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Learn how Indiana State University’s School of Nursing effectively uses Sonia for managing student placement programs around the United States and sending mass communication to students, faculty, and proctors.

Supporting Software for an Innovative Placement Program

Indiana State University (ISU) School of Nursing provides their students with the convenient option of scheduling clinical preceptorships in their own geographic area, but with three courses and hundreds of students, coordinating these field placements can be a challenge.

Lea Ann Camp, Instructor and Clinical Placement Coordinator at ISU School of Nursing, knew her field placement team needed something other than the home-grown program housed in Blackboard to manage the 400 annual student placement requests.

“Each student has to have three placements over their program, and the unique part is that they are placed in the state where they reside and hold their LPN license,” said Camp. “That brings us to about 450 clinical partners across the United States.”

With Sonia, Camp’s team was able to streamline student placement management by coordinating all the information for 150 to 175 students, 450 clinical partners, and across 28 states each semester.

Adopting Sonia for Student Placement Management

Within Sonia, workflows were developed to automatically complete steps and improve efficiency. Once a student enters the School of Nursing, they are immediately enrolled in Sonia. The automated, customizable workflow capabilities streamline the onboarding process as students are sent instructions on how to create an account and join the correct placement group for their semester.

After students complete the initial setup, they receive an automated prompt to complete a clinical request form within Sonia. The clinical site placement request form is interactive for both the student and clinical placement team and collects and securely stores data such as their state license number, date of birth, middle initial, and phone number in a centralized location – saving the team from needing to contact students individually for this vital information. With this form, each student identifies and ranks three facilities in their state where they would like to have their clinical preceptorships.

From here, the clinical placement team takes the following three steps:

  1. Ensure that the placement site is included in the placement group.Within Sonia, the team verifies that the field placement site is included in the placement group (a grouping of students based on their course or degree made in Sonia) and actions the form if it is not already in the Sonia system. If the placement site is in the system, the team can pull all the necessary information from the master list.
  2. Request the placement site for the student based on rankings.For each student, Sonia shows the placement site, current status, and whether or not it has been allocated to the student. In this way, both the student and placement team can quickly review where each student is at in the process.“It’s not unusual for us to request five to seven places before we actually get to having a student confirmed,” said Camp. “The challenge is that we are really placing each individual person. They aren’t in cohorts – they’re individual placements that the team has to work on.”
  3. Allocate the student and update the worksheet.Once a student is confirmed for a clinical placement, the faculty member and preceptor name are noted in Sonia and can be viewed by the student and all placement management team members. Customizable communication templates within Sonia are used to share all important information with the student, primary contact, and the preceptor. As the system holds all the vital information, Sonia makes it easy to share timely and accurate information with all parties.

    “One of the things we love about Sonia is that we communicate either in mass emails or in individual emails,” said Camp. “When we’re ready to send the preceptor packet, we can send the preceptor packet to each preceptor – and it’s different for each course. This saves a tremendous amount of time in our workflow.”

    Team members use follow-up flags to keep track of the progress and show what is happening with each student. These flags can be tagged with a due date to indicate the next follow-up task and include a description section for team members to note all steps taken up to that point.

An Invaluable Asset for Student Field Placement Management

During the first full semester of using Sonia, Camp’s student clinical placement team was able to process 200 requests made during a two-week time frame. Sonia saved the team a significant amount of time as previously this high volume of placement requests would have taken over a month to process.

Students, faculty, and the placement team now have access to excellent records of each student’s placement and the specifics of each placement – down to the directions to each site! This information is stored securely in a centralized location, making it safer for data security and allowing for quick access in case of an emergency. The placement team also has the ability to switch roles in Sonia to act either as a student or faculty member in order to help diagnose any issues.

The automated, customizable email feature in Sonia allows the placement team to quickly send important, accurate information to all relevant parties and keeps a record of which communication has taken place.

With Sonia, Indiana State University’s School of Nursing has revolutionized their nationwide student clinical placement process.

Request a free demo of Sonia to see how our software can help streamline the management of your student placement program.

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East Carolina University Logo (ECU) Download VectorLearn how East Carolina University’s College of Education Streamlined Placement Management with Sonia.

When it was time for ECU’s College of Education to migrate to a new student placement management software, the Office of Assessment, Data Management and Digital Learning selected Sonia.

Digitizing the Placement Process to Streamline and Meet University Needs

The team considered another software solution; however, they found that it wasn’t flexible enough for their needs. Sonia is highly customizable, and this was a key decision factor for the ECU team.

Prior to Sonia, the placement team emailed each other various spreadsheets and scanned documents. “Everything was on paper; this was time consuming and hard to manage,” said Mary Worthington, Data Manager; Office of Assessment, Data Management and Digital Learning; College of Education.

The built-in fields in Sonia help the team to collect information in one place, and they can easily add new fields any time as their needs change.

>>Learn More about Sonia. Request a Demo

Navigating Uncertainty Made Easy

Sonia was implemented at the start of 2020 and became a critical tool to help the team smoothly navigate the fast-moving and unpredictable changes that followed through 2020 and 2021. “It was just in time to help us manage through the pandemic, and it saved us tremendously,” said Mary.

“Sonia meant that we experienced no break in service, no problems communicating updates and changes with schools, and constant - sometimes daily - communications with students.”

“With all forms now done completely electronically, we could manage so smoothly and quickly. Sister institutes were struggling and wondering how we were doing this. We said, ‘we’re good, we’ve got Sonia!’”

Additionally, Sonia’s reporting and tracking functionality helped with a smooth transition back to campus when the time came.

Setting Up the System and Stakeholders for Ongoing Success

The Sonia team worked closely with Mary, her Director, and ECU’s IT team to ensure staff, students, and sites were set up for success. “Everyone was great to work with,” said Mary.

A daily import from the main university database ensures that data is always accurate. The bulk upload is Mary’s favorite feature, “In the old system, information and statistics for all public schools in the state had to be updated individually each year, which took a grad student six months. Now with Sonia, the full project is completed in 30 minutes!”

Students were provided with instructions and found Sonia easy to use. Staff saw the benefit of everything they do being in the one place – happily waving goodbye to the challenging process of working across multiple spreadsheets.

“Sonia works really, really well and the product expert team replies almost immediately to any questions. They also help me to think about our processes differently, which is really helpful in finding new, more efficient ways to record and collect accurate data.”

Supporting Teacher Education Engagement and Licensure Requirements

Prior to the Sonia implementation, clinical teachers were required to participate in training modules in a separate system to create a personal account, “it was a hassle and they hated it”. Now, with Sonia all communications and forms are sent electronically to their school email account. Clinical teachers no longer need to log in or remember passwords. “It’s just an email which is a big blessing. It’s one less thing for them to worry about, and the response rate for submitting forms has really increased.” This means that the ECU team saves time as there is less follow up required.

Additionally, before Sonia, the team could only track edTPA scores as pass or did not pass. There was no way to store and search for date, score, or retake data – which all needed to be reported to various agencies. “It was not great information, and it took a really long time to upload each status individually.” With Sonia, the team can collect and store all information required and it’s done in 5-10 minutes. “Now the edTPA coordinator and licensure specialist always have what they need, and all of the information is recorded.”

The ECU team continue to expand usage of Sonia as new opportunities arise. For example, Education Residency Candidates will soon be managed through Sonia, with a specific customizable layout. This means all the moving parts and spreadsheets are now in one place which makes people’s lives so much easier. When asked if she would recommend Sonia to other colleges, Mary said, “Just go to Sonia”.

Manual Processes Were No Longer Viable

The Field Education team at Massachusetts-based William James College, a leader in experiential education, behavioral health, and psychology education, needed a solution to support streamlining management of their field placement programs.

With approximately 600 training sites, over 800 students, and a complex operating environment, the small field education team needed to replace a homegrown system that was difficult to use and required heavy additional manual processing.

Cheryl MacDonald, Assistant Director Field Education at William James College, explained that the team had been working with "an inefficient system that was costly and cumbersome to manage." In fact, a team of students had to be hired to work throughout the year to support the manual placement processes, which added more cost to the program.

Sonia Met the Team's Requirements and Came with Glowing Endorsements

Cheryl worked with the William James College IT team to determine the right solution.  During a project to replace a campus-wide ERP system, a review was undertaken to select an appropriate student placement management solution.

The team considered many software options but, apart from Sonia, no other software solutions met their requirements.

Sonia stood as the clear choice for the team because:

The team also ran a thorough customer reference check process with current Sonia customers. They received overwhelmingly positive feedback about both the Sonia product and the US-based support team.

The ability to meet the William James team’s requirements, coupled with glowing customer reviews, made it an easy decision. “Sonia could do what we needed, without a doubt,” said Cheryl.

>>Learn More about Sonia. Request a Demo.

A Well-Designed Implementation Drove Success

William James College established a project committee to manage the implementation in partnership with QSR’s team of Sonia Experts and Support staff.

Sonia’s Student Importer was a critical feature during the implementation process, as it allowed William James’ staff to integrate Sonia with its campus management system so data could be updated seamlessly between the systems. “Sonia’s Student Importer offers huge benefits for schools with a large placement population,” said Abigail Manwell, QSR’s Sonia Product Expert for North America. “It ensures placement data is up to date and accurate, and our API allows us to work with virtually every campus management system on the market today.”

When the time was right, Cheryl launched a pilot program with students. This important step helped the team fine tune processes before launching more widely. Following the pilot, Sonia was very successfully launched with two degree programs, with a third to follow soon. The team customized Sonia to support each degree program's unique requirements.

Accolades and Happy Customers

Sites, students and the field education team are thrilled with the benefits of Sonia.

Sites are delighted. William James received feedback from sites saying they love the “nifty new system”, and it is so much easier for them to update their information. They can attach resources like videos and brochures to better market themselves to students, which they see as a tremendous benefit.

Students can now more easily complete site searches. "Sites can be identified very quickly based on a specific requirement, like client age, setting, and treatment modality. And updating information like email addresses is simple, no longer taking six steps!  You can just do it all in one place. It's remarkable," said Cheryl.

In addition to managing student placements, Cheryl uses Sonia for site development – nurturing partnerships with new and existing placement sites. Previously managed in Excel, agencies and next steps are now easily tracked in Sonia.

Not only is the field education team now more successful, but they are also acquiring marketable new skills and garnering kudos for delivering a solution with strong organizational efficiencies.

When asked if Cheryl would recommend Sonia to other field education offices, “Oh, a thousand percent! This is an amazing product.”

​About William James College
Founded in 1974, William James College is an independent, non-profit institution and a leader in educating the next generation of mental health professionals to support the growing and diverse needs of the mental health workforce. Integrating field work with academics, the College prepares students for careers as organizational leaders and behavioral health professionals who are committed to helping the underserved, multicultural populations, children and families, and veterans. William James College alumni can be found making an impact in a variety of settings, including schools, the courts, clinical care facilities, hospitals, the community and the workplace.

About Sonia

Sonia, developed by QSR International, is a student placement solution and central hub for program data management that supports improvements and efficiencies for work integrated learning programs.

A relatively young public university located on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia, the University of the Sunshine Coast opened in 1996. Renowned for its research, the university places students in rotations, internships and other work integrated learning programs, with the nursing program as its largest cohort. Student placement operations for the university are managed by Sonya Smith, System Administrator, Student Services and Engagement.

Before using Sonia, Ms. Smith, an experienced education placements officer was feeling the stress of tight deadlines and varying requirements for teaching areas. The use of spreadsheets for placement administration proved costly when a file corrupted and the data recovery process proved to be time-consuming and laborious. This led to research into student placement software solutions, a vetting process, and ultimately the selection and implementation of Sonia.

University leaders were watching as Sonia was rolled out to various departments, and Ms. Smith worked with each school and discipline to tailor the product to their needs, bringing greater efficiencies and improved experiences to staff, students and site supervisors. Now an official record-keeping repository for 25 disciplines, the platform streamlines data and saves time.

Automation Supports Personalized Placements

Since implementing Sonia, Ms. Smith and her centralized team have turned a critical eye towards various processes that could be streamlined and automated. The implementation at the University of the Sunshine Coast has grown to support all off-campus activities, including field trips, study tours and placement courses. Sonia also supports on-campus learning by managing requirements for classes students take at the USC hospital. Integrations with payment systems and Blackboard (LMS) enable
better experiences for staff and students.

Sonia has proven itself to be a powerful tool with its electronic forms. Student placement workflows are no longer paper-based, and automated email reminders are a big time-saver for administrators and students. Students in the Nursing cohort are assessed via an electronic form in Sonia. Pass/fail grades are automatically sent to Blackboard, an improvement over the previous manual importing of grades into the LMS.

A Critical Communication Tool

The dashboard serves as a simple interface for managing critical communication and data needs for students participating in off-campus coursework, and the communication features proved critical when news broadcasts warned of a large cyclone headed for India. With students studying there, school officials moved quickly. By using Sonia, administrators were immediately able to identify those students studying in India and get news of the cyclone and safety procedures to them.

>> Learn how to streamline placement communications​

Student placement workflows are no longer paper-based, and automated email reminders are a big time-saver for administrators and students.

Sharing Best Practices

A leader in student placement operations, Ms. Smith traveled to Western Australia in 2018 to share her knowledge and best practices with peers at four universities. Sonya presented on USC’s model of providing university-wide placement support via a central team. She highlighted new product features and how they apply to various placement models. Representatives from local universities learned about time-saving features and functionalities that generally apply to any placement program.

Looking Ahead

Ms. Smith and her team continue to look at expanding the use of Sonia across the university for further improvements to processes and stakeholder experiences. She is currently looking into integrations with other key components of the campus technology ecosystem.

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