Over the last year I have been working hard during my 20% time, behind the scenes, towards a basic working version of Soniq. Soniq is a platform for instrumental teachers, it's purpose is to make their lives easier and give them opportunity to build engaging learning experiences to complement lessons.
Once again, I have had a huge amount of help from a few Soniq Advisors, instrumental teachers with different backgrounds who have given a lot of valuable insight.
2023 was a year of "going wide", I dug in and built a load of simplified features to explore what would make the platform useful. Here are some of the things we accomplished.
I focussed on tracking lesson attendance for the first quarter of the year. Attendance was the driving force, but it became clear to me that attendance was part of a bigger picture.
Lessons in the Soniq schedule, whether they are one-off, or part of a recurring schedule, are an anchor for a whole array of useful information. Attendance is a good example but we might also want to associate some notes to that particular lesson, include it in an invoice or connect it to some other resource within Soniq. This all sounds very abstract at the moment but it will become clear as I enhance the other areas of the platform.
For the first version I have added a recent attendance list to the student screen. In this screen you can quickly view and change attendance.
Attendance can also be changed directly within the Schedule.
There is a lot more potential for this feature, feedback would be really helpful here to know what to prioritise for future development.
Each teacher within Soniq will be looking after a wide variety of different student types. Sometimes messages, updates and billing will need to be sent to parents or carers as well as the student themselves. I took a step back and analysed these connections with a few Soniq Advisors before divising the first version of Soniq's contact relationships.
What we found is that Soniq is different to many other platforms where people can form connections with each other. This is because we recognise the multi-faceted relationships between people, how these relationships can change over time, whether they are on the platform or not.
- Students might not be signed up users on the platform
- Students could also be a parent to another student
- A teacher might want to keep a student's details private, alternatively they might want to grant access to a parent or carer
- A carer might transition to being a student
We came to the conclusion that a generic contact (whether it is a student, a parent or someone else) should be first-class citizens of of this relationship graph. You can see from the example below what this might look like in practice.
As we build out support for organisations in the future, this will give us a lot of flexibility. With any of these powerful features, the challenge will be to make it feel simple and intuitive.
Rich Text Messages
Whilst in the middle of some of the bigger features, I upgraded messages to allow formatting.
I have been a fan of Markdown for a number of years because it feels like a simple way to provide formatting. I recognise that my preferences are often very different to the people who will be using the messages on a daily basis.
Now there is a new editor with bold, italic and lists as well as buttons for undo/redo.
Thinking further in the future, I have chosen an editor which will allow you to insert rich links to schedules, courses, tools and anything else inside Soniq within your message.
Email reminder about upcoming lessons
The first email reminder landed this Summer, it is basic but a valuable overview of the lessons happening in the week ahead. The whole reminders area of Soniq needs a lot more thought. I expect every teacher will want a different set of reminders arriving by email and I'm sure some will not want any. With this in mind, I want to connect again with the Soniq advisors to gain deeper insight before expanding these out further.
Lesson Prices and Basic Invoice Creation
The last quarter of 2023 has been focussed on building out our invoicing capability. This work is still ongoing, here are a few things you will be able to do:
- Manage a central price list
- Group student invoices by a connected contact
- Create invoices for multiple students across a time-period
- Our first integration with FreeAgent will allow these invoices to be automatically created on their platform.
Here is a sneak peek at the generate invoices screen:
This is a big area and will continue to become more sophisticated over the next year.
I hadn't realised how much I had got through in 2023 before starting this writeup. It has been a productive year even though it hasn't felt like it at times. It's easy to compare progress on this work with work that I am involved with for the other four days and feel like not much is happening. This is a lesson for me to remember that this isn't a fair comparison.
Once I have finished off the last pieces of my invoicing work it is time to get some Soniq Advisors on the platform and playing about. 2024 is going to be about going deeper on the features which will make this a simple but usable tool before going wide again.