Parents can view valuable information about their child’s performance in school when they have their own parent account in Schoology: grades, due dates, class calendar, and teacher-class communication. They can also view any assignment turned in by their child, which means parents can see the assignment, see what their child turned in, and see the grade on the assignment.
Our teachers give parents the access codes to their classes during Open House, and our coaches provide the access codes to their team pages during Sports Night. The hardest part is getting those codes into parents’ hands, and these directions will help you do that.
PART ONE: Download the Parent Access Codes for each course
Start by signing into Schoology and opening one of your courses (You will have to follow these steps for each course). Then follow these steps:
- Click on Members on the left side of the screen
- Click on Parent Access Codes in the Access Code box on the right side of the screen
- A pop up box appears allowing you to download the access code for every student in your class – click on Download
- A .csv file named Parent-Code-Export will download to your computer. You will need to know where this file is! If you have trouble keeping track of documents, take time during this step to rename it and place it in a new location.
- The .csv file will look like the one below. Pay particular attention to the title of each column in the top row. These are the terms you can use in your document. The ones you will use in this document are First Name, Last Name, Unique ID (school ID), and Parent Access Code.
PART TWO: Create a Word Document and use Mail Merge to create an individualized letter for each parent
Start by opening Word and creating a new document. You will then begin the mail merge. In your new document, choose MAILINGS in the top menu, then choose Start Mail Merge, then Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard.
- Mail Merge Step 1: Select document type. Your first decision is to choose whether you want to create individual letters or individual e-mails. You could actually email each parent their personalized letter if you have their email addresses! It takes a little finagling to make it work. Instead we will create individualized, printed letters that you can hand out to parents during Open House. Choose Letters for the document type. Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.
- Mail Merge Step 2: Select starting document. Decide if you are going to use an existing document or if you are going to write your letter from scratch. In this case we will write a new letter, but if you’d like to use my example Schoology Open House letter you can download it here. Choose Use the Current Document. Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.
- Mail Merge Step 3: Select recipients. Start by finding the Parent-Code-Export file you downloaded. Do you remember where it is? You’ll need to find it. Choose Use an Existing List, then choose Browse.Browse your computer and find the .csv file. It is probably in your downloads folder unless you renamed it and/ or moved it. In this example I renamed it “1st per parent access codes” because I am going to do this for multiple classes. Each file needs a unique name.Choose your Mail Merge Recipients. All of the names should already be checked. Choose OK. Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.
- Mail Merge Step 4: Write your letter. Start writing your letter, and leave blanks where you specific names or codes will go. Now place your cursor in the first empty location, choose Mailings, then Insert Merge Field, then choose the field that belongs there (first name, last name, ID number, etc.) You will do this in every blank space where you want the individualized information to go. When you are done it will look like the screenshot below. When you see a <<word>> like this it means that the field will be filled in with information from the .csv file. When you are done, choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.
- Mail Merge Step 5: Preview your letters. You can see what each letter will look like by clicking the forward and back button in the menu on the right. Each letter will be unique. Larry’s page will have his name, ID number, and Parent Access Code. Bill’s page will have his name, ID number, and Parent Access Code. Click through a few of yours to make sure the data looks correct (which it should because it’s coming from a spreadsheet). Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.
- Mail Merge Step 6: Complete the merge and print your letters. This is the last step. Click Print and each letter will be sent to your printer. If you had chosen Email-messages instead of Letters in step one then it would open Outlook on your computer and email the letter to each parent. The email feature only works if you can enter the parents’ email addresses into that same .csv file you downloaded earlier.
Final piece of advice
I work with teachers who have been using this method for three years. Their advice is to hand the letters out as parents walk in the door so you can make personal contact with each parent: shake their hands, ask them their names, or to simply tell them to hang onto the sheet until you mention it in your presentation. Better connections we make with students and parents will make for a better year. You only need a minute to tell them why they are signing up for Schoology, and then it’s up to them to do it. Your letter should include the instructions to help parents sign up. Again, look at the sample letter. The easier you make the task, the more likely they will sign up.
One last thing: if you use my actual Schoology Open House letter, you will get error messages that make it look like it’s not going to work. That’s because it is looking for my .csv file which you do not have. Just open the letter and start the Mail Merge Wizard from the beginning. When you get back to Step 3 of the mail merge it will let you pick your own .csv file, and then the letters will print out properly.
Written by Keith Sorensen