Product Update: Reference Letter Writing, Reporting and Tracking Student Decisions

At BridgeU we spend hundreds of hours talking to customers and students building relationships.

The value of those personal interactions helps shape our product roadmap, so we stay focused on improving BridgeU in the right way for advisors and students.

Between January and April this year, we made continuous improvements based on feedback we’ve had from you.

Extensive user testing from schools exposed issues around ease of use, whilst other feedback revealed aspects of the BridgeU platform lacked the functionality to really transform the lives of our counselors and advisors. Our goal is to create one platform where the entire guidance process lives to help advisors control and manage all of their tasks efficiently and students can conduct all of their research.

This product update covers the main enhancements we’ve made to BridgeU between January and April, they include:

  • Reporting & Analytics
  • Matriculations reporting & destinations capture / application outcomes
  • Reference letter writing
  • Single sign-on
  • Driving usage of bridgeU & sharing best practice

Reporting & analytics

Counselors and advisors told us they wanted to produce informative reports and analysis to learn from past admissions performance and to inform guidance strategy.

In December, we released an early version of our reporting tool.

This year we’ve focused on improving features to give schools a way to visualise historical applications, student success and test scores and student success by academic year.

You can also now import and display data for historical and current students across a range of criteria. And if your school is transitioning from Naviance, you’ll also enjoy the workflow we have designed enabling you to import data from Naviance into BridgeU, meaning schools can continue to report and analyse performance year-on-year without losing data.

You can also represent data visually on BridgeU. A scatter graph is a graph that shows the relationship between two sets of data by plotting dots on the graph. Our scatter graphs show the grade profile for applicants and indicate (via a color code) whether those applicants were successful in gaining admission to a certain university or a group of universities. The visuals are intended to guide advisors and give a sense of the academic profile that a student, on average, needs to gain acceptance to or an offer from their university of choice.

Reporting & analytics will help you show how your individual students, classes, year groups, and school groups are progressing through the university preparation and application process.

With BridgeU you can now show how students’ results, academic and pastoral profiles, and university application decisions have progressed over years. 

We understand that your ability to learn from your data also affects the way you might approach a new cohort of students, and so the reporting function which you can access via BridgeU, combined with personal insights and experience, will give you the confidence to make data-led decisions that inform your school’s guidance process.

This rich data will help you create detailed reports for senior leaders and other stakeholders, such as parents or governing boards.

Application Outcomes

We know that it’s critical for schools to track and report on student outcomes. This process has traditionally been a manual, labour-intensive process, occupying a lot of staff time.

To improve the process, we wanted to give students a place where they can report on university results and advisors can assign this a key task for students before they graduate. On BridgeU, it’s now much easier for students to fill in their final application & results data, and we can prompt them through in-app notifications and tasks.

Tracking student success and matriculation data is part of the ‘Applications’ section within the advisor interface and covers a student’s offers, decisions, and where that student eventually ends up studying.

Reference Letter Writing

Following extensive user testing from schools who had been using the reference letter tool for some time we identified three main issues that were causing inefficiencies in the management and tracking process.

  1. The process of assigning report writers was repetitive and time consuming at large scale.
  2. Report writers only had a one-time use link to write their reports.
  3. Advisors didn’t have a simple way to check on progress of specific reference letters or report writers.

Building a smooth and efficient process around reference writing is critical in order for careers advisors and university counselors to maintain control of the guidance process, of which teachers are an important part! Many of our counselors and advisors tell us that coordinating teacher subject references and letters of recommendation is a painful and time-inefficient experience, describing a process that involves a great deal of back-and-forth, multiple drafts, and allround poor collaboration.

For international university applications, the process becomes even more complicated, as it requires managing different deadlines, documents and formats for each reference. Staff members writing student references need to access summarised information on a student’s academic and personal history, and those coordinating the process need to collaborate with and track the progress of report writers.

We’ve improved our reference writing process to create as smooth and efficient a tool as possible for the administration, writing, tracking and completion of reference letters.

Your school may already be using the new process as you compile reference letters for the next cohort of applicants. Previously, assigning report writers for students was time-consuming and repetitive, and writers could not go back and edit their sections. Moreover, advisors needed to be able to see who they’d previously invited to write sections, and to track their progress. The new reference letter tool addresses all these issues.

You can now have two different types of staff in a school: Advisors, who have full access to the platform, and Report Writers, who only have access to the Reference Letters tool. Staff can be both Advisors and Report Writers. Report Writers can’t look at other elements on the platform, such as Strategy Advisor or Student Tasks; their experience of BridgeU is completely centred around writing the reports that have been requested.

Using reference letters

Access via ‘reference letters’ in the main navigation.

We’ve introduced a new role ‘Report Writer’ so you can now have two types of staff, ‘Advisors’ who will be listed as both ‘Advisor’ and ‘Report Writer’ and staff who only have access to the report writing tool. These teachers won’t have access to everything in BridgeU and will only be able to write the subject reports that have been requested from them.

To create a new ‘Report Writer’ select ‘Staff’ in the left hand side menu and ‘Appoint a staff member’ from the top right hand side of the application.

Complete the form and select the checkbox labeled ‘Only has access to Reference Letter Report Writing’. And ‘Appoint New Staff Member’.

We can also create new staff members through our onboarding spreadsheet which has a new column where counselors can specify whether a user is an Advisor or Report Writer.

To view your dashboard choose ‘Reference Letters’ from the left handmade menu. This will provide an overview of all of the reference letters for students.

The student section shows you how many reports are pending or submitted for each student.

Under the Report Writers sections you can see which report writers have been assigned to their students and see the status of each report that has been requested.

Advisors can see the number of students assigned just to you by selecting the Filters’ button directly beneath the ‘Reference letters’ tab. By default all students are shown.

To assign a Report Writer to a student, click on ‘View reference letter’ for the student. In the report writing section on the right hand side. Assign a new writer by selecting ‘Manage Report Writers’ at the top of the screen and select the Report Writer from the drop down menu.

Single Sign-on

As part of our partnership with ManageBac, we launched single sign-on for partner schools using both ManageBac and BridgeU. This saves time by enabling students and advisors to log-in with the same account to both platforms, and the integration syncs avatars and graduation years across both platforms.

And a few more…

In order to help counselors and advisors navigate through their list of students more quickly, we’ve added a button that allows advisors to ‘Jump to’ a particular section on their student list.

In order to continue to streamline the university and careers guidance process, it’s important that your students can explore and access as much information as possible while they’re using BridgeU. Students can now learn about courses and universities on the Course Match page, which includes a course summary, module information, student survey overall satisfaction rates, and department/faculty details, which will also help to guide their independent research.

We’ve added in links to Oxbridge Colleges to make independent research easier.

Working together to build the future of guidance

Behind the scenes, we’ve been working hard to better understand how students and advisors are using BridgeU. This enables us to understand what our schools and students care about the most and similarly, how we can improve BridgeU on an ongoing basis.

As part of that continued work we assembled a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) represented by leading and forward thinking university advisors representing schools from 3 continents to allow us to learn from, test ideas and build closer relationships with our partner schools.

We recently completed our first round of meetings and workshops with the Asia Europe and Middle East customer advisory boards to discuss several key topics, ideas and ways of further improving the BridgeU experience.

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