Connecting Parents and Schools

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 5 2020
Tech Talk Connecting Parents and Schools

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage

In a world where connectivity increasingly becomes a necessity, the need for schools to have a proper communications platform continues to grow. 

This has become even more relevant with the pandemic and nationwide lockdown we have all experienced. Wanting to fill this void and become a bridge that connects schools, parents and students, Yara Technologies provides a solution with their product, Talkative Parents.

Acting as a one-stop communication solutions provider, Talkative Parents is a mobile application with a wide variety of features that make connectivity between the school and parents easy, intuitive, secure and instant.

Ceylon Today reached out to co-founders of Yara Technologies, Chaminda Silva and Tiasha Silva in order to learn more about the story behind Talkative Parents.

Addressing a problem

Chaminda explained, “Being parents ourselves, we noticed that communication between schools and parents is scattered. With no formal channel or platform, schools have turned to social media, one-way short message service to communicate with parents alongside traditional paper-based methods.”

Both Chaminda and Tiasha note that these methods have their flaws. Noting that informal communication channels only go one-way, which leaves the parents disconnect and traditional methods, results in additional cost and wastage of paper; they believe that there is much to be improved regarding the connectivity between school and parent.

“The question is to what extent parents get the communication from the school and to what extent do they engage with the school.” Pointing out that in many instances, both parents are engaged in careers and have busy schedules, they noted that having quick, reliable communication happening on a timely basis with ease of access is important for parents to be involved with the schools their children attend. 

Talkative Parents aims to provide a platform that solves these needs, with both parents and schools benefiting.

A growing success

Both Chaminda and Tiasha have a background in finance, investments and startups. Taking the opportunity that was presented to them; they acquired Talkative Parents and with a team of developers, brought it to a level where it can be presented to the market for schools to make use of.  

Today, Talkative Parents has over 6,000 active users, catering to schools such as St. Thomas’ Preparatory School and Bishop’s College, Colombo who use the service as their official communications channel.

Solutions provided

Talkative Parents facilitates many of the needs schools have when communicating with parents. Services such as digital notices, newsletters, updates and delivery of student reports, homework assignments, and timetables can be done through the service.

Additionally, there are other services such as an events calendar with all the school’s events that can automatically synchronise with the calendar app on the parents’ smartphone. 

Connectivity is also amped through the availability of two-way messaging between both the parent and the school as well.

All of this is managed by Talking Parents in a well managed and efficient system.

“The school has control over communication while parents have a channel to communicate with the school. Parents get the information relevant to them only while, they can communicate with the school according to the permissions they give.”

Importance validated

The importance of having a proper communications platform has only been validated with the ongoing pandemic. “We have been around 

pre-COVID, however the requirement for having proper communication increased with COVID-19,” Tiasha noted.

The importance of the platform also became evident with the previous year’s Easter bombings as well. “When it comes to crisis and emergency situations, schools don’t have to worry about the channel, reach and communication and instead focus on what’s important. Within an hour, messages were being delivered to parents by schools using our platform.”

Realising the importance of blended learning (students learning through both online and face-to-face) even though they were initially a communications platform, Talking Parents revamped their system and now has included solutions to make the process intuitive, easy and secure.

Seeing that the service has been the most useful during crisis and emergency situations, having the proper reach and accessibility is critical for Talking Parents to be a success for communication between parents, students and the school.

Accessible and simple

Being a smartphone application, you would need a smartphone in order to make use of all the services Talking Parents has to offer. To make the service more accessible, Yara has taken measures to make the service as accessible as possible.

Speaking about this, Chaminda said, “From our own perspective, we believe in being inclusive. We want this accessible for everyone. There is an affordability issue in Sri Lanka, which is why our product is usable even when using low-cost devices.”

Tech literacy has been another hurdle for Yara to overcome when promoting Talking Parents. With parents having varying levels of tech-literacy, not everyone will be tech-savvy.

 Keeping this in mind, the app has been made in a way that it is easy to use and intuitive for the user to minimise confusion. Being able to use the service in all three languages is an added benefit in making things accessible.

Ready for the future

Chaminda and Tiasha wish to bring the platform even further, spreading the service not only to the schools situated in Colombo, but outside the capital as well.  Additionally, thinking beyond the services they provide, new features have been implemented to Talkative Parents with plans for the future.

“We believe that blended learning will continue in the future,” said Chaminda, 

“Schools knowing that the option to have a classroom video conference or other distance learning solution is available within the service are something schools might be interested in the future. “We want to make it easier for teachers, parents and students to work together.”

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 5 2020

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