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How are Websites for Schools Built Differently from Others?

 
October 25th, 2017

Getting a dedicated school website is a necessary step towards embracing a form of education that’s fit for the digital age.

Using an effective school website should provide a different experience compared to browsing other sites. This is because a school site caters to a specific community with highly diverse members: the students and their guardians, the teachers, and the school staff. These visitors use school websites not just to disseminate or find information about activities, but also to participate in programs and communicate with each other to improve the overall learning experience provided by the school.

A school website must be equipped for various types of interactions. At the same time, due to the amount of information your website should be able to provide, having intuitive navigation and page organization should be given top priority. Plus, a school website must also be user-friendly so it can be easily accessed and used by people of all ages, abilities, and levels of technical proficiency.

Key Features Every Good School Website Should Have

Fulfilling all the functions mentioned above is a tall order, but not an impossible task. To pull it all off, a website must have a host of features to improve its functionality and user engagement. The essentials include:

  1. Calendar and Event List
    • One of the first things visitors look for in a school website is the calendar and event section. This feature ensures that the entire school community is aware of upcoming events. Often, the home page features a consolidated calendar of activities or a list of future events. However, there can also be a personalized calendar for each class, club, or department that can only be viewed by the individuals taking part in these group activities.
  2. Web Forms
    • The availability of digital forms makes it easier for the school to send notices and obtain parental consent for activities and events. It also ensures that parents can access, fill out, and submit the forms they need even if they can’t make it to the school premises.
  3. Online Assignments
    • Online assignments are an extension of the classroom learning experience. This feature allows parents and students to track lessons, activities, and class progress even if they’re not present inside the classroom.
  4. Facility Reservation
    • One of the challenges of managing a school is organizing a system for reserving and using school facilities and properties. An online reservation system automates this process and frees up precious human resources that would otherwise be used for sorting out paperwork and usage schedules.
  5. Class, Teacher, and Department Pages
    • These pages provide teachers, classes, and departments with a dedicated space where they can post and view information specific to their respective groups or students. They are quite useful for displaying a teacher’s consultation times, images and videos from a class activity, or events that are hosted by or exclusive to a certain department or club.
  6. Social Integration
    • A strong website plays a major role in the strength of your school’s online presence. However, an active and engaging social media presence can really take your school to the next level. Edlio makes it easy for schools to post to their Facebook or Twitter accounts right from the website admin. Post one-off updates right away or schedule posts days or weeks in advance. 
  7. ADA-Friendly
    • Finally, the school website should be ADA-friendly. This means it should adhere to a set of standards and feature assistive technologies that make it more accessible to persons with disabilities.

These are just the basic features every school website should have to fulfill its function properly. Some sites go above and beyond by adding elements that make it easy for parents pay fees, buy tickets for events, or volunteer for activities. Some school website providers even partner with parent-teacher communication apps that allow parents to immediately receive alerts and messages from the school.

A CMS That’s Designed for Educators

A lot of emphasis has been given to the features that can be found within the website, but these are not the only things that set a school website apart from other sites. The content management system (CMS), or the platform used to manage, organize, and update the website, should also provide a different experience.

After the website development and launch, the management of the school site will be turned over to the school officials. The job of making sure that the site is up and running without a hitch typically falls on the hands of a dedicated IT personnel or team, but the responsibility of updating and adding content is often shared equally among the teachers and school staff. This entails small tasks like creating image and video galleries for school activities, posting announcements, or uploading files for parents or students.

While these tasks sound simple enough, doing them frequently and consistently can be a challenge for teachers and staff who are already swamped with work. A teacher may find time to update their page every quarter, but this posting frequency won’t be enough to establish the website as a reliable source of timely information for parents.

Here is where the importance of a consistent, intuitive, and highly functional CMS interface comes in. Accessing and using the backend of the website should be as easy and as convenient as sending an email. The CMS should be a breeze to navigate, and the author environment where one can add content like notes, images, videos, or galleries should be simple and straightforward while offering a rich selection of options for customization and organization.

In addition, the CMS should have features that will help reduce work for teachers and staff -- and work here doesn’t just mean maintaining the website. A built-in form builder, for example, allows staff to create forms and make them available on the website with just a click of a button and without ever leaving the CMS interface. An automated form submission system, on the other hand, frees teachers of the tedious job of manually collecting forms at the end of every cutoff period. Plus, the system ensures that the form will get to the concerned school personnel without loss or incident.

Establishing a School’s Online Identity

A school website is more than just a hodgepodge of a directory, newsletter, and bulletin board. It’s a necessary tool to keep the community engaged in the education of their children and to minimize the extra work teachers have to do. Sure, a school website may look similar to other websites to an inexperienced eye. But the truth is, a school website requires a lot of specialized features in order to transform it into an online hub that’s perfectly fit for a learning institution.