When it comes to our work with school districts and educational institutions through Stackr, we are frequently faced with unique challenges related to communication between district administrators, students and parents. While there are a wide range of solutions out there that offer emergency notification services that many districts are already set up with, there seems to be an ongoing need to find new ways to push out content created that isn’t related to emergencies.
Given our experience in this space, I’d like to highlight some valuable and frequently untapped avenues your district should consider using to improve communication and transparency.
If you’re ready to make the big leap to improve your communication, a dedicated mobile app is a great place to start. While there are many “off the shelf” app solutions offered by various companies, nothing will come close to a custom-tailored app that can be directly integrated with your website, your online payments provider, your SIS and any number of other external services that you use. You can even use it to keep all your social media and blog posting from across schools and the district in one, convenient place.
Because of modern technologies available to us, we are able to create cross-platform apps that work flawlessly on Android and iOS for a fraction of the cost of what building single-platform native apps would cost. This puts mobile apps in reach of many districts who formerly thought it would be impossible budget-wise.
While I could have easily included push notifications under mobile apps, it’s important to note just how ubiquitous push has become. We are no longer just receiving notifications on our mobile phones; we can now receive them through our desktops, our browsers, and even our watches!
Setting up a push notification platform gives you powerful features and is surprisingly affordable. Our favorite is OneSignal, currently the number one provider of cross-platform push notifications. Services like OneSignal allow you to configure notifications to go out through your mobile app and your website, and as phones develop new standards, people will be able to subscribe to push notifications right from a mobile browser, without the need to download a native app (this is commonly referred to as a PWA, or Progressive Web App). This is a great way to add timely notifications to your communication arsenal and reach parents and students on multiple channels simultaneously.
Email Updates & Newsletters
It may seem old-fashioned to talk about email in the same vein as advanced technologies, but it remains to this day the most widely used platform for communication in the world. It also happens to be one of the most effective, due to its “direct-to-consumer” approach (unlike social channels which are inconsistent in the delivery of messages).
One of the ways we have leveraged email for our school clients is by integrating newsletter campaigns to be sent directly from their websites, taking advantage of all the content that is being created there on an ongoing basis. You can give your subscribers full control over how they wish to receive updates, whether that be on a per-school basis or by various frequency levels (i.e. daily/weekly/monthly) and automate large parts of the process.
It’s rare we come across districts that don’t use social media in some form but what we do see – more often than not – is a strategy that’s fragmented and inconsistent. Here’s some examples:
- The district doesn’t have a social media account(s) but some schools do
- The superintendent doesn’t have access to account(s) and the responsibility of posting important updates is shouldered by someone else
- Updates are sparse and strictly informational
- Account administrators do not reply to tweets or participate in Facebook comments
- There is no plan in place to monitor accounts
We understand it can be challenging for school districts to understand the right way to use social media and still be in compliance with regulations and to avoid any potential controversy. Conversations on the internet can be as valuable as they can be destructive, but with a proper plan in place they will be a great resource for students, parents and community members alike.
Tip We offer a free social media email course (“bootcamp”) to help get schools and districts up to speed on best practices and if chock full of helpful tips and tricks. Sign up here!
If you are looking to improve your district’s ability to communicate with students and parents, there are many other ways beyond what I’ve mentioned here that can be tailored to your current faculty resources and communication strategy.
Stackr provides advanced websites, mobile apps and communication solutions for public and private schools and districts looking to step into the 21st century. For more information, visit getstackr.com.