Complete Chromebook Management

More Than a New Paint Job: Building a Better Engine for GoGuardian Teacher

Dan Russ April 19, 2017

At GoGuardian, we’ve been hard at work trying to make the Internet a safer place for students, and give teachers the tools that they need to make learning better. Between the launch of Scenes and Chat in GoGuardian Teacher, more students, teachers, and admins are using GoGuardian than ever before.

While we’re happy to be helping so many students, that also means that our servers are working harder than ever, and we’ve heard loud and clear that some of you are feeling the pain of non-connecting students, commands that aren’t working as you expect, and chat not always being available.

Because of this, we’ve taken a hard look at how our products work, how we can make them better, and — most important to us right now — how we can make them as stable, as fast, and as effective as our teachers, admins, and students expect and deserve.

For a little context, let’s take a quick look at a pair of graphs:  

Active Students   

Active_Students.png

 

Number of Weekly Sessions

Active_Sessions.png

As you can see, there are a lot more students and teachers using GoGuardian than ever before — and they’re all using GoGuardian tools that are running on code that was written to accommodate far, far fewer students.

And that’s exactly why we’ll be spending nearly all of our time for the next few months focusing on improving the stability, speed, and general performance of GoGuardian Teacher.

Why now?

One of the biggest challenges that we face with our growing teacher and student user base is the increased strain that’s been placed on GoGuardian’s internal systems. We've heard that this means that sometimes students wouldn’t connect correctly to classrooms, sometimes the Chat feature wouldn’t work when it was needed, and at times your commands may not have reached a student’s device. We’ve reflected a great deal on not only how frustrating these events can be for both students and teachers, but also how we can make things better, more consistent, and faster for everybody.

Here are some of the ways that we’re going to make GoGuardian Teacher better in the coming weeks:

Student Connectivity Improvements

Currently, if a student doesn’t connect to a classroom quickly, it’s not easy to tell what’s wrong at a glance. Are they actually offline with their Chromebook closed? Did something go wrong with the student’s connection, or is the screen just taking a little while to load? We’ve heard that having more insight into the problem would be helpful, and in the future, we’ll show you a more detailed status message that indicates why a student hasn’t connected.

And, although you won’t see it reflected as a status in the dashboard, you will experience your students connecting faster and much more consistently.

Commands Improvements

We've heard know that sometimes commands sent to students, like opening and closing tabs, don’t consistently work as you expect them to. So we dove into the code, figured out what was wrong, and we think you’ll be pleased: sending commands will work consistently, and student devices will connect much more reliably.

Chat Improvements

Since we released chat, it’s been one of our most and chatted about ( 😉 ) features. However, we’ve found that it doesn’t always perform up to the standards you want and the standards we expect of ourselves, so we’ve reworked some of its backend. In an upcoming update, the Enable Chat button will work correctly and immediately all of the time, and you’ll be able to send and receive chats with students as much as you like — without errors or issues.

Infrastructure Improvements

As we alluded to above, we’ve fixed and improved a lot of the way GoGuardian Teacher works, and how specific features are going to work better for you. However, many of the things that we’re working on are going to be invisible to most of our users. We won’t be able to list them as feature bullet points, and they aren’t as flashy and game-changing as new features like Scenes have been. But each of these changes will have a huge impact on how we build new features and how we make sure that they work consistently and reliably, so that by the time you get them, they’ll be nearly perfect.

Although there are several infrastructure improvements coming, here are the two big ones:

  1. Load testing. We’re implementing a robust and dedicated load testing tool for GoGuardian Teacher, which will let us scale our offerings — and the promise of a safer Internet for students — to more schools than ever before. This will also let us discover, pinpoint, and most importantly, fix issues before they make their way into your classroom.
  2. Centralized logging. We’re also implementing a centralized logging system, which will give us a much better picture of not just GoGuardian Teacher’s performance, but also how teachers and students like you are using it. Also, centralized logging will help us identify specific services that are involved whenever errors occur.

A Better Way to Listen to You

Based on conversations that we’ve had with teachers and admins, we think that the core feature set of GoGuardian Teacher is in a pretty good place — but we want to keep making it better. To help us understand what’s important to you and where your pain points are, we’re deploying a brand new survey tool that will let you share your ideas, concerns, feedback, and even just how you’re feeling about Teacher on a given day. Each response will be fed into a dashboard here at GoGuardian HQ, where we’ll keep an eye on it daily — because it’s going to be on a big monitor in front of the whole company.

And Finally -- Thank You

We’re incredibly appreciative of all of the teachers, admins, and students that have let GoGuardian be a part of their classrooms. Education is important to each and every one of us, and none of us would be where we are without you.

As always, we love to hear about your new ideas for where our products should go, and if anything ever goes wrong, our support team would love to help you get back to your classroom ASAP.

Topics: Products, Technology

Written by Dan Russ

Dan does cool stuff with words.

 
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