Distance Learning
Data Integrity
Sep 17, 2020

How to Collect Referrals During Distance Learning

​It’s time to start collecting referrals again. Here are our recommendations for how to make this process manageable for everyone.

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The 2020-21 school year has everyone doing school differently in a lot of ways. Whether your school is immersed in distance learning, you get to see your students in-person, or you’re managing some hybrid of the two, we know how hard you worked to get the school year started. If you feel overwhelmed by how much you have left to do and don’t know how to start getting students the support they need, we want to help.

This year, your school’s behavior teams will meet – albeit virtually in some cases – and they will need data to drive their decisions. Office discipline referrals (ODRs) are your team’s best view into teachers’ classrooms and your teachers’ best opportunity to tell teams what they need. Here are our recommendations for how to make collecting referrals more manageable for everyone.

Distance Learning Locations to Track

Last spring, we added a new location to SWIS: Distance Learning. When students are home, engaged in distance learning, this label is there to help distinguish their behaviors from the ones happening when students are physically present in your buildings. You can take it one step further and set up a Custom Field to mark each referral with a specific distance learning location. For example, set up a required custom field called “Distance Learning Delivery Method”. Then, create options like:

  • Educational App
  • Video meeting
  • Chat room

By making the field required, all referrals entered while students are home will get this marker.

Distance Learning Behaviors to Track

The misbehaviors you notice in a Zoom meeting likely look different than the typical misbehaviors you saw when students were physically in your class. Revisit your behavior definitions and update them to include the things you see during distance learning activities. Think about the kinds of misbehaviors you saw in the spring. Add in the new misbehaviors you’ve seen this fall. Then categorize everything into one of the pre-defined SWIS labels. In addition to your current list of problem behaviors, here are some ideas for how to define some of the distance learning behaviors you see:

Major Problem Behavior Definition Observed Distance Learning Behavior
Abusive Language/ Inappropriate
Language/Profanity (Inapp Lan)
Student delivers verbal messages that include swearing, name calling,
or use of words in an inappropriate way.
Obscene language in chat or voice
Obscene physical gestures
Obscene images on camera
The delivery of direct or technology-based messages that involve
intimidation, teasing, taunting, threats, or name calling.
Repeated teasing or taunting in chat or video
Student engages in behavior causing an interruption in a class or activity.
Disruption includes sustained loud talk, yelling, or screaming; noise with
materials; horseplay or roughhousing; and/or sustained out-of-seat behavior.
Repeated distracting gestures, distracting virtual backgrounds,
Persistent yelling out when supposed to be muted
Continual chat that bothers others
Skip Class
Student leaves or misses class without permission. Skips online instructional session (not due to technology or access problem)
Technology Violation
Student engages in inappropriate (as defined by school) use of cell phone,
pager, music/video players, camera, and/or computer.
Unauthorized use of another device (cell phone, gaming device) during instruction
Joining an online meeting that isn’t yours
Surfing to inappropriate sites

Minor Problem Behavior Definition Observed Distance Learning Behavior
Student engages in low-intensity, but inappropriate disruption.
Unnecessary, off-topic chat
Spamming chat channels with dozens of messages
Unmuting and saying something inappropriate
Inappropriate Language
(M-Inapp Lan)
Student engages in low-intensity instance of inappropriate language. Low-level inappropriate language in chat or video

Major Office Discipline Referrals vs Minor Classroom-Managed Referrals

Now, more than ever, schools need to monitor student behaviors closely and continually assess their support needs. If talking about ‘referrals’ doesn’t feel right during distance learning, start talking about ‘documenting experiences’ – both yours and your students’.

One way to move this idea from concept to practice is to collect minor referrals in place of major ODR’s. Minor problem behaviors are low-level behaviors teachers manage in class. These are defined behaviors, just like their major counterparts, so everyone knows the behavior when they see it. Entering referrals as minors is a great way to communicate what the teacher observed without the added weight of a major ODR.

While your student information system may not have a way to differentiate between an office-managed referral and a classroom-managed one, SWIS does. Just select “Minor” from the Referral Type drop-down menu in the referral data entry screen. The list of minor problem behaviors populates automatically for you. There’s even a way for teachers to enter their own minor referrals directly into SWIS.

Referral Entry Only Users

SWIS offers the option for schools to set up teachers with referral entry only access. If you want teachers to enter their own minor referrals in SWIS, this is the access level they need. Referral entry only users can only enter referrals – just as the name suggests. Their views inside the application aren't cluttered up with windows unrelated to data entry and all reports remain confidential.

To set up your teachers as referral entry only users, head to School Settings > SWIS and be sure Referral Workflows are enabled. Then, click on Tools and click User Management.

  1. Click the Invite Referral Entry Only Users button in the upper-left corner of the window.
  2. Locate the person to invite by typing the name in the Search field.
  3. Click the Search icon.
  4. Check the box next to the name to invite. Note: To invite multiple people at once, repeat steps 2-4 until all staff to invite are selected.
  5. Click the Send Invitation button.
  6. Enter any missing email addresses and click Send Invitation. Click Cancel to return to the invitation screen

Paperless Referral Workflows

If you want to set up teachers with referral entry only access, you’ll need to enable paperless referral workflows in your SWIS account. It’s quick to set up and makes collecting referrals during distance learning so much easier. There are two settings to make decisions about once you enable referral workflows:

  • Allow Minors Without Review
  • Add Reviewers

To make things as straightforward as possible, select Yes from the Allow Minors Without Review drop-down menu. This lets teachers enter their minor, classroom-managed behaviors directly into SWIS without requiring someone else to review the referrals first.

As for setting up reviewers, that’s up to you and your school. Anyone with Data Entry access or higher can be set up as a reviewer in your account. Reviewers take a look at any referral – major or minor – to be sure all of the required fields are filled out correctly and there is no missing information before saving them as complete.

We know this school year is different. We see the ways you’re adapting to make your school work for everyone. We know it’s going to take a team effort to be successful. School teams making decisions need to know what’s happening in your classrooms during distance learning. Referral data help teams identify quickly which students need assistance, which teachers are reaching out for help, and which systems require attention so that all students experience this year equitably. Our customer support and training teams are here to help you take advantage of the options available in SWIS that will work best for your school’s processes.

Paperless Referral Entry Webinar Info

Using Custom Fields Webinar Info

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