Former New London teacher sets up planning software company Edficiency
For most educators, announcing that their school would implement a flexible period in the next school term probably wouldn’t be a big deal. But for Joseph Connelly, who taught chemistry and physics at New London High School, it turned out to be a life changing.
Feeling that it would be difficult to schedule the students and know where they were, Connelly learned to code himself so he could automate their flexible periods. The software that was developed to simplify the logistics of flex times was so effective that in 2015 it became a company he named Edficiency.
James Bacon, Connelly’s brother-in-law and business partner, explained, âJoe was solving the schools problem with flexible hours. Years ago, we had talked about the challenges educators had when trying to schedule a block of time where students could go and spend time with teachers.
Unlike a study room, a flex time period is a fixed time in a student’s schedule that offers the option of going to a different location each day. A student can visit a teacher for tutoring, attend an enrichment session, meet with a counselor, prepare an assignment, participate in extracurricular activities, or opt for a study period.
It can be confusing trying to match the variety of possibilities with where and when a student will be. This is where Oshkosh-based Edficiency comes in.
âFlextime created logistical challenges to ensure that students and teachers know what their schedules would look like,â Bacon said. âOur software manages this. “
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The system is adaptable and is configured to manage which students can be scheduled with which teachers and which activities are allowed. Time requests can be entered into the system until midnight the day before, and in the morning, students and teachers receive a schedule by email.
âBefore this system, a school could use passes or paper notes or ask students to check in at multiple locations where they are supposed to be,â Bacon said. âTracking that is time consuming and confusing when schools are trying to determine if a student is available or not. “
The system helps schools rethink how they use existing time and provides more opportunities for students, Bacon said. Although the pandemic has slowed growth to a 20% increase from the 50% that had been anticipated, the software is being adapted by schools across the country. Research says it works.
In a recent survey, 94% of staff and 93% of students said the software was easy to use. In total, 83% of users believe this has led to an increase in student results.
For Bacon and Connelly, the results are not surprising. Both are seasoned educators with master’s degrees. Bacon began his career as a math teacher before becoming a coach for K-12 teachers in several southern states, then teaching, consulting and helping rebuild schools in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Nepal. .
Connelly served in the Army National Guard and toured Afghanistan and Iraq before continuing his education. He said his time in the military provided life lessons that encouraged entrepreneurship.
âDuring a fairly intense combat driving course, I was taught never to look directly at the obstacles I was trying to avoid,â he said. âMore often than not you are heading towards where you are looking, which means if you focus on the obstacle you are more likely to hit it. I think this applies to entrepreneurship as the hardest thing to do is avoid the pitfalls. You need to be aware of the dangers, but to be successful you cannot afford to be distracted or too focused on them. Choose your path, swerve when necessary, but keep an eye on the goal.
Their business goals may have been slowed down by the pandemic, but they feel they are getting back on track. Bacon, a former SCORE volunteer who earned his Masters in Educational Entrepreneurship, said everything they do is a constant learning experience and informs about what they will be doing in the future.
Connelly is the person of the âbig pictureâ and Bacon focuses on marketing, sales and customer service. Through trial and error, Bacon discovered that most advertisements reach too large an audience. Its marketing program now consists of participation in educational conferences, cold awareness in schools of the country’s largest metros, Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
And with a growing number of satisfied customers, word of mouth has had a substantial impact on growth. Since the majority of software purchasing decisions are made before school starts in the fall, this is a particularly busy time. Bacon spends much of his day demonstrating and promoting the benefits of Edficiency.
“Right now, more than ever, we want to grow and impact more schools and children, but not be overbearing at a time when schools have a lot to do (due to the pandemic)”, did he declare. âWe’re happy to know that we have a great product that gives schools the ability to do things they couldn’t otherwise.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is part owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and former District Manager for SCORE, Wisconsin.