Last updated: September 2020
Digital technology is all around us, and organisations in the education space including schools, universities and colleges have been quick to embrace this.
The importance of digital technology in education is undeniable:
- Students can access learning materials and additional resources tailored to their abilities and interest at their convenience.
- Parents have complete visibility over important information about their child, from upcoming events to exam results.
- Teachers can monitor the progress of each student and manage their pedagogical tasks online.
- School administrators can automate forms, student data, events and other traditionally manual process, saving them countless hours.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
As digital technology evolves, more possibilities open up to better attract, educate, connect and engage their students, parents, staff and other key stakeholders.
What technology should you implement?
Start with figuring out what the technology can actually do for you!
Identify what problems or challenges you’re trying to resolve, who you’re trying to resolve it for and then decide what tools can help.
Talk to students, parents, teachers, professors, administrators, donors, alumni and any other relevant groups.
Consider sending surveys, organising focus groups and conducting interviews.
If you have time, delve further by observing how a specific tasks or action is completed. If someone has been completing a task or action in a certain way for a long time, they may not see it as inefficient or as a cause of frustration. This observation method can give you great insights into the processes that are not mentioned by those you interview, but can be improved with technology.
- What repetitive tasks do they perform that could be automated?
- What are their common tasks/actions and what are the causes of friction that delays or prevents them from completing that task/action?
- What frustrates them when dealing with your organisation, and what you can do to resolve this?
- What do they enjoy about your organisation, and what you can do to highlight this?
- How well the child is being assisted with their education and anything school related, and how can this be improved?
Your goal is to figure out if there is a better way of doing something to the benefit of stakeholders. You can research ideas by talking to other education institutions, attending education technology events, searching online and so on.
For example, one parent might express concern over occasionally forgetting upcoming school events or losing important hand-outs, which leads to their child feeling upset. Another parent might feel disconnected and ‘out-of-the-loop’ with what’s happening, because their teenager only shares the bare minimum information with them. You then conclude that your school needs a better way to communicate with and distribute information to parents, such as a parent portal or school communication app.
At the same time, you observe school administrators performing their day-to-day tasks. Then realise they’re spending hours a week processing and typing up staff travel requests, annual leave forms, sick leave, facility bookings and more. You identify the need to automate internal processes by allowing staff to enter information in a system and to capture this information more efficiently. You then conclude that an information management system integrated to an online forms management tool triggering automated emails to the relevant person or department, will cut administrative time significantly.
Some challenges you might identify
There are a multitude of challenges and concerns you will identify. Here are some of the common challenges our clients have uncovered:
- Enrolment engagement - How can we increase enrolment and attract new students with our public website?
- Distributing information - How can we efficiently create and push content to different audiences, in an official, secure and scalable way?
- Information accessibility and discovery - How can we better manage documents, resources and other information readily available and accessible, in a way that is easy for various staff to maintain?
- Notifications and updates - How can we push and attract attention to the right information, with the right audience, at the right time?
- Event and calendar management - How can we more efficiently manage the various timetables, public events, school events and registrations? Then present them in one seamless, cohesive way?
- Automating manual processes - How can we better manage traditionally paper-based processes including forms and workflows, student data and assessments?
Use these insights to create a list of requirements that will guide you in choosing the right solution.
Real life example
Ascham is a non-selective, day and boarding girls’ school that provides a strong academic program within a friendly, inclusive culture. Their existing intranet provided information digitally in a central hub, however, it was quite general and only a small amount of information was specific to our users (staff, students or parents). They identified opportunities for improvements that would make a real and positive difference to each stakeholder group through research, focus groups and interviews with users from each group.
Ascham decided a new school portal was required. Their objective included providing users with an intuitive dashboard, a central place of communication and a comprehensive source of school information which would enable them to stay actively involved with the school. In addition, streamlining and automating more of the processes Corporate Services staff manage, was a key objective.
They redesigned their intranet into a single integrated platform for all communication and information - it became their student portal, parent portal and staff intranet - rolled into one platform.
The portal integrates more of the data from their school management system (Synergetic Management System). For example, the medical form is pre-populated with information pulled from Synergetic. When updated, a workflow is triggered and a notification is sent to staff for approval. Once approved, it is updated in Synergetic. This saves significant time for Ascham School staff, who no longer have to manually update information from one platform to another. At the same time, it provides a seamless experience for parents who can now update the information at their own convenience and instantaneously.
To further enhance the functionality and after feedback from users, they then rolled out a mobile app version of their school portal. This allows them to push important notifications straight to a parent, student or teachers lock screen on their mobile phones.
Read the full Ascham School case study here.
I hope this post has really helped you understand that digital is much more than just the technology, it’s about what it can do for you!
if you're looking to implement a an advanced out-of-the-box school portal integrated to your student learning management and school information management system, then the elements school portal is for you.