REACH is a boarding school software that manages the signing-in and signing-out process of students at various independent high schools throughout the country. Implemented at the beginning of the 2018 school year, REACH became the official method for student sign-in and sign-out management at Andover.
As REACH continues to improve, the Students and Residential Life office has considered replacing the current on-paper daily sign-in and sign-out system with REACH, according to Claudia Scofield, Manager of Information Services. Scofield says that once students reach 85-90 percent compliance of correctly signing in and out over breaks, the school will begin to seriously consider the possibility of day-to-day sign in becoming digitized.
Victor Mvemba ’22 said, “I’m actually a big fan of [an electronic sign in for study hours], especially because I live in [America House]. I always hate having to walk back and forth going from main campus back to my dorm, losing maybe 10-20 minutes, just because I have to go sign in. I think that this electronic sign in for the regular schedule would honestly make it a lot easier and general for daily life.”
Previously, a paper system was used to track student leave requests, but due to inefficiencies in maintenance and record keeping, Scofield, was tasked with finding an electronic system to become the new standard. While Scofield recognizes that the app has its flaws, she is hopeful for its potential.
Scofield said, “We were having a lot of issues with the paper forms getting lost. It was much harder to maintain, and the thing about the online system is that at least the creation of the leaves and getting leaves approved works very well. I think if it worked perfectly, it’s a great way of keeping track of where kids are.”
REACH’s implementation has been met with some resistance by the student body. One major complaint relates to the functionality of the REACH app itself, according to Maxwell Bao ’20. Bao cites the vague language terminology, poor connectivity, and general user interface problems as the main reasons why the REACH app is counterproductive to its initial goal of efficiency.
Bao said “Usability [is a problem] for sure. It’s fine to go online and go on the computer, but most of the time when you’re going out, you’re on your phone. One problem is that I’ll sign out on my phone and it wouldn’t register online when I checked on the website or I’ll check out online and it will say that I’m campus on my phone and that I’m not on approved leave yet, so it’s very annoying that it’s not synced well together when the whole idea is convenience.”
In the past year, REACH has made efforts to fix these kinds of issues and streamline their system. In addition to technical upgrades, the company has also added more staff to help with customer relations. Scofield has noticed these improvements on the company’s end, but also credits her increased experience and the program becoming more integrated in student routine as reasons for the increase in REACH’s reliability and functionality.
Scofield said, “[REACH was] growing very quickly, and I don’t think they had the staff last year to support the growth. I think this year, it’s been much better. They’ve added some extra support people [including] a customer relations person… The app has been much more reliable… and compliance this year is so much better than last year. I know the system better than I did last year, so I’m able to support the kids better.”
Bao has reservations about how well an electronic system for everyday sign in would work, partly due to the variable nature of study hours. He claims that many students rarely stay in one place during that time, and having a system accommodate for all of those changes could lead to more inefficiencies in the long run.
“I feel like because of how fluid people are when it comes to study hours, you don’t always necessarily stay in one place. Sometimes, you find someone that you know in the same class and you might move to another place to study. I don’t feel like such a system would totally be the best idea. I think the current system is fine where we have just sign in and sign out,” said Bao.
Scofield understands that the system can be hard to understand and wants to be a resource for students who have any issues with the program. She wants to make a more pronounced effort at the beginning of the year to educate new students on how to effectively use the system.
Scofield said, “I know students are frustrated, and I want them to know that I’m here to help them, and in most cases when they reach out to me because they have an issue, we’re able to resolve it…I think whenever you introduce something that’s completely new, it takes a little bit of a while for it to be accepted and to become a routine…. On my part, I think I can do a better job at the beginning of the year of really explaining.”