As an administrator in a school environment, it’s likely that you have encountered the following scenario:
The stakeholders in your school have determined that not having an effective method to distribute pressing information to parents is causing problems for everyone, from students to teachers and administrators as well as the family at home. Now you are tasked with finding a solution that will help keep everyone informed in a timely manner.
This is not surprising considering one of the top five priorities for parents is having their school install an online portal, according to a report from Edutopia, citing statistics from a survey by the National School Public Relations Association.
You may have heard about how effective an education portal can be from your counterparts in other schools, but are not quite sure how to create a truly beneficial portal solution for parents, students, teachers, alumni and any other important stakeholders you’re responsible for.
With that in mind, here are five key insights about education portal development that will help you launch (or relaunch) a compelling portal for your own school community.
1. Faster Access to Student & School Information is Key
As you know, parents are busy. An education portal is key to providing them with access to all the information they need regarding their child and your school, including current marks, attendance statistics, details about homework requirements, announcements about extracurricular activities and more. Additionally, portals are online 24/7, allowing parents to access it at their own convenience when they have a moment to spare.
When developing your portal, engage in field research such as focus groups with parents, teachers and administrators to understand what information needs to be provided and what key challenges/bottleneck areas the portal can address. This will give you a good idea of the must-have/critical features to include.
2. Portals must be User-Friendly & Designed for Non-Technical Users
You cannot expect all your administrators and educators to be equally digitally literate. Your portal platform must be easy-to-update, share and publish information, or it will face low staff adoption rates. Work with experienced education portal providers who can offer school portal design and features such as:
- In-line editing - provide users with the ability to very quickly create and update content on the fly. Simply click and edit, providing true WYSIWYG editing (what you see is what you get).
- Dynamic widgets - automatically create and populate a page with news, blog, case studies and other resources feeds, lists of documents, gallery of images and libraries of assets.
- Calendars - create individual calendars and embed them into any page to quickly input and view staff availability, rosters and resource room bookings.
- Events manager - organise school events with the click of a few buttons, publish events to any page, and automatically collect and view registrations to determine numbers.
Prior to your portal going live, select a handful of staff and parents of varying levels of digital literacy to test the system. Have them run through common scenarios on the portal to ensure it offers a user-friendly experience.
3. Offer a One-Stop Shop Integrated to School Information Systems
One of the best ways you can encourage high adoption rates of your portal is to turn it onto a self-service hub offering access to all the key information your stakeholders need.
To do this, it is important to work with a vendor that can offer a portal solution that can integrate with existing information system. A common scenario for schools is to integrate portals with the Synergetic Management platform. Information is pulled from Synergetic and made visible in the portal, allowing parents to quickly check absences, parent permissions, medical and other critical information.
Make note of the different systems your school uses, from information systems to help desk support systems, and ask your vendor for suggestions on what other schools have done to integrate these systems into their portals.
4. Create a Customised Dashboard That Brings in Information From Other Systems
As far as the end users will be concerned, an education portal will only be as useful as its dashboard allows. A dashboard should be capable of bringing in relevant information from other systems and giving stakeholders access to what they need with an intuitive and user-friendly interface. Dashboards for parent portals in particular, must be customised to present information regarding their child only. At the same time, administrators need access to manage security permissions, to better control the flow of information.
During the initial scoping stage, book in time to sit with a handful of end-users of the platform. This is a chance to discover what information on their dashboards will actually be of use, and how they would like it presented. Continue to elicit their feedback during the design and staging phases.
5. Offer a Mobile App that Integrates with the Desktop Site to Keep Up with Changing Behaviour
People are increasingly relying on their smartphones to quickly access and stay-to-date with information, and this trend extends to parents, teachers and administrators.
Choose a vendor that can offer a mobile responsive site or integrates their desktop portal with a dedicated mobile app. This allows parents to quickly access important information such as calendars, forms, contact details, upcoming events and student records, from any location and device.
Dedicated mobile apps, such as schoolAPP by Digistorm, offer additional functionality over standard mobile responsive sites, including:
- Push notification alerts - These can be sent directly to mobile phones, and ensures parents and students view important school information, notices, and other news items in a timely manner.
- Mobile-first design - Mobile apps appear more polished and professional, as they have been designed to be viewed on mobile only, and follow the specific requirements of each mobile device operating system.
- Faster loading - Much of the content on an app is already pre-downloaded on the user's device, making it faster to use and navigate from page to page.
- Seamless access - Mobile apps such as schoolAPP requests a single log on and allows parents to remain logged in for future visits.
This is why Elcom and Digistorm have recently partnered to offer a complete desktop portal and mobile app solution to better connect school communities. You can read more about the partnership here.
Launching or relaunching a good portal solution with high adoption rates will take a lot of time and effort on your behalf. However, it leads to a happier and highly engaged community of administrators, parents, students, alumni and other important stakeholders.
Ready to Get Started with Your Education Portal?
Deploying an education portal is easier when you partner with developers that have a proven track record in building customised applications for educational institutions.
Click here for more information on the web design and web development services offered by Elcom, or view our education success stories here.