Do you have a website that effectively communicates your school’s brand, image, and value? Do you use it to communicate with students, engage parents, and build bonds with your surrounding community? If so, you’re one step ahead of many schools out there.
Having a high-quality school website, though, is just one piece of the puzzle. Far too many school invest substantial time, energy, and resources into building a school website and then neglect to extend that effort down to the classroom and teacher level.
Some schools leave their teachers to fend for themselves when building classroom-specific sites, allowing them to do it on whatever platform they want. The result is that every teacher has a site on a different platform and all have different appearances and addresses. That creates a disjointed experience for students and parents as they try to navigate between different pages. Other schools might have an IT staffer helping teachers with their sites, but we all know that model is not practical nor sustainable in the age of dwindling resources for schools.
A classroom site can be an incredibly helpful teaching tool. It’s an easy way for teachers to distribute classroom-specific information like test information and supply lists. It can also expand learning experiences and spur student participation. Likewise, viewed from the larger picture of the school's or district's communications, truly integrating your teacher pages into your school website has some distinct advantages.
It’s always best practice to have teacher websites be a part of the school’s larger online presence. Teachers undoubtedly want to inject their own personality into their sites. They should be allowed – no, encouraged – to do that. Integrating their sites with the school’s not only makes navigation easier, but has far-reaching benefits.
If you’ve resisted incorporating teacher or classroom websites into your school’s website, you could be missing out on a big opportunity. Here are five big reasons why you should integrate teacher websites with your school website and make your school’s online presence more powerful:
1. It’s easier than ever.
It used to be that teachers only had two options when it came to building their own site. First, they could use a generic blogging platform. That kind of platform usually doesn’t offer the kind of communication tools needed to make the site effective. Their other option was to build a site themselves from scratch. Let’s face it….few teachers have that kind of technical skill.
Now, content management systems (CMS) like Weebly and Google Classroom offer easy opportunities to make a website without any kind of technical expertise. There are many platforms like these that allow teachers to simply drag-and-drop elements into place, so they can quickly build their sites as they like. Many proprietary CMS have website templates for teachers built right in. These can be formatted so the pages are consistent with your school’s site and brand.
2. It can create positive inter-classroom competition.
Classroom websites can be used for much more than just communicating information to parents. They can also be used as learning tools between classrooms and even grade levels.
The next time you have a big fundraiser or grade-wide project, teachers can use their classroom websites to track progress. Students can use the sites to tout their own accomplishments and to measure up their competition. Many schools find that these websites become sources of pride for students and helps classrooms achieve much more than they would have without the sites.
Your school website may give the appearance that your school is unified. Classroom websites, though, can actually make your school more unified.
3. It makes your brand more consistent.
Many schools think about branding as something that’s reserved for the corporate space. After all, schools are places of learning. They’re non-profit institutions. Why would branding matter for a school?
It does matter, though. Your community is going to form an opinion of your school regardless of whether or not you make a branding effort. So, your school has a brand. The only question is whether or not you control that brand.
Plenty of schools use their school websites and teacher websites to build and maintain their brand. By incorporating your teacher websites into your school website, you’re keeping the brand consistent.
4. It improves parent engagement.
Every parent knows how hard it is to get information about school out of a kid. The last thing in the world a student wants to do is talk about school with their parents. Even in the younger grades, it’s sometimes hard to get information.
The thing is, though, parents want to know. They want to know what their child is learning. They want to know about their child’s activities and progress. You can foster that engagement by making it easy.
A classroom website gives parents a direct connection into the classroom. They can see videos of class projects. They can read about special assignments. They can see pictures of big achievements. That kind of interaction can help parents become more involved in their child’s learning.
5. It can boost your social media efforts.
Are you having a hard time filling your social media schedule? You’re not alone. Winning on social media is hard work. You can make that effort easier, though, by connecting your teacher’s websites to your school’s social media accounts.
Teachers can post updates about their class’s projects and achievements. They can engage in friendly rivalries with other classes using specific hashtags. They can even poll parents and students or send out extra credit questions on social media. Connect your teacher websites with your school website and you have instant social content and instant opportunities to increase engagement.
Teacher pages: key pieces to your school's total communications puzzle
Of course, a fully utilized school website with integrated classroom pages only works if your teachers actually take advantage of the ability to create their own site. You probably have a handful of teachers who are eager to do so. You may have some others that just need a little nudge. Many CMS for schools have built-in tools that enable teachers to quickly and easily create a classroom website that's consistent with the school image, yet provides teachers the latitude to put their own spin on it.
Once you make the process simple, you’ll likely find that your teachers are very willing to create their own sites. Keep it integrated with your site and consistent with your brand. Then give them the freedom to express themselves. You’ll likely see increased engagement among students, teachers, and parents alike, and better communications all around.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him @jay4schools.