by Niki Daniels
A new automated system for creating Certificates of Completion for qualified learners in Wilmette Institute courses will now ensure that Certificates will be emailed to learners on a weekly basis.
An Antiquated Certificate System. The old system for making and sending out Certificates of Completion was time-consuming. First, each quarter a staff member had to manually open some twelve to sixteen courses, find the Self-Assessment Forum unit in each course, and extract the name and email address of each learner eligible for a certificate. Next, the staff person had to manually insert each learner’s name and the title of their course into the template certificate (a Word document) together with the date the certificate was made. Then, the staff member had to convert the Word document into a PDF document and change the title of the PDF file to the name of the learner. Finally, the staff emailed the certificates, one by one, to the learners.
Despite its goal of sending out Certificates of Completion to qualified learners quarterly, by 2018 the Wilmette Institute had fallen woefully behind. By February 2019 the Institute had not been able to process more than half of the 2018 certificates.
A New Automated Certificate System. In February 2019 the Wilmette Institute hired a new part-time helper–Digital Support Assistant Quddús George. The Institute asked Quddús to take on the tedious task of catching up on all the 2018 Certificates and the 2019 ones that were beginning to accumulate. By March 2019, Quddús had emailed, with an apology, all of the remaining 2018 certificates as well as the 2019 ones. As he worked, Quddús was busy thinking about ways to make the generation of Certificates of Completion easier and speedier. In May of 2019, Quddus developed a suite of apps to automate the certificate-making process.
A first app logs into Moodle, scans the Self-Assessment Forums for the entire year, and extracts the names and email addresses of the learners who have posted them. The app knows the names of the faculty and does not extract their names when they make a post in the Learning Self-Assessment forum. The app also extracts the URL for each Self-Assessment posted to the forum. This enables another staff member to check whether the postings are self assessments or some other comment, to ensure that only self assessments receive Certificates. If the posting was something else, the name, email address, and URL can be deleted from the file.
A second app, on a staff member’s command, takes the information from the first app and creates Certificates of Completion as PDF files, eliminating the extra step in the old system of turning the Word document into a PDF file. The app adds the current date to the Certificate and gives the file the name of the learner.
A third app, on another staff command, sends each learner an email with the Certificate of Completion attached. The app also emails the Registrar a copy of the correspondence.
How Is the New Certificate System Working? Quddús has tested the apps and has found that they work as he expected they would. He now runs the apps once a week to generate new certificates. He estimates that, if the Wilmette Institute continued to use its old Certificate system, it would take over 100 hours during the rest of 2019 to make and sent out Certificates of Completion. With the new automated system, it will take only 6 hours for the rest of the year. Quddús will only have to type six words each week and wait for the suite of apps to run through.
It goes without saying that the Wilmette Institute is happy to have Quddús George on its Administrative staff team. He is working on other apps that will help its small staff do big things.