2023 Ask-Me-Anything Webinar with Xello's Founders: Recap
Xello founders Matt McQuillen and Jeff Harris hosted the third annual Ask-Me-Anything session to give clients a chance to learn about exciting product features and have the opportunity to ask questions. If you missed the session, here’s everything we covered.
Career and College Readiness News From the Field
Educators have expressed wanting flexible and customizable tools, and Xello is meeting that demand by:
- Wanting to be partners not just vendors
- Offering personalized experiences
- Because all students are unique and have different needs, we’re creating a software platform that serves the needs of so many different students through personalized experiences.
- Ensuring that programs grow and expand in meaningful ways
- Career development is gaining traction. We’re having more conversations with educators looking for new ways to develop career opportunities for their students.
- There is a need for scope and sequence so that students have new activities each year.
- There is also an increased interest and growth in K-5.
- Educators are interested in career units in core curriculum classes.
- A positive trend we’re seeing is that career development is more about making students future-ready than just picking a career and college.
What’s New in Xello?
Our goal is to deliver the best possible experience for you and your students, which means we have to constantly innovate and make sure our program evolves to meet your needs and the ever-changing instructional practices and state requirements, while ensuring that Xello remains engaging for students.
In 2022, we released 59 new features and enhancements. So far in 2023, we have released 49, and we have many more planned.
With goals, which launched early this year, students can create personal, academic, and social goals and tasks that fit with who they are, giving them control of their own learning and outcomes.
Students can also make notes about what they learned after achieving a goal, which helps promote self-reflection and encourage a growth mindset.
Since Goals launched, tens of thousands of students have created a goal, with the highest categories being academic, personal, financial, and sports goals.
Take this learning module to learn more about Goals & Plans.
The introduction of Portfolios serves as a natural progression from Xello Storyboards. Over the years, Xello Storyboards have allowed students to store a wealth of information about themselves and their career plans. Yet, we recognized a growing need for more organizational capabilities and the option to share this information in a presentation format.
“The portfolio tool solves a really important problem that we used to have in Xello where students put all kinds of information into Xello,” says Harris.
“They can store tons of information about themselves, about their career plans, but they didn’t have a lot of options to organize that information and share it in some kind of presentation view.”
Dive deeper into our new Portfolios feature and get inspired for how you can use it with students in our complimentary training session October 26th.
Course Planner Approval
Parents and families can now approve their child’s course selections for the upcoming school year through Xello Family. For educators, this simplifies the course selection process, saves time, satisfies mandate requirements, and increases family involvement.
Other related features that are being planned:
- Parent SSO (single sign-on). Using SSO, parents and guardians can save time accessing Xello Family without the need to remember login credentials. This login method is both safe and secure, allowing for easy navigation between different systems without constantly having to enter a password.
- Four-year plan approval. We’re also working on the ability for parents and guardians to electronically approve four-year course plans by the end of the calendar year.
Subject Area Teaching Resources
We have created a number of subject-specific teaching resources to provide educators with engaging content, ideas, and teaching strategies that connect their classroom subjects to their students’ future plans. These activities introduce the relevance of a subject for future career success and benefit educators by:
- Making career connections to their subject areas so students can understand how each class subject is important and relevant to their future success.
- Helping them feel more confident in delivering lessons that motivate their students and deepen their understanding of school subjects.
- Creating a greater support network and lightening the load for counselors and CTE teachers.
The resources include:
- A short video that explains how a subject is relevant for future careers
- A lesson plan to help teachers facilitate a discussion on the topic
- A lesson plan to guide students through creating a portfolio
- A lesson plan to challenge students to use Xello to explore the connection of a specific subject in more depth
“One of the positive trends we’re seeing is an interest in expanding career development into different areas within the school system,” says Harris. “So, we have created a number of different resources to make it much easier for core curriculum educators in all different subject areas to integrate a learning unit using Xello.”
Work-Based Learning Enhancements
These new enhancements will help educators scale and become more efficient with delivering work-based learning (WBL) opportunities to students. There are two core areas:
- Significant improvements to the work flows around WBL to make it more efficient for educators and administrators to manage the process. Among these improvements are the ability to assign opportunities to students based on their school or grade, to share private notes between administrators, and to allow employers to create opportunities.
- Explore virtual forms of WBL that can expose more students to opportunities.
Additionally, we’ve made enhancements to the way students sort through opportunities and stay on track by adding information on compensation, the number of positions available, the application deadline, and a messaging functionality that allows educators to talk with students in the program.
For WBL Admins, get the basics in our live training webinar on September 28th.
Enhancements to our college planning tools offer better visibility and streamline the management of requests, specifically transcript, recommendation letters, and the Common App.
You’ll find more information on these resources and much in Xello Support.
Looking ahead: What’s coming soon
- Communities. Xello Communities are spaces on the school profiles of participating colleges in Xello where students can engage in authentic connections with college representatives (such as ambassadors or admissions staff) and other prospective students to get a sense of community before they ever step foot on campus or make an inquiry.
- Missions. We’re developing three new missions for our elementary program on why people work for grade 3, problem-solving for grade 4, and starting a business for grade 5.
- Surveys. Surveys will let educators easily create and send surveys to students, making tracking of application outcomes, self-evaluations, and feedback more organized and efficient. Through Surveys, educators will be able to create fully customizable surveys that can be used for anything from voting for class president or tracking students’ college interests.
- Scholarships. We’re expanding our database to give 9-12 students access to national, institutional, and state scholarships in addition to the local scholarships added by educators. We’re also introducing a new matching feature that will pair students with the best-fit scholarships that best fit the criteria they set, making it easier for them to search for and decide on which scholarships to apply to.
- Test Scores. The new tool will provide a comprehensive view of your student’s academic performance. We make it easy with templates for SAT, ACT, and GPA, while also giving you the ability to add in custom test scores.
- Dashboard Feed. Dashboard Feed will deliver content to students that is personalized and relevant to them, increasing engagement and helping them understand the options that are available to them when they graduate.
- Students receive videos, resources, and carefully vetted pieces of content straight to their dashboards similar to other platforms they’re already familiar with. This makes it easy for them to jump in and get started on their own, which means there’s very little educators have to do to help their students.
- Content is engaging, personalized, and reliable, making the experience familiar and user-friendly.
- We’re excited to be piloting this in Kansas right now! We are actively collecting feedback from educators and students to make the feature even better for our national launch.
Can features be released in the summer instead of mid-year?
We realize releasing features mid-year can be disruptive, and we try to keep that in mind. With the Goals feature, we decided to release it in January because it was valuable enough that we wanted students to be able to start using it.
For a number of years, we tried to have everything ready for a new school year, but this created a lot of pressure for Xello developers, overwhelmed customers, and led to software with a lot of glitches.
We’re trying to balance those interests, recognizing if it’s too disruptive, it’s going to be counterproductive, but if we do a big launch at the beginning of the year with ten new features, it’s going to be overwhelming.
Washington State passed legislation about a single vendor with the High School and Beyond Plan. Will Xello be submitting a proposal?
Xello will be submitting a response. We’re already in deep discussions with clients in Washington about the High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP) and how the Portfolios feature fits. There is an opportunity here to set expectations so that the students are able to create a portfolio that matches the HSBP requirements.
How can Xello help my 8th graders?
Xello can help in many ways. Most of the functions are relevant for 8th graders, especially the lessons and self awareness and career exploration activities. Many districts are using the course planner to select classes for high school.
We’re advocates for starting CCR as early as possible, and 8th grade is a pivotal time. It’s beneficial for students to do self awareness activities and learn about careers in middle school before they’re making decisions with consequences.
Will students be able to easily access their portfolio post-graduation?
Yes, as long as the district continues to license Xello. In fact, over the last year we had over a million logins from graduated students.
What are some ways we can use Xello for small group exploration projects?
In Xello Support, there are a lot of thought-starter lesson plans that are intended to help the educator support engagement around a particular lesson. All of the questions would be appropriate in a small group setting.
You could also have students complete an assignment, an interest assessment, or a small research project that they present in a portfolio. Then they can get together with their peers and share their work.
Can a feature be added where college reps can sign up through Xello to do a lunch visit?
It can be added, but several logistical questions would need to be figured out. We see this as an opportunity to bring this kind of functionality into Xello.
Will Xello ever expand their community service portion to include the ability to approve entries and to leave students feedback?
There’s nothing like this currently being planned, but this is one of the features that exists in the work-based learning modules. Students can put in the number of hours that they committed to that activity, and these can be approved by an educator.
- Xello Support. A reminder: If you ever need help, you can find videos and training materials at help.xello.world
- Xello Academy. If you need a refresher, there is a free online learning management system that has instructional tips and other helpful information. The videos are self-scheduled, self-paced, accessible from your Xello Educator Dashboard. You can even earn certificates for PD hours. You can also find locate the materials at academy.xello.world
- We’ve even added a new course specifically designed for those educators who will be using our Common App integration.
- Xello Blog. You can stay up to date on our latest releases throughout the year, along with best practices of how to integrate CCR activities into your program, on the Xello Blog at xello.world/blog