How are you managing and screening people visiting your hallways, classrooms, and students? Are your students safe from intruders? Are you equipped to manage visitors and students during an emergency?
All these questions are important for the safety of students and people visiting schools. ‘Working With Children Check Act’ clearly states that it is schools’ duty to ensure that visitors are screened properly.
Hence, visitor management systems are required for schools to ensure the safety of visitors, students, staffs and other members of schools.
In this article, we will look into important aspects of a visitor management system for schools.
Let’s get started:
- What is a visitor management system?
- Why do schools need a visitor management system?
- Limitations of a paper-based visitor log book.
- What are the important features in a visitor management system for schools?
- How to set up a visitor management solution for schools?
- How to maintain a visitor management software for schools?
- What are innovations happening in visitor management systems for schools?
What is a visitor management system?
A visitor management system keeps track of people entering and exiting your school buildings or areas. It keeps records of important information about visitors like name, phone number, address, photograph, people they are visiting and so on.
In addition, visitor management systems keep logs of a visit’s duration, frequency and other meeting details.
The main reasons for implementing a visitor management system are:
- to increase the safety of students and people visiting or working at schools
- to increase the productivity of people at schools
- to keep records of people entering schools
Why do schools need a visitor management system?
Safety of children is important to parents and a school management. Hence, it is important to keep track of people entering and visiting children during school hours.
Source: Example of Noticeboard on Schools.
Every school has strict policies regarding visitors management. For example, it is mandatory for visitors to record their visit details on a visitor log book.
In addition to keeping track of visitors, schools should communicate policies and procedures to parents, teachers, staffs, visitors and the community. They also have to make sure that visitors abide by the safety rules and regulations.
Visitor management system is a perfect solution for these challenges faced by schools.
Limitations of paper-based visitor log book.
Many schools are still using a paper-based visitor log book to keep records of all their visitors.
But a paper-based solution has many limitations:
- the records stored in a book are difficult to manage and search
- the records are stored in a physical form which is prone to damage and loss
- there are no ways of sharing the records without physically coping them
- a physical log logbook does not store visitor information such as photo
- the data stored on log books are susceptible to theft and non-compliance
- there are no ways of sharing legal documents via visitor log book
- screening visitors is impossible using a log book
- it is impossible to carry out a performance check and access visitors activity report
- if you manage multiple schools, it is impossible to consolidate records in one place
- during an emergency, a visitor log books are ineffective in showing list of visitors present in a school
With all these limitations, schools still use them just for the purpose of recording visitors information. They are only accessed after a crime or a misconduct has occurred, which is not an efficient way of managing school safety.
What are the important features in a visitor management system for schools?
The most important features of a visitor management system for schools are:
Efficient and easy school visitor logging and tracking
Visitor management systems should have a user-friendly interface for recording and processing your visitors’ information. Visitors should be able to quickly submit their name, phone number, address, photograph and details about whom they are meeting.
Repeating visitors should be able to use a badge or a code number to quickly enter a school.
Quick Sign in using QR Code Scanner
Customisable Offender Checks
Screening visitors is the most important security feature necessary for schools.
The school administrator should be able to create and maintain a list of previous offenders within a visitor management system.
Visitor management systems should alert the school’s administrator when an offender is trying to enter school and be able to block the person from gaining access.
Visitors being screened in real-time to block them from accessing the workplace.
School Visitor ID Badge with an expiry date
Community volunteers, invited speakers, sessional instructors, suppliers, tradespeople and representatives of the community, business and service groups frequently visit schools. [2008, School policy : Visitors in Schools]
Hence, a visitor management system should have features to generate visitor ID badges with a limited access and an expiry date. You should be able to print the badge while visitor signs in or email them before they arrive.
In addition, an administrator should be able to revoke access to the badge remotely. This can prevent misuse of the badge.
School Emergency Mass Alerts
School administrators should be able to send mass alerts during emergency situations. These could be during fire outbreak, gun-fire, the presence of sex offender or any other kinds of accidents.
The ability to send instant messages to people present inside school buildings can prevent disasters and guide people towards safety.
Example of Emergency Procedures initiative by UNSW
Induction and Policy Documents with Electronic Signature
A visitor management system should be able to send inductions and policy documents to visitors before they check in to a school.
Visitors should be able to digitally sign the documents on iPad or any other digital interfaces.
In addition to tracking visitors, visitor management systems should be able to track student’s check-in and check-out time. This can help schools from measuring punctuality and attendance of students.
It can also help administrators monitor students in a school building during an emergency.
School officials should be able to access a web-based platform where they can view real-time reporting on visitors activity.
A real-time dashboard of Teamgo to monitor people and their sign in details.
A web-based report should be able to provide insights such as:
- a list of current sign-ins in a school
- access details of visitors
- trend graph of a number of people visiting a school
- access to view visitors across different school buildings in real-time
A visitor management system should be able to send meeting invites to parents. The invitation should contain meeting details and a gate pass to check-in instantly. Gate pass can be a security or a QR code.
This will save the time of parents during visiting hours and reduce unnecessary crowds at a school’s reception area.
Faculty/Staff School Check-In And Check-Out
School faculty and staff members have to sign in to school every day.
Therefore, it is important to have a faculty and staff management system built into a visitor management system. You should be able to create teams and issue standard visitor pass to faculty and staff of a school.
Faculty/Staff ID on Teamgo
When a faculty is no more working for a school, the administrator should be able to revoke access.
Customisable Terminal Design and Visitor Badges
A visitor management system is the first touch point for visitors to interact with a school. Hence it is important for schools to make a strong and positive impression.
Basic functionalities such as changing the colour of the terminal or adding the school’s logo on an iPad terminal should be available.
In addition, you should be able to design your own visitor badge.
Screenshot of Teamgo’s Terminal Designer
Modern Visitor Management Terminal
In addition to a paper-based visitor book, schools also install expensive hardware and devices to implement a visitor management system.
Source: Visitor Management System at Kunkel Elementary School
However, iPad visitor sign-in app can reduce these expenses and help you set up a modern visitor management system. No messy wires and large space required.
A simple placement of iPad stand is enough to impress any visitors. It is an efficient and cost-effective solution.
Multiple Language Setup
Language support increases the usability of a visitor management system and enhances the visitor experience.
For example, what will happen if a Chinese parent wants to sign in to your school’s visitor management system? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your VMS is their own local languages?
Schools can be located in multiple locations in different buildings. Therefore, monitoring visitors flow across these locations is difficult and challenging.
Hence, location management is a must-have feature for a visitor management system. It will provide a single interface to track visitors and control their access, and save time.
Data Integration with different systems
You should be able to integrate a visitor management system with other systems within your school.
Screenshot of Teamgo’s Integration Module
Every school has its own software systems, hence a visitor management system should provide a standard API framework to integrate with them.
Data Security and GDPR Compliance
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in the EU since 1995. The new changes have a huge impact on businesses that gather and process personal data, like a visitor management system. Therefore, you are legally obliged to ensure that your visitor management system is GDPR compliant.
How to set up a visitor management system for schools?
Implementing new technologies can be a hassle, especially when it is directly related to the safety of your school. Therefore, you need to make some preparations before you start installing your first visitor management system.
Steps toward implementing your first visitor management system:
- Carry out extensive workshops to understand the pros and cons of a visitor management system.
- Set-up proper guidelines for visitor management for your school.
- List down all the key challenges faced by your school in terms of visitor management.
- Prepare detailed features requirement document based on your need.
- Carry out proper benchmarking of various software available in the market.
- Make sure your visitor management system is GDPR compliant.
- Understand the hardware requirements of implementing a visitor management system.
- Start a proof of concept for visitor management systems and evaluate them accordingly.
- Assign a dedicated staff to measure the outcome of the POC.
- After successful POC, implement the solution in a single location and scale with time.
In case, you already have a visitor management system and are looking to replace them:
- Make sure the new tool has all the required features that you need.
- Make sure you can export historical data from your old visitor management system.
- Not all tools are similar, hence analyse the pros and cons of the new tools.
- Start a trial of a new visitor management solution.
- After a successful trial, implement the solution in a single location and scale with time.
Hardware and Software Requirement of Visitor Management System
Visitor management systems can vary from a simple web-based application to a complex hardware solution.
However, a minimum visitor management system for school will require the following hardware:
- Various iPad models (iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPad)
- Tablet Stands, enclosure and kiosk to hold the iPad. (Windfall Pivot Table)
- Badge Printer (Brother Printers)
- Laptop with a standard operating system to access visitor management web portal (mac os, windows)
A typical Visitor Management System Set-up
How to maintain a visitor management system for schools?
It is important to make sure that you keep a regular check on your visitor management system to ensure smooth operation.
- Check the physical conditions of hardware (iPad, laptop, iPad stand, printer etc)
- Keep your hardware clean and safe.
- Check on the wire connections to the iPad terminal and the status of their battery level.
- Keep your iPad and laptop’s operating system up-to-date.
- Regularly test your emergency function on your visitor management system to check its reliability.
- Update your visitor management software whenever required.
- Keep changing the security password of your system and wifi, or any other wireless systems.
What are innovations happening in visitor management systems for schools?
The future of visitor management system for school is promising and many opportunities lie ahead.
The emergence of AI and machine learning means real-time face recognition system integrated with public criminal databases.
The blockchain technology can be implemented to maintain the accuracy of visitors’ information and avoid tampering of the data.
The internet of things and smart wearable devices can be used to detect the presence of visitors and adjust the environment. In addition, during an emergency, you could control the security systems like fire alarm through visitor management systems.
Besides these opportunities, many schools are still using paper-based solutions. Therefore, it is important to adopt modern visitor management systems to create a safer environment for children to learn and play.