to this session, I always recommend a WordPress install have a few additional plugins.

  1. Some type of backup plugin. I’m a big fan of UpDraft as it’s free and can backup to your Google Drive.
  2. Login with Google plugin. If you’re a Google Apps district, this allows your staff to login with their GAFE credentials (and you don’t need to maintain separate user accounts).

Sample Costs

  • WordPress = Free
  • WordPress Hosting = $15-$20 a month (but can vary)
  • GravityForms = $39
  • GravityFlow = $97

Example Scenario

In this scenario I’m going to create a leave request WorkFlow. The objective:

  1. Teacher logs into our WordPress site use their Google Suite for Education Credentials
  2. The complete a form requesting leave.
  3. Once completed, the form follows a sequence of approvers. After final approval, teacher is notified that leave is approved or rejected.

Teacher’s Perspective

Approver’s Perspective

Forms and form approvals can all be done via the website. However, we’ve configured approvals and rejections to be activated via a person’s email.

For example, if a principal needs to approve a leave, they don’t necessarily need to login to a website to approve. They may click “approve” in the email.

All entries and data can be exported as a CSV or accessed via the backend of WordPress.

Resources

GravityFlow has a number of screencasts on how you can create various workflows. Additional resources are as follows:


About the author Zach Vander Veen More information on the author

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