In-app messages are an easy way to communicate with guardians. Please note that we do not have a feature to message students or staff in Arbor.
We recommend using this channel of communication for messages that are not critical or time-sensitive, as some guardians might not log in to Parent Portal regularly to read the messages.
Why should you use In-app messages?
- They are free! - There is no fee for using In-app messages to communicate with guardians.
- Instant notifications and follow-ups - Guardians can be notified when they receive an In-app message via email or Push Notification and followed up with an SMS (Please be aware this uses SMS credits).
- Read status - Check whether the message has been read by each guardian.
- Response notifications - Choose which staff members are notified when guardians reply to In-app messages.
The permissions required to send In-app messages are (you can see how to give someone these permissions here):
- To be able to manage In-app message settings you must have the School Communications: Setup: Communications: Setup School Communications permission.
- To be able to send In-app messages you must have the School Communications: Action: Send and administer school communications: Administer permission.
- To be able to view In-app messages you must have the School Communications: View: View school communications: View permission.
You also have to be a permitted sender of In-app messages. To see how to manage this for each staff member, see this article.
Before sending In-app messages
First, make sure that your school is on the Comms or Perform Packages and that you have switched on the Parent Portal.
To be able to send In-app messages, you must have displaying In-app messages in the parent portal switched on:
- Go to Students > Parents & Guardians > Parent Portal Settings and scroll down to the Communication section.
- Click the 'In-app messages' field.
- In the slide over, change the setting to Yes, then click Save Changes.
Next, set your in-app messages follow-up settings - these settings allow you to choose whether guardians can respond to a message, whether an SMS will be sent after an In-app message, and how soon after. These settings apply to all In-app messages sent, and cannot be customised on a message-by-message basis.
Please see our guidance here on how to configure your settings: In-app message settings for replies and follow-ups
Sending a mail merge In-app message
You can send out email communications individually or to an entire group, depending on your permissions. If you can't send communications, check your access following these instructions.
Just go to School > Communications > In-App Messages > New Mail Merge In-App Message to set up a new message, or In-App Messages > In-App Message Drafts to select a previously saved draft. You can read more about drafts here.
- The From field will automatically show the school name. Select who to send the emails as, staff should click the drop-down menu in the 'From' field, and select the correct name.
- Select the groups of guardians you would like to send the message to in the To box.
- In the 'Combine messages?' area you can choose whether you want to combine the messages - see this article to see what each option means.
The Merge Fields selection box may be used to customise each SMS to the appropriate individual. Don't see the fields you want? Follow these instructions: Creating a Mail Merge using data from a Custom Report Writer report
Content options such as text colouring and line spacing are not available for in-app messages.
You can add a URL hyperlink using the link button. Please note that you must use the button - typing out a link will not convert it to a clickable link.
- Clicking a link in the Parent Portal or MIS will open the page in a new tab.
- Clicking a link in the Arbor App will open the page in the user's default web browser app (e.g. Safari, Chrome etc).
Add your message, then click Proceed.
On the second step, you will be able to see the last time the guardian logged in to the Parent Portal. This can be used to help to predict whether this person will actually read your message or not.
Please note that the recipients list here is in random order.
The colour coding of this field is:
- Red if a recipient has never logged in.
- Orange if the last login of the recipient happened more than 24 hours ago.
- Green if the last login happened less than 24 hours ago.
At the bottom of the page before sending you’ll see the total number of messages you’re about to send.
Viewing replies and replying to messages
You can see an overview of all school communications (including In-app messages) sent on the School > Communications > All School Communications page.
Clicking into each communication type provides more information, including whether the message has been read for In-app messages.
You can also see communications to or regarding a student on their Student Profile, or to a guardian on the Guardian Profile.
Go to School > Communications > All school communications > Outbound In-App Messages to see all individual messages the school has sent for the current academic year. It will not merge messages that were created from the same template at the same time.
Click a message to display whether it has been read or not.
To view merged In-app messages, go to School > Communications > In-App Messages > Sent In-App Messages.
More information can be viewed by selecting one of the messages. This will display the message, a full list of its recipients and whether each email has been read or not.
You can also see which recipients have been sent a follow-up SMS with the same message if your school has set this up.
Please note that the recipients list here is in random order.
Send another follow-up email, SMS or In-app message to recipients of your In-app message by selecting the tick boxes next to the people you want to follow up with, and clicking the Bulk action button. This will open a new Mail Merge with the people you've selected in the To field.
If you have enabled guardians to initiate or reply to messages (See the section called 'Managing my In-app messages settings'), you can see replies in School > Communications > All School Communications > In-bound In-App Messages.
Inbound In-app messages will be in bold if they have not yet been read by school staff, and normal text if read.
You can click the message to read it and see more information.
You can send a reply to an In-app message right from the communication logs in:
- School > Communications > All school communications - just filter for inbound In-app messages
- School > Communications > All school communications > Inbound In-App Messages
- Communications on the guardian's profile
- Communications & Notes on the student profile that the guardian is linked to
- Communications & Notes on the guardian's profile
Just click into the inbound In-app message you want to reply to. Click the Actions button and select In-app message reply.
This will open a pop-up where you can type in your new In-app message to send.
It will include the original message text from the guardian, so you and the guardian can see what the follow-up communication is about. You can delete this text if you wish.
How can guardians see and respond to in-app messages?
Guardians are able to see these messages in the communications section of the Parent Portal.
If they have downloaded the App and have enabled Push Notifications, they will also be able to receive a reminder that they have a new message as a push notification on their mobile device.
You can see how guardians can view, send or reply to In-app messages here: In-app messages in the Parent Portal and Arbor App
it would be great to have a way that in app messages went into categories for example - attendance, pastoral, form teacher
Hi Philip, as this is a brand new idea, please submit it to our roadmap by clicking on the Arbor App (mobile app for parents) and Parent Portal (web version of it) - improvements card in the Considering for Roadmap section of our roadmap: https://portal.productboard.com/arbor-education/1-arbor-development-roadmap/c/72-arbor-app-mobile-app-for-parents-and-parent-portal-web-version-of-it-improvements
Why do you have an option to insert a hyperlink into an in app message, but the hyperlink doesn't work ?
Hi Paul, I'm afraid this functionality has been built using the same template as for emails and SMS. You're right that you cannot send links in in-app messages, even though the link button is there. If you'd like us to look at removing this button, please add your feedback here.
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