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Child Care Seer® Better Than Brightwheel

What Makes Child Care Seer® Better Than…


No less than fifteen viable software products are available for child care centers, and I am often asked, “What makes Child Care Seer® better than xxx?” Throughout this blog series, I will attempt to answer exactly that question. Today, we take on


Brightwheel

About once a year, I sign up for a Brightwheel demo. Because Child Care Seer® has directors and owners on staff, I am able to use information that makes me appear to be a child care center staff member, and I generally invite one of my coworkers with center director experience to join me on the call. I say this only to suggest that the Brightwheel representative has no reason to think I am anything other than a potential customer, and given the size of my two centers, should be very interested in my business.


Brightwheel does not present a live-action, interactive demo, rather the representative uses a prepared script with a slide show of screenshots and a designated response for the most frequently asked questions. If you ask for more details or further information about what something looks like that is not in the slides, they generally aren’t well prepared or able to provide answers. During my first demo, I was frustrated by this.


But after further research, time spent in the product, and discussions with actual users, I discovered that Brightwheel was actually giving me the perfect demo that represents their product well. Brightwheel, in general, is a product that looks pretty. While the app is simple and easy to use, actual functionality is superficial and lightweight. Modules of the product that should integrate with one another--such as scheduling and child check-in, or billing and subsidy--don’t. Depth and detail are difficult to find if they are there at all. Just like the demo slide show, what you see is exactly what you get, don’t go looking for anything more.

Dashboard/Homescreen

Like many things, I find it best to begin at the beginning. In this case, let’s compare the homescreens of Child Care Seer and Brightwheel. As Brightwheel believes their mobile app to be their premier feature, I’ll give them the easy win. Or not. These are the screens admin staff members start at when logging into the mobile app.



Brightwheel daycare software admin mobile home screen view
Brightwheel Administrator Mobile Home Screen


Child Care Seer childcare software mobile dashboard homescreen
Child Care Seer Mobile Dashboard

Child Care Seer shows all the information needed to see how my center is performing right now, with live action updates. In just one glance, I can see how many messages I haven’t read, and more importantly how many messages have not yet had a reply from my fellow staff members. I can see how many staff and children are present, as well as how many are scheduled for today. I can see how much outstanding money is owed by my families (and with just one click, see details of exactly which children owe exactly how much, and pay the bill!). I can see the ratio in each classroom, and if I expand the detail arrow, I can see which staff and children are in the class without ever leaving this screen. I can see immediately when there is an issue I need to address (denoted by the pink 1 in the top right corner). In addition, I can check children and staff in or out of my center, view a child’s detailed profile, or view my other center with just two clicks on my Seer Dashboard.


On first glance, Brightwheel shows me how many rooms I have and how many reminders I have set. Assuming my building is not under construction, I’m pretty sure the number of rooms I have stays the same and isn’t critical information for running my center. To get useful data to manage my center in the moment, I would need to click multiple buttons and move back and forth several times with the Brightwheel app to see everything that Child Care Seer displays right from the start. For multiple centers, Brightwheel’s admin app requires 5 clicks to move between them. Child Care Seer requires only two. Between clicking different buttons to access needed information and clicking over twice as much to move between my centers, there is no “quickly” about the Brightwheel app!

Maybe the desktop is different. Let’s look…


Child Care Seer daycare software dashboard desktop view
Child Care Seer Desktop Dashboard

Brightwheel childcare software desktop homescreen view
Brightwheel Desktop Homescreen

Child Care Seer gives me generally the same information as the mobile dashboard. In addition to ratios, I can see avatars of all staff and children right away. Seer lets me choose which order to view my classrooms, so I’ve put the most active at the top.


Brightwheel’s desktop home screen has considerably less data than their app. I can see total staff and students, but I cannot see where they are without clicking View All simply because the classrooms are only shown in alphabetical order. I am able to see today’s date, and upcoming birthdays. I can also see that 75 activities were logged in daily reports so far today. Perhaps most telling about this dashboard is that a significant portion of it is used for a Brightwheel promotion rather than critical information required to run my center effectively.

Perhaps a former Brightwheel, now Seer user says it best: “The Seer dashboard is unmatched. As an owner I can get everything I need in a moment from the dashboard.  With Brightwheel I had to dig to find an error.  With Seer, I don’t even need to be at the center, I can get it all on mobile in minutes!”

Family Connection/Parent Engagement

Brightwheel was created for parent engagement, and they are considered one of the best in the industry. Let’s see how Child Care Seer compares!

First, a look at the classroom device home screens:


Child Care Seer childcare software classroom device for family connection parent engagement feature
Child Care Seer Classroom Tablet


Brightwheel daycare software teacher app for parent engagement
Brightwheel Teacher App

Child Care Seer shows all staff and students present. It shows the current ratio, as well as how many classroom messages are awaiting reply. Tags indicate children with special considerations, such as allergies or medical conditions (simply click for details). Brightwheel shows children checked into class, and other children enrolled in this class in transparent fashion. Please note, the Brightwheel list has nothing to do with which children are scheduled for today, but rather shows all children assigned to this class via their profile page.


Child Care Seer has a Classroom Tablet which allows teachers to come and go throughout the day by simply joining the class and picking up the tablet. For classes with multiple teachers, easily switch between users by clicking the staff avatar. Brightwheel has a Teacher App, requiring each teacher to log into a separate device. In addition, the teacher only has access to the classes specified on her profile page, and only to the children who are assigned to those classes for their homeroom. If a teacher or child must be in a different classroom for any kind of scheduling change, admin must rearrange class access to allow activities to be recorded.


Child Care Seer was created for staff and student scheduling, and therefore includes an Upcoming screen which Brightwheel does not include at all.


Child Care Seer daycare software classroom tablet upcoming schedule for today
Child Care Seer Upcoming on Classroom Tablet

From the Upcoming tab, teachers can see exactly what is scheduled next. Whether it’s students and staff arriving and leaving, or events such as naps, meals and trips to the playground, Seer helps teachers manage their classroom with confidence and efficiency! Start or stop an event or allow a child to join or leave a classroom with just one click. Seer also handles classroom merges at the beginning and end of the day with ease – just one click moves all children and staff to the designated classroom and updates the Dashboard and ratio counts automatically as well!

Let’s take a look at the interface for adding an entry to the child’s daily report.



Child Care Seer childcare software classroom tablet interface for adding a daily journal entry
Child Care Seer – Create Entry


Brightwheel daycare software interface on mobile app for adding and activity to the daily report
Brightwheel – Add Activity

Upon initial review, Brightwheel’s app uses more colors and looks more fun, but upon further investigation there are fewer options available. Let’s dig a bit deeper and look at actual entry of a meal…



Child Care Seer daycare software family connection adding a food entry on the classroom device
Child Care Seer Food Entry


Brightwheel childcare software parent engagement app adding a meal activity from the classroom
Brightwheel Meal Activity

Child Care Seer is designed to keep teacher’s eyes up on the class and not down on the device, and that definitely shows here! Centers create a weekly menu via the Scheduling page, and then the teacher only needs to select the appropriate meal, then click to say how much the child ate. That’s it! With Brightwheel, the teacher needs to add each meal item from the list of every meal item that was ever served at the center, then say how much the child ate. Even using the search to complete this task requires typing and selecting 4-5 items per child. For a class of 10 children, that’s typing to search for 40-50 items per meal, 80-100 per day if you serve just breakfast and lunch!


Consistently, Child Care Seer has more powerful features in the Family Connection module with fewer clicks required to complete everyday tasks.

Parent Mobile App

Again, Brightwheel is supposed to have one of the best mobile apps, so let’s take a look at the parent experience.



Brightwheel daycare software parent mobile app home screen
Brightwheel Parent App Homescreen



Child Care Seer software parent portal mobile homescreen
Child Care Seer Parent Mobile Home

Again, the Brightwheel home screen has minimal information and function. I can see a list of my children that attend this center, and I can check them in and out. To do anything else, I need to navigate various menus or click on my child and click several more times to accomplish even basic tasks.


Child Care Seer reduces clicks to save time for everyone, including your parents! From the main home screen, I can easily find my unread inbox messages, pay my bill, read my child’s daily journal, send an absent note, and find my kiosk pin – all with just one click! In addition, I can request a drop-in visit or load my wallet (prepaid account) – two features Brightwheel doesn’t even offer.


A former Brightwheel, now Seer user, had this to say: “Parents can even view and download tax forms for themselves – with Brightwheel, my centers printed them but then had to redo it in another app because needed information was not included on the reports for Brightwheel.”


What about staff members that are also parents at the center? With Brightwheel, they’ll need two separate logins for the app, one using their email address and the other using their phone number. Child Care Seer knows that this scenario is quite common and makes it very easy to switch between parent and staff accounts with just two clicks, and only one login required!


Please note, I did review the Child Care Seer Daily Journal and the Brightwheel Daily Report – both are comprehensive and quite comparable to each other, so I have not included further details in this document.

Child Profile Information

When running a child care center, you need child information at your fingertips at a moment’s notice. With Child Care Seer, full child details are just one click away on your Dashboard! Brightwheel requires, well, a few more. Let’s take a look at the information that is available on the main child profile page.


Child Care Seer software child profile information page gives you information you need at a glance
Child Care Seer Child Profile

Brightwheel daycare software student profile page
Brightwheel Student Profile

Child Care Seer immediately shows child age, tags (allergies, medical, food, or any other critical information such as no-photo), homeclass and schedule for the week (including times actually spent in the center). I can see family contacts and siblings (just one click to go there). I can see balance due information, as well as upcoming bills for the next several weeks. I can check in the child, message the family, or pay a bill with just one click!


Brightwheel shows age, information similar to Seer tags, and homeroom. Parent contact information is available if I scroll down – scroll down 3 full pages! There is no way to immediately message the family, pay a bill, or check-in the child.

Scheduling

Child Care Seer was originally built because no other tool available could help our founder plan staffing to match expected student attendance. As part of the foundation to realizing capacity planning, Seer’s scheduling tools are unmatched! Unlike Brightwheel, nearly everything in Seer interacts with the schedule. From check in to billing to the upcoming tab on the classroom device, all of Seer’s features interact with each other seamlessly, saving time and clicks and helping to manage a well-run center.


As Brightwheel only has one scheduling tab, I’ll start there to compare.


Brightwheel daycare software scheduling tool for childcare centers
Brightwheel Schedules

Child Care Seer daycare center scheduling software tool
Child Care Seer Scheduling

Brightwheel has one basic schedule for staff and students. It is generally expected that teachers and students will only be in one class for one block of time per day. Total hours scheduled for staff for the week are included on the table. Brightwheel is careful to point out in their documentation that schedule has nothing to do with when a child can check into the center, nor does it determine what classes teachers have access to on their Teacher App. Brightwheel does not show any actual times spent in the center on the schedule page.


Child Care Seer has not one, but five scheduling pages. One for staff, children, classes, food, and activity plans. As the schedule is one of the things that keeps a center running well, having the ability to plan everything for every day is exciting!

Seer expects that staff might move around to different positions during the day, or perhaps be absent for vacation or sick time. Seer also displays actual check-in/out times for staff and children, as quite often actual and planned are not the same at all! Child Care Seer shows not only the total hours planned by day and by week, but the actual hours already worked, and the projected total for the week including highlighting when overtime might be a factor!


From a former Brightwheel user: “Time to complete payroll went from 1.5 – 2 hrs down to 30 min, including cutting checks.  Seer has cut our admin time by 75%!”

Comprehensive schedules for children are also available. Part of efficient planning for staff is knowing when students will actually be at the center, not expecting they’ll be there from open to close every day of the week. Because child scheduling is so powerful, Child Care Seer is able to handle standard enrollments, part-time enrollments (either half-day or partial-week combinations), hourly drop-ins, and any other customized scheduling desired.


Food and Activity Planner is where more magic happens in Seer! As mentioned above, planning a weekly menu allows for easy entry in Family Connection for the entire center. Planning Activities (curriculum) allows teachers to see what’s happening next as well as plan for tomorrow, and also provides information to teachers and parents through the Classroom Tablet Activity entry and onto the Daily Journal. All information is already present, so the classroom teacher just needs to snap a quick photo and save the entry – minimal typing required in the classroom setting!


Child Care Seer software activity planner lets you plan lessons to use with family connection in your daycare center
Child Care Seer Activity Planner

In addition to the Scheduling menu, Child Care Seer offers several other tools to help manage staff and student schedules, including keeping an eye on ratios and warning of potential issues both now and in the future. The Class page gives a detailed graphical view of when everyone is expected (light blu