Compare Systems as a Parent


The biggest issue to consider though, is the type of scheduling method, not the technology used to support it. Batch processing or book specific times?

Parent Login Simplicity
Some systems require parents to enter their child’s name, school name, email address or postcode to login. EdvalPTN uses a secure, single booking code login for all users. Simple!

Parent Submission Simplicity
EdvalPTN only requires parents nominated their availability, and the teachers they “want” to see. Submission is done via a clever web interface that is simpler than ‘drop-downs’ or other methods used in other PTN systems. Schedule negotiation is also NOT required with EdvalPTN, which significantly aids submission simplicity. Paper forms are also an option for EdvalPTN

Parent schedule negotiation
Other systems require parents determine best interview times with their own time availability, and that of several other criteria, other teachers and availability.

EdvalPTN’s batch process means schedule negotiation is NOT required as times can be automatically allocated in accordance to parent preferences. This makes submissions much faster and easier. This approach also greatly increases the parent schedule time satisfaction for all, and does not bias early parent submissions.

Automated interview time allocation
A secondary form of automated scheduling is immediate mode, which is done after the majority of parents have submitted their preferences and a schedule has been published. Late parents can login and be granted interview times instantly, and fully automatically. Times allocated are always highly compact and within the parent’s time availability specified, and preferred start time preferences.

Paper form submission
Most online PTN systems can’t work with paper forms as a fallback submission method, as they require schedule negotiation with booked times. EdvalPTN readily allows paper submissions as parents ‘request’ interviews with teachers they want to see, and advise availability – meaning paper submission is fully supported for parents who have no internet access or are not comfortable using the web.

Phone submission
Some parents have limited web access, or are less comfortable working online. Most PTN systems do not work well if parents phone the school as there is schedule negotiation required and this causes quite some congestion as several parents try to call and negotiate at one time. EdvalPTN requires no such negotiation, so parents need only nominate preferences and each call takes less than two minutes on average in batch mode, which is the vast majority of the time. If the event has been published, EdvalPTN allows the school to grant all the actual interview times instantly and automatically, so again any calls are much faster.

Parent schedule changes
Most systems prevent parents changing interview times after submission. EdvalPTN’s allows parents to change their times anytime as permitted by the school, and uses a powerful and simple interface for parent schedule changes, showing all their children together, with single click interview time changes. Often parents find their availability changes close to the start of the event, so need to manage this.

EdvalPTN allows parents to easily cancel interviews very close to, or even during the event if permitted, allowing vacated slots to be booked into by parents who missed out on a busy teacher, or who were late submitting. This also increases the accuracy of parent no-show information.

Parent preferred start time
Systems which require schedule negotiation can’t support this. EdvalPTN supports parent preferred start time which greatly increases parent schedule time satisfaction. On average over a large number of events processed by the system, parents will often be scheduled to start interviews within “ten minutes” of their nominated preferred start time, which helps manage busy lives, and encourages parental attendance.

Parent available times
Systems which require schedule time negotiation can’t manage parental availability. EdvalPTN uses this information very well. Organisers can instantly see parent options, if teacher availability changes at late notice – and often event parameters can be based on available times. EdvalPTN users often report they modify event start times due to visibility on these options (E.g. start or finish events hours earlier)

Parent travel time
Systems requiring schedule time negotiation can’t optimise parent movement between interviews, which may be held in two or three separate buildings, or even in a dozen or more classrooms. EdvalPTN greatly reduces parent movement to ensure parents have more interviews in one place before moving. This reduces confusion and speeds change. Traditional “faculty based” teacher groups force parents to move for each new interview, where EdvalPTN’s “staff grouper” feature optimises groups, to maximise parents having multiple sequential interviews in one group or room, before moving on to the next.

Non-Custodial parents
Most systems don’t support this. EdvalPTN directly supports and encourages attendance of non-custodial parents in many ways, including allowing NC parents to book independently, providing staff visibility of NC bookings, managing time-separation in interview schedules for separated parents where needed.

Parent schedule format
Not all systems provide the same level of schedule format and flexibility. EdvalPTN parent schedules include assigned times, all teacher times, room codes, space for parent comments etc. Schedules can be printed online, offline or using customised mail / email-merge templates

Available teachers & subjects
Not all systems show contextually sensitive lists, and instead require parents to book teachers from a list of all teachers at the event or even the school. Parents do not always know who their child’s teachers are, and their children sometimes refuse to tell them. This may discourage interview selection or parental attendance. EdvalPTN shows exactly which teacher is associated with which child in their family, and which subject. This is even with split classes or non-custodial parents with step children etc. Additionally, not all systems allow parents to book interviews with those who are not assigned to teach their child in a class, such as a year coordinator. EdvalPTN allows parents the ability to request additional interviews such as co-curricular staff etc.

Very short parent schedules
Most PTN systems provide inefficient parent schedules, which are strongly biased towards parents, based on who submits before who. Systems which allocate or allow sequential allocation of interviews to parents, or where parents have manual control means parent schedules are often inefficient, or discourage a lot of interviews as latter submitting parents see how long they have to wait to fit in their requests. (This discouragement based on time waste is not readily seen by these systems where EdvalPTN captures all these requests without the distraction or discouragement of time availability)

The majority of EdvalPTN parent schedules processed over many schools show an AVERAGE parent time waste of less than two interview slots per child, meaning extremely efficient schedules and much happier parents than other systems. This surprisingly low time waste is also coupled with a dramatic increase in the number of interviews granted under EdvalPTN compared to other methods.

Parent Interview Priorities
Only batch based schedule systems like EdvalPTN manage parent interview priority, ensuring equal access of all teachers to all parents, based on the level of interest. This ensures parents never complain much of not being able to see teachers, as they must always get to see their top priority interviews, regardless of demand.

This is in stark contrast from manual or negotiated schedule PTN systems, where high demand teachers become quickly booked out by early bird parents, with many of these booking them without this busy teacher being one of their high priority requests. Parent priority based booking greatly enhances the quality of the interviews as it prioritises based on needs, while (also) slightly dampening demand where the parent interest is very low and there are limited interview slots being offered.

PTN Interview map
Not all PTN systems provide online maps to facilitate attendance (especially from non-custodial parents who may be unfamiliar with the school). Google map integration allows full direction from out-of-towners, as well as the ability to mark up the school aerial photograph with parent parking, directions and overlay information about exactly which buildings are where in the parent teacher interview event. Increasing the accessibility of this information encourages parental attendance, and ensures parents are less likely to be late or confused on arrival.

Additional teacher support
Some PTN systems allow parents to solely book the specific teachers who teach their child. Failure to correctly list all interview options, or data errors in class lists can render the parent unable to request interviews fully in these cases. The ability of the system to allow parents to place bookings outside the rigid constraints of solely the listed class list options for their child is important. It allows the parent to workaround data anomalies in the class list data, which is not uncommon and is not something that paper booking systems have a problem with as the teachers are directly involved here.

The ability to request and book additional teachers also allow parents the ability to see special support teachers who may not have a class code or list so do not ‘appear’ to the system as being an interview option. Other additional teachers may be year coordinator, or co-curricular teachers like ‘Dance’ or careers advisors which do not generally have a class list and so do not appear in the booking system unless explicitly set up by the school first – unless the system support parent control on requesting additional interviews. 

Interview request volume
Systems using the “Book specific times” scheduling method have a significant reduction in the interview request volume, due to two reasons. First, there is additional effort involved in having to determine the best times and place bookings, which means parents book less.

Secondly and more importantly, the sequential allocation nature of this method means early submitting parents can easily book all their requested teachers, but those who login mid way through the event find that many the good interview times have already been taken. This means that they can book all their requested teachers, but it is likely to involve a long schedule duration with a lot of wasted time. These parents find they are far more likely to decide not to book their less preferred interviews as they are discouraged by the total duration of their schedule that would be required to see them all. This passive discouragement of interviews due to time waste, and additional effort to place bookings around already booked schedule for some teachers causes a significant reduction in the level of interviews booked by parents. The book specific times system does not capture this level of missed interviews, so is not seen to the event administrator.

A batch processed interview system captures the parent preferences and has no in-built psychological discouragement of requests due to time-waste, booking complexity, or event the outright failure to book interviews due to their being no slots remaining at all. As a result, the batch processed interview method has significantly higher parent interview request volumes, so much so that it is often double or more the existing levels. It is worth noting that the significant additional interview volume in batch processed systems is in fact so much a ‘problem’ that these systems need ways to throttle interview demand. EdvalPTN has a variety of features to support demand throttling for this reason, such as parameters to cap the initial interview allocation per child, caps on parent total schedule duration, and other options – including indirect means of managing demand through event parameters. The issue of massive additional interview request volume is often viewed as a very good thing for schools, but due to staff workloads and other resources, the throttling and management of the huge demand brings new challenges and difficulties. There is a large section in the EdvalPTN user manual relating specifically to managing this issue. One example is some schools have found union involvement due to the huge unexpected increase in workload for staff who are unpaid for their attendance at PTN events – if the school does not sufficiently accept the strong advice by EdvalPTN consultants and features in the software to correctly throttle demand.

The ability of parents to book interviews electronically has a natural increase in request volume over paper systems as students are removed from the equation, and it allows overall schedule consideration rather than on an  individual teacher by teacher basis. The difference from book specific times to a batch scheduled approach like EdvalPTN is however a far more significant increase in the volume of interviews requested and/or subsequently granted.

Throttling of demand is also related to interview quality, and parents are likely to request more in many cases, even though they may not necessarily want to see all the teachers they have requested or actively booked. This is why throttling demand is important – for example parents who submit early may book a teacher who they only vaguely want to see, as part of their overall schedule. A parent who logs in later may find a teacher they really need to see is already booked out, due to the fact some parents have requested to see this teacher for no strong reason other than it is very easy to do so. Batch processing more fairly distributes interviews to those who want them, which is a form of demand management which can’t be done in a system which does not batch allocate interviews.

Simply being shown all the options to parents in one screen means there are always some parents who feel ‘obliged’ to request or book interviews with all of the teachers listed, or they may feel that this is the done thing. This is another reason for an increase in request volume. Under a paper system the parent may have previously instructed the child to book fewer interviews, as there is a natural booking time and effort cost in each, which is a natural form of demand throttling. Electronic systems make it too easy for parents to book interviews unnecessarily as it encourages and facilitates this, to the detriment of other parents who really wanted interviews with teaches who are now booked out as a result. Book specific time systems have no effective way to throttle parent interview request volume, unlike batch systems.