April 9, 2010

Online enrollment and fair registration - email from Dorothy

Good Morning: 


This message is an update for all MN 4-H staff about efforts to provide additional and improved online services for MN 4-H families: 


Three priorities/goals have been have been identified and are being pursued for this coming 9 months:


  1. "Near 100%" online enrollment and re-enrollment
  2. Credit Card transactions available online for 4-H families
  3. Pilot online county and state fair registration




1. Near 100%" online enrollment and re-enrollment -


This past fall, online enrollment and re-enrollment was offered on a pilot basis in approximately 55 counties. During this pilot phase it is estimated that 10-20% of our members accessed 4h4me and completed some or part of their enrollment or re-enrollment actions. It was encouraging to see so many who were willing to give this a try. It was also encouraging to see how many of our staff (especially Support Staff)  and volunteer leaders stepped up to this challenge and assisted during this pilot phase.


In addition, many issues were identified and processed for corrections. . Below are three of the more significant issues and the way each issue is being addressed:


Issue: The 4h4me site was confusing for some users and some users were able to circumvent the built-in required fields and prescribed processes.

Resolution: A web usability consultant will be reviewing the online process to identify changes that need to be made.  Additional MN 4-H Staff time* (see more  below) has been identified and will develop better and more user documentation.


Issue: There were bugs and problems with the site

Resolution: Many of the earlier bugs and issues have been resolved, and several have been identified to be worked on in the coming weeks by Chuck Nash. Additional MN 4-H Staff time* has been identified and committed to the task of testing the site.


Issue: It has been difficult to know who has enrolled and re-enrolled online

Resolution: For this coming year, all Member/Leader projects will be removed as part of the "new year" process (which was the standard practice prior to this year) - this will give much greater clarity to who has re-enrolled and who has not. In addition, all counties will have a defined re-enrollment period (October 1 through January 15); continuing members is expected to be re-enrolled by January 15th of each year.   After January 15, non-re-enrolling members and leaders will be made inactive and no longer receive communications..


A final decision has not been made about how close to 100% online enrollment and re-enrollment will be this fall, however, we feel we have a good understanding of work to be done in order to meet that goal.  Work will continue to complete this work and meet this goal.


Team members working on this goal include the following: (Note that most of these team members, and much of the work in this area, has come from the Program Management Task Force)

·         Larisa Jenrich, RSS - Farmington RO

·         Melissa Kain, RSS - Moorhead RO

·         Jeannie Ward, RSS - Mankato RO

·         Pam Aanas, 4-H PC - LeSueur County

·         Pat Morreim, Reg. Director - Andover RO

·         Brenda Shafer, PL - Moorhead RO

·         Kathy Elson, RSS - Roseau RO

·         Todd Mehrkens - McNamara

·         one Educator yet to be named




2. Credit Card transactions available online for 4-H families -


Work is being done to find a process that will allow 4-H families to pay for State Fair, State Dog Show and State Horse Show with credit cards online - in a way that is compatible with U of MN and Extension Finance policy and procedures.  At this point, there is no clear indication of the direction this will go, but efforts are underway to make this possible.  Watch for more information in the future.




3. Pilot online county and state fair registration


Work has begun to offer online fair registration as a service for 4-H members - for both County and State Fair, as well as the State Horse and Dog shows.  This will be offered on a pilot basis in volunteer counties and with identified clubs. In the coming weeks, educators will be asked to work with local staff to identify two counties (in the re-aligned configurations) and then up to two clubs in each of those counties to participate in this pilot.  Counties with "late" county fairs will not be eligible to pilot this year, due to tight timelines between their county fair and Final Registration.


Chuck Nash has been working on the new website for a couple months, and previews of that site will be made available as soon as practical.


Much work will need to be done in order to understand and accommodate county processes for identifying and offering state trips. We will also be looking at county scholarships or subsidies of State Fair fees/costs and ways to bring greater consistency and/or simplicity, while still honoring the intent of the county processes and financial support.


One of the identified goals will be to eliminate as many of the State Fair forms as possible, via the online tool.  Additional goals are based on lessons learned from piloting online enrollment and re-enrollment (the need for good website usability - clear instructions and paths for the users, good documentation, thorough testing, etc.)


Team members working on this goal include the following: (Note that most of these team members, and much of the work in this area, has come from the Program Management Task Force)

·         Brad Rugg, Program Director - McNamara

·         Karen Nelson, Admin Asst - McNamara

·         Marie Tysdal, RSS - Fergus Falls RO

·         Sharon Davis, EE - Rochester RO

·         Bob Quinlan, Retiring EE

·         Kathy Elson, RSS - Roseau RO

·         Todd Mehrkens - McNamara




* In order to meet all three of these goals, specific, additional resources have been committed to this project:


Kathy Elson, Regional 4-H Support Staff in the Roseau Regional Office will have 8 hours per week dedicated specifically to testing of these online services, managing the feedback and issues, as well as developing documentation.   Kathy will be working with both the online enrollment/re-enrollment as well as the online fair registration projects.


Bob Quinlan, retiring Extension Educator, will be working part time throughout the summer to identify and support the county processes involved in State Fair, Dog and Horse Show registration. He will then work to adapt and modify and accommodate those processes in the online service being developed.


Southerton Web Consulting has been contracted to review and suggest changes in 4h4me as well as to help guide the development of the online fair registration tool. Southerton has been heavily involved with the recent (and some ongoing) work to redesign the Extension Youth Development website.  They have extensive experience in the area of web based database usability issues (making web processes clear, efficient and problem free for the users of websites).



The above mentioned programming support is evidence that your 4-H program leadership team members are hearing your concerns and issues when expressed.  We are dedicated to having highly efficient and effective systems supporting the Minnesota 4-H Program.  I extend my thanks and gratitude to those individuals (listed above) who took on additional work to study the problems and help identify strategies.


As work continues in these areas, your input and feedback is important and welcomed!  Please contact any of the above listed team members for more information!






Dorothy McCargo Freeman, PhD

State 4-H Youth Development Program Leader

University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development

270 B McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455-2022


Phone:  612.625.2440

Fax:   612.624.6905

E-mail:  freemand@umn.edu





November 12, 2009

"Allow Newletter" check box, printing Members forms - check.jpg error and printing options

Q - will checking the Allow Newsletters check box cause problems if the member/leader does not have an e-mail adress. Also, the check does not transfer to the Communications screen.

A - About the "allow Email newsletters" question.... I've emailed Chuck about the problem of the check box status not transferring between the Registration and Comm screens.   And yes, moving forward, everyone will "have to" allow Email newsletters - and this will not cause problems for members and leaders without email addresses.  But this can be done "for all" by clicking on [Goto] [Members-/Leaders] [Reports/Utilities] [Check all Member's AEN Box].


Q - how do I print completed web forms (the Member Information Form) filled out online?

A - First, if you try printing forms, you will get an error message about not finding/having a file named "check.jpg".  To resolve this, you'll need exit out of 4HPlus! and Launcher, then locate the file (check.jpg) in the folder: c:\ckv\4hplus\mn\forms. Copy the file to the "Forms" folder under each county (c:\ckv\4hplus\countyname\forms). Forms can be printed from two locations - one is from the Members Registration screen (lower right part of the screen) [Member Forms]. You can also print forms from, [Goto] [Web .. Interactions] [Web Forms] [Web Form Printing Utilities].

November 6, 2009

Friday update - where are we at?

As of this moment (Friday mid-day) there are 10 people on 4h4me.com.  It has been interesting to watch that number - plus if you click on the button (in the lower right corner of 4h4me) you'll see some day by day totals.  There's no doubt, thanks to all that you're doing, we have members and leaders logging on to 4h4me. 

I've been asked a number of times recently how things are going with the online stuff (including a couple of Regional Directors).  My stock answer is that we're learning lots, that there's been some painful hassle, but overall things really are working.

It does feel like things are settling in and we're at least stable - and know the areas we need to work on. I'd be very interested in hearing how you think it's going - what you're seeing, hearing, running across again and again - stuff like that!

In a previous blog I talked about some of the changes and fixes we worked on with Chuck Nash last week.  I talked with him again this morning and he is just about completed with the last of the identified changes - including the ability for leaders to go through the "annual enrollment tasks" online.  As part of this, both Members and Leaders will now be presented with a button upon login that will check their Current Year with the "system" Current Year. Once in place this should really help capture those members and leaders who were not following the proces to the utimate end where they would actually advance their Current Year (and hence, their re-enrollment) online.

The bad news about all this (and the other 4h4me fixes and updates) is that Chuck has been terribly sick since returning from MN - he (and his wife) picked up some sort of cold bug from his grandkids and he's only now getting back to the office.  But he is expecting that by Mon or Tues all these new  changes would be online.  To watch this, pay attention to the Version number on the main 4h4me screen (it's currently at 09-295).

On the My Programs reports.... we're still waiting for Extension IT staff to fix the Report Server so we can generate the county reports so you can move into that aspect of year-end reporting.

As we move through this process, please make sure to ask any questions (via the "Comments" option on this blog) - about the software, the process, whatever!

 Looking ahead, Pam Nippolt-Larson is looking to send out another "welcome first year" member email - sometime in early December. So, we'll be requesting a data update about that time - hopefully to include all the new enrollments that have been received up to that time.



November 2, 2009

4HPlus! Newsletter Utility - new instructions

In recent upgrades, there have been many very nice updates and changes to the Newsletter Utility - here is a new topic web page that steps through the options and tools: http://www.fourh.umn.edu/mgtsoftware/topics/4hplus/newsletters.html

October 30, 2009

Work session with Chuck Nash - software updates

As some of you know, MN usually has a "winter/spring" work session with Chuck Nash where we buy a block of programming time and have him work on various bugs, issues and requested enhancements. Because of all the new stuff happening around 4h4me made this year's work session a "fall" work session.  Also, Chuck happened to be in MN this week visting his daughter, which saves us from having to pay any travel expenses, and yet we still get to work in person.

We did a bit of work in FairPlus! first.  The changes included making the status of an item in the Posting screen more clear - now, posted items will be slightly shaded - non-posted items will not be shaded.  Also on the posting screen there is now an option to place an entire group with one click - this will be helpful for classes where all the exhibitors get, for example, a Participation placing. There were a number of small fixes related to State Fair (the Dorm reports now lines up the "days" - and the Registration Reports will list only the Class name, which will make those reports more helpful). 

Also on the list was a request to bring the member's e-mail address and parent/guardian data into FairPlus!, but due to prioritization and costs, this hasn't been done yet, though there's still a chance it might happen this year.

We then worked on ScoreCon a bit - changing how it handles Reasons class card and scoring. If you have a Judging Contest that you are responsible for scoring, ScoreCon is a great tool and available to any staff that would like to use it.

Most of the time of course was spent on 4HPlus! and 4h4me - primarily stuff that relates to the online capabilities. Alot of time was spent cleaning up a bunch of problems related to Inactivating or Deleting Clubs. Another big area of work was focused on how the [Archive] [Init Data Set] commands interact with 4h4me. This year, to date, you had to first do the Data Intialization steps, then do a Full County Upload. With the new version of 4HPlus!, if you make a change on the Init Data screen you will generate a simple 4h4me "command" (part of the WXDU (data upload) data. 4h4me then executes the particular command you requested (ie Remove all Projects, Increase Grade, etc., etc.). 

Another big area of focus was the followup to a member who enrolls online, (and then the Parental Authorization Form arrives in your office.) First, in the previous version the "Application Date" was added to the Authorization form so that you could easily see when the form was submitted. However, this "broke" the approval process - but that's now fixed in the new version. Also (this is not yet done) but beginning next week, when you do a data upload to 4h4me, which includes a new member, 4h4me will send an e-mail (you get to write that e-mail message to say what you want) to the new member indicating that they need to log on to 4h4me and complete the "Annual Enrollment" tasks (select a club, Projects, submit Communications and Parent data, etc.).  Staff (as per the County Info page) will get a cc' of this e-mail (this will help with members who don't have an e-mail address, or the e-mail doesn't get delivered).

As you know, we've also been struggling with how to deal with Members (or Leaders) who log in and update their info and "think" that they've re-enrolled, but they did not follow all the way through and click on the button to update their Current Year. We talked about having 4h4me function like 4HPlus! where if you simply add/remove a Project, update an address, etc. the Current Year gets updated.  But, online, we can't be sure that just because a member updates their address, that they also looked at their Communications screen (the online re-enrollment process ensure that they do this) - or their Projects screen, etc. etc.. 

The suggested solution, which should be in place next week is that if a member or leader logs in to 4h4me, and their Current Year does not match the actual Current Year, they will get a popup message/warning that they need to complete ALL of the steps on the re-enrollment screen.  I suspect that once this is in place, and a "clean sweep" check for re-enrolling members and leaders should happen - you can use 4HPlus! to send an e-mail to all members and leaders with a Current Year of 09, asking them to verify their re-enrollment, etc.  We'll also have the Member Information Form to track re-enrollments by.

(At this point in time, there is no re-enrollment screen for Leaders, but that should also appear next week.)

Also, another problem we had was if a member went to look at their Member Information  Sheet, but did not fill it out or submit the form, they could still return to the re-enrollment screen and get "credit" for having done their Member Information Form. Now, they have to click the [Submit]  button to get "credit".  There is also a new button on the member's Registration screen that functions in much the same way.

So - all in all, we continue to strive to make the process tighter and tighter, so that we get more and more reliability and integrity into the online process and data managed there.

Some of you have asked for instructions for counties not offering the online process. You have been waiting too long for those - I will get to them next. 

Related to this year's instruction to NOT remove Projects.  As it turns out, this good idea is causing some difficulties when combined with the other aspects of moving online. A few of you have asked if you can still remove all projects and proceed that way.  That's possible and certainly a decision only you can make - it will largely depend on where you are at in the process and how much work this will create and/or save.  I do apologize - in retrospect it would have been better to hold off at least until next year before implementing this decision. Let me know how things are working out, and any suggestions for when we get to considering this for next year.

Finally - a word about this blog.... PLEASE DO make comments - I look foward to them! However, note that the UThink blog does not automatically publish comments, even though I have set the parameters to make that happen. I did learn (thanks to Judy!) how to locate the held-up comments and publish them.

Thanks for hanging in there!!



October 23, 2009

How to "help" members complete the correct steps online

Among the problems we're seeing - see this other blog post: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/toddmehr/mn4hsoftware/2009/10/who_has_re-enrolled_-_how_to_t.html

......one new change as of this morning is that 4h4me will no longer give re-enrollment "credit" for simply viewing the Member Information Form. In other words, they must actually click on [Submit] for that form - including filling in the required fields - before the check box for that form will be checked (see image 1 below)- and they can continue to click on the [Process My Enrollment Tasks] and get their [Current Year] updated. Also, they must now click on a button on the enrollment screen in order to the check box for Registration Information to be checked - (see image 2 below)

What other ideas do you have to help make sure members complete the process completely and correctly?

Image 1


Image 2


October 22, 2009

Stray 1's and 0's in Local Fields 6-10 and the first State Fields

Some of you have noticed random appearances of 1's and 0's in some member's Local and State Fields. Thanks to Jeannie's clues this has been determined to be a but that occurs when a member changes something of their registration data and it gets downloaded and processed into 4HPlus!. I have called Chuck and that will be his afternoon project to fix this - and we'll have a new upgrade as a result. (This next upgrade will contain other fixes that will also be important to get).

It will be easy enough to clear out those fields with the [Init Data] tool - but for now, maybe leave those numbers there - they might be a clue to help sort out who has re-enrolled online.

The bad news is that if you've used Local Fields 6 - 10, any data in there (for these members who have changed data online) will be overwritten. In those cases, the only option wil be to go back to last year's archived data.

Field Visibility Settings

Some of you have faithfully been following the instructions - but in some cases they've been wrong. One example has been if you've tried to set the Member Registration Card Visibility setting. The instructions have you un-clicking a number of fields. In reality, the only visibility setting that works is for the Social Security Number. To date, nobody has asked or needed to change the visibility on any other fields. With time, we'll get that fully funcitonal - but for now, you can ignore the instructions about field visibility.

Who has re-enrolled - how to tell...

One of the issues that is surfacing with the online re-enrollment process has been "how can I tell if a member is indeed re-enrolled?".

In the past, as you know, 4HPlus! would keep track of whether or not you changed anything about a member's address, phone, etc., or added projects. There is an automatic mechanism in 4HPlus! that would update the [Current Year] field to, in this case, [10].

It was the "add a project" trigger that was most commonly relied on - that is, when we removed all the projects at the end of the year, then you'd of course have to add their current projects, and that would trigger the update of the Current Year.

Now, we decided this year to keep all project enrollments intact - the idea is that members' enrollment persists - that is unless they drop a project, they are continuously enrolled in that project. Secondly, we had hoped to save Support Staff time by not having to just turn around and re-enroll members in projects that were just previously deleted - most kids have most of the same projects from year to year.

In 4HPlus!, this means that if a member has no project changes or contact info changes, you'll need to manually change the [Current Year] field on the Member's Registration screen.

In the online interaction - this gets tougher. Ideally, the member would have followed all the instructions and clicked on the correct button - which will update the [Current Year] field online, which then gets downloaded into 4HPlus! and all is good. But we know that not all members are completing the last step of re-enrollment and the [Current Year] field is not getting updated.

So - how do we tell? With the online stuff, we'll know who has filled out the Member Information Form - those will be obviously need to be updated to a [Current Year] of [10] if they are not already.

The toughest situations will be where the member goes online, reviews all their info and makes no changes to anything, does not complete the Member Information Form, but "intends" to re-enroll.

I've not fully thought this through - and your comments and ideas are very welcome - but here's a few thoughts.

  1. In hindsight, it maybe was not the wisest choice to leave all projects in place - I suspect this may be reconsidered for next year.
  2. An important indicator will be that Member Information Form. And really, if that's not filled out online, (nor a hard copy submitted) then has the member really re-enrolled?
  3. We will need to add some more "controls" to 4h4me to more tightly direct a member who is online re-enrolling. An easy hole right now is that they can view the Member Information Form - enter no data - then hit [Prior Screen] and get "credit" for having completed that task.
  4. I do think there will be ways to sort this all out - there are time stamps, logs and other clues (like for example, anyone with a cell phone carrier entered will clearly be a re-enrollee). This is one of those "messy" areas - but not unsolvable.

Blogging about 4h4me and 4HPlus!

This will be a place to raise issues, ask questions and submit comments about the 4-H Software, most currently about the online implementation