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FinalSite -website upgrade notes

August 17, 2016

12/13/16 – almost ready to get going again.

I think we almost ready to get back in the saddle here.  The vendor has been added to the *purchasing list.  Interesting side note, another vendor that wanted to submit a bid for one of our districts decided they did not want to *hassle with getting on a state purchasing contract.  They must not have liked the notion of replying to an RFP or at least did not think the bus. side of things worth it.  Anyway, they are out and  Finalsite Academy and BlackBoard Schoolwires were both added to the bidding contract, but im about 95% certain that we are going with Finalsite.  My boss left the other day and made a passing comment to me to get ready for the FS contract.  Good!  A couple high level concepts before descending back into regular meeting and getting the project actually underway.

Migrate content

  • vendor will move some content,
  • our users will move some content

Training for Mike Smith and I, as administrators.  Training for our teachers – they is probably different from training for our content editors


  • admin
  • teachers
  • content editors

Teacher boards are the replacement to teacher pages.

Portals for private facing content.  Like our Intranet.  Portals will house all collaborative spaces.  Groups are the spaces and users will belong to groups.

10 to 1 – we will be *migrating 10 separate websites to 1 – conceptually speaking.

Current BB Schoolworld sites: WFL, Con. Ed, WTCC, FLTCC, NEC, MEC, WED, RJEC, FLEC, PTECH – these 10 sites into 1 maintains its autonomy- but also gets migrated to Finalsite.

Finalsite will set up two things for us

1 – Project management software – where things will be delivered

2 – a new space where we will build the site slowly  – until it is complete and then it will go live.  People will use it.  Then, a few months later, we will shut down the BB sites.  Since the names will be slightly different, we can do this.

I need to help S. Balshmitter with request around scheduling people for training events.  The current system allows users who are registering for things, to duplicate their accounts.  Need to help ensure this not happen.


Well, its now 9/26… and waiting

Our project in help up a bit with need to go to public offer for the purchasing of new website.  we are a state organization.  we answer to the tax payers.   ;), but I digress, before even starting.

The posts module is the *replacement of our teacher pages.  My customer is the teacher, in this instance.  Our teachers have used this concept of a *teacher page for many years.  There are probably 50 teachers from our two tech centers that use this software.  They come into it a couple – few times a year and update its content with information about their classes.  nothing new here.  Except, I should frame my discussion with people this way.  “The posts module is the new teacher page(s)”.  For the teachers who did use the *teacher pages software, we will migrate their content to the new space.  I think.  Although, asking them to move their content after showing them how, does have merit.

The Posts module should only be called the posts module by me and mike and the techies.  The teachers should call it their *teacher space.  We want the old users and the new users, teachers, to use their new *teacher space.  Frame it that way.

Yes, we want our tech center teachers to use the *teacher space to engage their audience, the students and parents.  That’s the ticket.  We support the teachers, they support the students and parents.

Check out this nice video Finalsite did on its Post module.

Then look at the nice video Finalsite did on its Learn space.  I agree with a main point raised at start of video that districts, people are not faced with not enough technology, but rather are inundated with too much.  Like when the state grants computers, laptops, Chromebooks to every student in the high school.  In principle a good idea, but reality is different.  Teachers need  leadership, direction, training and simplification.  They need more commonality between systems, more sharing and less silo-ing.  Teachers need tools that are easy-ish to use, allow them to share information without being burdened by the techi-ness of it.  I used to say to people when they ask me about IDEs or databases, I would say something like *I don’t really notice it, which is great, it just does its job.  The tool should not be in the way, it should not be a difficulty or a sticky point.  It should do its job quietly without fanfare.  In other words, teachers or admins should simply use it to help them in their sharing of information for there students, parents, whoever.  They should focus on what they want to share, how they want to share it, what they want to say, not focus on *how do I do this?  Did it work?  Am I doing it right?

These are lofty goals, I know.  I sound a little like the Utopian left, but I get it.

To bring it back in.  The Learn space is where my customers, teachers and admins across different schools and programs can set up shop and share and collaborate.  My customers are not really the students and parents, those are my customers customers….So, I want the teachers and admins to think of the website, and specifically the Learn spaces and teacher pages to be an ally,  a friend, a companion, someone when they think about elicits a *oh yea good response.

Meeting 8/30 with Mike and Shannon

Spend most of the time talking about the latest contract proposal from Finalsite.  We are trying to ensure that we

1) have everything we need

2) not getting things we don’t need

Seems simple enough.  We also want to ensure that we can do what we want 6 months later.  In other words, we cant really be expected to know everything we may need right out of the gate.  That is not realistic.  We want to ensure that we can add and remove things to the site after its creation.  Specifically, we have this need for private space on the site for groups to collaborate and share things.  The tools from the vendor are portals and spaces.  We spent a lot of time talking about our understanding of portals and spaces.  On a high level, a portal is a private facing entity or part of the web site.  Users authenticate or sign in to access the portal.  The portal has group spaces with groups assigned to the spaces.  Users accounts are added to groups.  So, A user logs into a portal and sees the group spaces that they are members of.  I’m pretty sure that’s correct.  We need to figure out

1 how many portals do we really need 

2 people signing into a portal only see the groups that they are members of

3 if we can add additional portals and group spaces.  

  • I think most likely yes to adding group spaces to a portal, but not so sure we can create new portals ourselves.

We also discussed the roll out/time-frame.  That we dictate that.  Shannon will take the contract to the big cheese who may share with his cheeses and then give us feedback.  At some point that feedback with be a launch date.  A go live date.  We need to ensure two things around that

1 – that we get to choose the amount of time, number of weeks we want from start to finish for this project, not the vendor

2 – when we sign the contract, the process starts – and we work toward that go live date.  The project will be managed by a FS provided project manager who will work with a point person, Shannon, ensuring project milestones are meet.  Mike and I ‘s job is to ensure Shannon has what she needs and understands what is going on during the project.

Leadership is helping others do their best!  Not insisting on your own way or a certain way, real leaders listen and empower others – help others see that you see.

and finally…we mentioned three other vendor solutions for tasks

1 – MyLearning plan – (registration software) which is championed by Staff Development in our org.

2 – QCenter – Event – conference room management software

3 – BBConnect – Notifications software.

Each of these software programs is championed by people or departments in our organization.  While there are features or modules or portals that would do something similar, we would not at this point look to replace that functionality – those tasks performed by the software.  That would become a political hot potato.  Ya know what I mean?

Meeting on 8/22 with vendor – shannon and mike

Meeting was to cover contract specifics, clarify what we needed.  We discussed the migration of some of the content.  We want out content editors, that is people with editing privilege in current system, to take ownership of their content.  We want them to be responsible to move *some of their content.  I know, that is a reach for black and white in a grey nebulous situation.   The content in the current system that could be migrated is old, some of it very old.  We assume a position of “if its on the site it moves over”, another reach for black and white in a grey area.   Perhaps we, shannon, will issue an edict for example like this “during the month of November is opportunity for you to *freshen up your content on the website.  As you know we are changing to FinalSite and will be moving content to the new site… bla bla bla”.  We are paying the vendor $20 a page for the first 400 pages, then $10 a page after that.  That deals is like banks and interest – steepest up front, so they get their money first.  Anyway, we estimate about 1200 live html pages between our 11 sites that being updated.  I am guessing after the *freshening up, we will have between 800 – 1000 pages to migrate.  Some of the pages will be migrated by Edutech staff, as maybe 400 of the pages belong to their site,    Migrate = Move.  That process will look like create new page in FinalSite site, copy content from existing schoolworld site, paste into new FinalSite page.

We discusses the main three build options, theme, theme + and theme + advanced.  In a nutshell, the theme option means they build our site using an existing theme just the way it is, no changes to the theme.  That option seemed a bit restrictive.  Theme + allows us to make a couple (2?) changes to a theme – with the added provision that it, the *custom theme, will become part of their avail. templates for future customers.  clever – they get us to pay them to build themes for their future customers…..

Training.  Finalsite has good training content, including *live webinars that they like to advertise as their best options.  My colleague Shannon wants 2 training dates, where they come on site for a good old traditional classroom training.  We pay the trainer $3000 plus travel expenses.  We, WFLBOCES, not Edutech, may want someone from our staff development ranks to become the staff trainer for any future needs.  I am extrapolating here, my other colleague Mike said “I would be happy to do 1 on 1 type training”.  It is my opinion, that I did state to him and Shannon, that training would be handled by Staff Development, probably.  More to follow….

We also discussed the concept of a Portal, which is the Vendors *private facing area.  He actually called it a site, but I think its a space on the same site, but whatever.  The Portal is a space where we would host our intranet – where staff could authenticate to access.  Our current Intranet is used robustly by a few, lots of documents, AR’s – policy – job postings internal – things like that.  Most of our site is and will continue to be *public facing, but the Portal will require a level of authentication.   Additionally, the portal can have groups or group spaces which include collaborative apps like, forums, blogs.  Our vendor described it this way

You can have a portal without using Group Spaces.  So a portal is just a private site, by role, that allows those people to get access to content, information, documents that you don’t want the general public to access or, alternatively to make things easier for your stakeholders by serving up content for their role rather than having it in various places on the public facing site.  Group Spaces makes this experience richer by including collaboration tools.  Without it a teacher would log into the portal and see information on professional development, job openings, employee news, documents etc but with it they could also collaborate on specific projects, committees, tasks, or special groups.

How would they collaborate?  in the private space – they could take surveys, use forums, , post or comment on a blog  or even contribute to a wiki– standard types of asynchronous stuff – may even use a synchronous tool, like a chat – that’s me extrapolating again.

The vendor provided an updated proposal after the meeting that specified this and a bit more for the following first year cost

  • Site build – theme + – 20000
  • on site training (2 days) 3000
  • content migration 600 pages – 10000
  • total first year 33,000
  • Annual fees of 20000, second year and beyond

Meeting on 8/17/16 – shannon, mike and james.

Content – we will not be paying the vendor 10 per page to move content.  We will do that.  We, edutech, says to shannon, public relations – that we will ensure content is moved, not by the vendor – that makes little sense, but by us – and by us, I mean Mike and I and the content editors who’s content it is to begin with.  my customer shannon says “we told them we would migrate their content – they will not and or are not able to do that themselves” – fine, a point taken.  But, we also know that a key component of learning the new system is using it, sooner than later.  Content editors could/should be involved in that process.  Mike said “ok, they don’t have to move the content, but we want them to, we encourage them to be involved, but they don’t have to”.

Two good perspectives and points.  Also, when we move to a new website vendor, its a change for all 10 of our *schools to put things out to the curb.  Take our the trash – put things in boxes for removal.  Its a prime opportunity to *freshen content, and by freshen, we mean get ride of.

 Especially since there is not a concept of a sweeping simultaneous process moving 1200 html pages from sites A – J to site K., instead, it is an iterative process of creating a page in the new site and copying content (text-images – links) from the old site.

It really does not make a lot of sense for the vendor to do this – since A) its expensive and B) we miss out on the *freshening up opportunity.

The vendor will work with us to set up the site, its infrastructure AKA sitemap – creating the skeleton for the site, but we will create and populate most of the pages on the new site.  We will iterate through the process of create new page in the site, copy content (text and images) from old page into new one.

Training – while we see lots of good training options spelled out in the 25 page a new website a-z, provided by FS, it does not include traditional classroom training.  My customer shannon *knows that some people, content editors we call them, will need hand holding and traditional classroom training.  We, Mike and I balked and said stuff like “its all right here, avail on line whenever people want it, we could even to a live training webinar”…but, shannon makes a point.  If our customers, lets say we have 40 content editors, want traditional classroom training, then we should provide that.  Maybe even a couple times.  We will pay the vendor to come here and do a traditional session, a couple times – then, we will suppliment that traditional training with what FS provides.  The bottom line here is we do what we can to empower our content managers.  We want them to take ownership of their content – whatever we need to do to facilitate that, we do.

Got it?  Get it? Good. 😉

First thoughts: 8/14/16

We are using FinalSite as our new web site CMS.  We currently have 10 different websites that will be mashed together into one.  Probably not actually mashed, but something like that.  These are my thoughts as as look through the 25 page deployment file that FS sent us.

The document is intended to serve as a general guide to help through the phases to deploy new FS website.  Boiled up over 1o years.

Pick a client side lead – someone on our side to be focal point of communication – coordinate collection of assets, content materials from members of our team – be responsible for delivering materials to FS in timeline set up, replay communications as needed.

We will be paired up with a deployment team.  Team consist of Project manager, Web designer front end web developer.  PM reviews project scope, budget, SOW.  PM will call weekly meetings.  Our FS software will be enables and modules activated.  PM creates project in Mavenlink software.

Kick off – client project lead and others on our side  (stakeholders)join the kick off call.  Initial kick off review

contract deliverables – SOW, modules purchased, data imports.  main phases dis. Discovery, Design, production, training – review timeline – milestones, mavenlink overview, project site – messages, uploading files, launch date goal, establish weekly meeting time, status reports, assign first tasks to get things started.  Project space is where this happens.

Discovery phase  – FS discovers what we need – we provide a sitemap – , we complete a marketing and design survey  and provide graphic assets, branding guidelines, logos and photography.  the draft sitemap – provides outline for the navigation structure – PM will review and provide feedback.  This will require a sign off, once agree upon, as it effects the rest of the navigation (anchors the creative theme).  PM can assist with questions about how do organize site content.  Consider now making things more succinct.  If we have sections with lots of lengthy pages – consider making this more succinct.   We will sign off on that top level navigation.  I think we will have a lot of flex.  within that top level navigation – but that does impact the design of the site.

We will provide feedback to the project designer by completing a survey that help provide design direction.  What is our message – what do we do, offer, what makes us unique, things like that.  We also gather and share our graphic assets – logos, colors, brand guidelines, fonts, photos of our business – at least 10 – 15, slogans like “making success possible: or “students are the heart and sole of what we do”.  We also come up with our DNSing, like and …. and so on for each of the tech and ed centers.







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