The latest update to the WordPress for Toastmasters software includes several improvements to the system for tracking member activity, including more (still preliminary) support for the Pathways program.
The Toastmasters menu on the WordPress dashboard shows different options to the average member than to the administrator and club officers. The site administrator also has the option of deciding whether members should be able to see all the reports or only their own data (go to Settings -> Toastmasters and open the tab labeled Security).
At a minimum, every member has access to the My Progress screen with tabs labeled Basic Program (showing progress in the Competent Communicator and Competent Leader manuals), Speeches (listed chronologically and by manual), Advanced Awards, and Pathways. The Pathways screen is described in more detail below.
If the club allows members to update and edit their own data, tabs labeled Edit and Add Member Speech will also be displayed.
The Progress Reports screen is organized into the same list of tabs, but with the option to view reports and enter data for any member in the club.
Update History: One potentially disruptive change, for some club leaders, is the renaming of what used to be called the “Reconcile” screen on the administrator’s dashboard to “Update History.” If you are trying to keep accurate records of member speeches and roles completed, reconciling the agenda after the meeting is an important step to make sure the right people get credit for their participation. Letting the system gather most of that information from the agenda saves you time, but the reconciliation process cleans up discrepancies like last minute changes where one member was unable to attend and another stepped up to speak.
The reason for the name change is this screen can now be used to enter history from before you began using this software. For example, I was contacted by an officer of a club that has been meeting for several months and had records of roles filled at past meetings recorded on a spreadsheet. While it’s possible to record summary statistics like number of speeches given per manual, I wanted to make it easier for someone in that position to enter a series of meeting records without the need to create a bunch of back-dated events in the system.
How Precise Do You Want to Be?
As a club leader, it is up to you to decide how thorough you want to be about logging all data through the website software. It’s the software’s job to support your choices.
If you just want to use the website as a tool for organizing your meetings, you will get some basic tracking of member activity “for free” as part of that process, and the record will become more complete (particularly for new members) as time goes on). If that’s your attitude, you may not want to enter historical information at all.
Or you may want to add historical information at more of a summary level. The Edit tab in the Progress Reports screen will let a club leader enter summary statistics like how many speeches members have concluded in each manual. In other words, you can enter the number of CC speeches given, rather than entering the date, speech project, and title for each one. From that screen you can also make corrections to agenda records, such as adding the manual and project for a speech when that wasn’t done in advance.
The argument for adding detailed historical information is that you and your members will need all the detailed information when applying for awards, meaning it could save you time and effort in the long run to have the data all in one place.
The Update History screen will allow you to enter records for past meetings on any date, using a form based on your meeting template.
If you just want to record speech projects, there is also the Add Member Speech tab on the Progress Reports screen.
New Pathways Tab
WordPress for Toastmasters has been phasing in some preliminary support for Pathways, the new Toastmasters educational program just starting to roll out to a handful of districts. I’ve been getting some exposure to it through Online Presenters Toastmasters, an online club I founded in which some of our members are also members of a club in a Pathways district.
WordPress for Toastmasters now includes Pathways projects on the signup form. The new web-based evaluation forms (introduced largely for the convenience of online clubs) also cover Pathways projects.
There is now a Pathways tab on the Progress reports screen that displays a summary of the progress of each member participating in Pathways. It shows a count of speeches completed in each level of the path selected by that member.
When viewing the records for a specific member, you will see the listing of speeches the member has completed within that path. There is also a space for adding notes on other activities, such as completing self-assessments, that are part of the Pathways program.
Toastmasters International is providing more of its own online tools as part of the Pathways program, and it is not my intent to compete with them. The idea is to provide easier access to the information you gather in the natural course of business when you use WordPress for Toastmasters to organize your meeting agendas.
Following a recent overhaul of the way WordPress for Toastmasters tracks member data, club websites can now share member data with other clubs using the same software. This is automatic for clubs that host their sites on toastmost.org (a free service of the WordPress for Toastmasters project) because they share a common user/member database. In the coming weeks, I will introduce a service allowing clubs that run the software on independent websites to sync their data.
Tools for editing all this progress report data have also been updated for what you should find to be a smoother user experience. Feedback on how to improve it further is always welcome.