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Technology

How We Built It: Web-Based Workflows for WSTC

When demand for job and parenting resources presented challenges to Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, they asked for a digital assist.

Modern Tribe is teeming with self-confessed tech nerds who relish using the most up-to-date tools and systems to help streamline our clients’ operations. And perhaps there’s no other period in recent history when simpler, more efficient operations have been as invaluable as they are in the era of COVID-19.

While most organizations offering in-person programs and services have been disrupted by the pandemic, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County was doubly challenged as the demand for job preparedness resources skyrocketed, and access to information for marginalized parents was more useful than ever. 

Historically, WSTC has met these needs through traditional means, including in-person classes and printed resource directories. To continue providing a high level of service to customers amid COVID restrictions, WSTC came to us for help with two tech challenges. 

They asked us to create a web-based attendance tracking system that integrates with 300+ adult education and literacy classes held on Zoom, with the same permissions and constraints as an in-person event. And they wanted us to design it in a way that makes it usable in the future for digitally recording attendance of in-person classes.

They also asked us to develop a web-based method for updating service provider content for their Dad’s Resource Guide, a resource directory for single dads. Previously, WSTC phoned hundreds of service providers every year or two to confirm their information. Then the guide was painstakingly laid out in InDesign.

Automation? Present!

For the attendance tracking system, we designed two user journeys leveraging the same core system: one for Zoom classes and one for in-person classes. We constructed these flows to be as simple as possible for instructors and for data capturers—the folks who submit attendance data to the state—who were unfamiliar with WordPress and not used to digital workflows.

Instructors were provided with a frontend interface for managing data, instead of one housed in the WordPress admin, so we could deliver a more user-friendly UI.

For Zoom classes, we integrated with the WSTC Zoom account. An instructor enters their Zoom meeting ID and class ID on the website, and the integration automatically pulls the list of attendees and their timestamps. 

The instructor verifies the data—correcting to students’ full names, for example—and approves via click, mimicking a pen-and-paper signature. The timesheet is saved to a data store on the site, mapping students to their participant IDs and populating the relevant class data.

For in-person classes, we needed to support a private interface on a shared laptop designated for time entry. To kick them off, an instructor initiates a time clocking session on their laptop by entering a class ID. 

Students key in their participant ID to clock in or out of class on a simple keypad entry we developed. (Students performing the task themselves was a must.) Once the class is over, the instructor ends the session, confirms the data, and submits it to the data store.

Meanwhile, data capturers need to extract these records from the data store in spreadsheet form to enter it into the state database manually. So we gave them a tool to pull attendance data for a specified date range and list of classes, which generates a downloadable spreadsheet with all the requisite metadata.

The WSTC homepage on a computer screen behind a wireless keyboard, a sticky pad, a pen, and a printed Dad's Resource Guide

The 411 But More Fun

Initially, Modern Tribe was asked to create a web-based platform where Dad’s Resource Guide service providers could update their profiles. But we quickly realized we could be more economical by leveraging the functionality of WSTC’s mass mailing system, Constant Contact, as the details required for each provider were primarily to do with contact information—something mailing systems are already geared to capture and manage.

So we created a system of mailing lists and custom fields in Constant Contact that captures each service provider’s details. The initial population data is from information confirmed manually, and in the future, WSTC can use Constant Contact’s built-in “Update your details” functionality to maintain an accurate data store.

We then integrated Constant Contact with the WSTC website and created a custom post type to house each service provider. Each mailing list in Constant Contact maps to a service category, such as “counseling” or “child care,” and each service category is stored in a taxonomy on the site, so a simple archive page acts as a fully functioning, digitally native version of the Dad’s Resource Guide.

Next, we styled a print template of the guide, converted it to HTML and CSS, and used DocRaptor on the site to populate a styled PDF with the service provider data. Then we added meta fields where WSTC can populate a cover image, as many text pages as they’d like before and after the directory listings, and other fields needed to complete the guide.

Seeing Results

With this work wrapped up, things at WSTC are set to run a little smoother than they did pre-pandemic.

Attendance tracking for AEL classes is now fully digital. Compliance has been maintained, an audit trail is clearly visible, and no one is sitting with a stack of paper timesheets, entering them into a spreadsheet every month.

Adding a new service provider to the Dad’s Resource Guide couldn’t be simpler. Just type in an email address and click one button to send an email where providers can fill in their details.

Updating all existing service providers is as easy as selecting the mailing list and clicking one button to send an email where they can revise their profile.

Maintaining the provider data on the WSTC website doesn’t require any work whatsoever; it syncs once a month. Push one button to sync it now, if absolutely necessary.

And once WSTC has gathered all the supplementary content they want to include in the Dad’s Resource Guide, all it takes is the push of a button to generate a printed version. 

Good stuff, right?

Next Up…

Modern Tribe first partnered with WSTC in 2019 when we rebuilt their website. We’ve enjoyed a great partnership, and our team is always excited when clients come to us with a new challenge—or two!—that we can really sink our teeth into.

Of course, clients aren’t the only folks we’re willing to help. If you haven’t had the distinct pleasure of working with us, but you’ve got a digital dilemma that needs solving, we’re all ears. (Eyes?) Get in touch at hello@tri.be