Location

This case study takes place at a typical Eikaiwa school in Kyushu. The school caters to both children and adults, but RFID checkin is only used for children. From April of this year, all students were given RFID tags to use with check in and check out, though implementation was greatly delayed by the impact of covid-19 and related school closures.

Problem

In the past, school administrators often spent time responding to queries about the whereabouts of students. A common scenario over the telephone would go like this:

Parent: Has my child arrived yet?

Staff: Sorry, not yet.

Parent: Okay, please call me when they arrive.

So then the staff who took the original call would need to take note of this and let any other staff know about it. The staff would also have to be careful that the child didn’t slip in unnoticed while they were on another phone call or making a copy. Then there would be another phone call:

Staff: Your child has arrived.

Parent: Thanks, please call me again when they leave.

And again the staff would call as the child is ready to leave.

While each of these interactions is fairly simple and doesn’t require much time, each interaction adds a step where the staff can possibly make a mistake (not noticing the child arriving, forgetting to call promptly, not communicating the information well during a shift change, etc) but doesn’t add much value to the parent.

On top of that, these tasks tend to pile up during the class change time, which is usually one of the busier times for staff who have to field requests from teachers, guide students to the correct room, etc.

Solution

The solution we have made at uTeach Cloud is to introduce a terminal functionality which can partner with a variety of types of tagging to automatically notify parents when students arrive at and depart the school.

Main features include:

  • Customizable terminal interface
  • Additional ability to do self-checkout of library books
  • Customizable notifications to parents at checkin and checkout

Because the basic functionality is designed to have a variety of implementations, there is a great deal of flexibility in how your school might implement the system.

Implementation

First, let’s take a look at the implementation in the Kyushu school.

Terminal interface (Japanese):

The Kyushu school is three buttons (check in, check out, and check out book) to on their terminal.

Notifications:

uTeach Cloud uses email by default, but if the school owner registers an official LINE account and links it with the uTeach Cloud service, notifications can also be delivered by LINE.

Hardware:

  • Touch-screen all-in-one PC: The school wanted to have an easy to use system, so they invested in a low-priced touch-screen all in one. For younger students who might not be proficient with mice and keyboards, this is a good solution.
  • RFID keyfobs: Because the students all have branded school bags, the RFID keyfobs can easily be attached to the zipper to prevent them from being lost or forgotten. They are simple 125KHz tags, meaning they are relatively cheap.
  • USB RFID reader: 125KHz USB RFID readers are also cheap and plentiful.
  • USB barcode scanner: Used for book self check-out.

Here, you can see a short video of how checking in, checking out, and borrowing books works with this implementation:

As you can see, it only takes a few seconds to check in or out, and only a few more to check out a book.

Other Implementations

Barcode

Because RFID scanners and barcode scanners work very similarly, it’s possible to replace the RFID code with simple, printed barcodes. If your students have ID cards with barcodes already, this can be used as it. If not, simple ID cards can be batch printed and a barcode sticker attached. Doing this eliminates the need for RFID, but the scanning of barcodes can sometimes be cumbersome.

Other Contactless Methods

Instead of RFID, other types of contactless methods can be used, such as Mifare, etc. This is useful if you want to print RFID ID cards for the students, but can be a fairly costly and time-consuming solution.

Pricing

Many larger chain schools charge “system fees” for the students to have access to such systems. If you are concerned about the cost of setup and uTeach Cloud subscription, it is possible to increase your pricing slightly to defray these costs. Most parents will not mind paying an extra 100 yen a month if they are receiving something valuable and time-saving for themselves. Of course, it’s also possible to offer this as a free service to parents as a way to set your school apart from other local competitors.

Problems

Uptake in the Kyushu school has been surprisingly smooth, with the majority of children excited to have their own RFID checkin and enjoying the process of checking themselves in. However, the system is not without issues:

  • If children forget their RFID tag (or barcode, etc) they will need to be manually checked in by the staff. This only requires one click, but can be a point of friction for certain students who chronically forget their lesson materials.
  • Make sure you have accurate contact information from parents, or the notifications will be lost in the ether. If parents haven’t told you their email or are using a cellphone address which blocks email from computers, they won’t be able to receive the notifications.

Future Considerations

Currently, at uTeach Cloud we’re working on making this system even more simple and convenient. Because an element of field testing is involved, we will continue to improve the functionality as we get more feedback from users. In the future, we have to have a stand-alone internet-connected device which can take the place of a computer to easily manage check-ins.