Are you struggling to keep up with all of the changes happening with today’s fast-moving generation of parents? Are parents, staff and students voicing their opinion and wanting a school mobile app? Well, you are not alone: mobile apps are quickly becoming more essential to our lives.
I personally have many apps I use, whether to keep up with scores of major league baseball teams – and mine isn't doing too well of late – or using it to plan my day with a weather app. We depend on these apps every day, and parents have a right to demand such a connection to the school.
Schools are being forced to adapt to this evolution of communication, but such change can be very beneficial to schools and the parents alike. While backpack fliers, voice messaging, texting, websites and social media are certainly standards for school communication, a mobile app can truly streamline how your school gets your message out. Understand, I am not recommending a school mobile app will replace all of those channels, but it could easily become the primary channel parents depend on.
Here are some key reasons why you should consider a school mobile app and not just follow the latest trends.
Wins the popularity contest
Video killed the radio star, and mobile app usage has taken over the traditional desktop. As of January 2014, Americans used smartphone and tablet apps more than PCs to access the Internet (ComScore). Mobile devices represented 55% of internet usage in the U.S. Out of that 55%, mobile apps made up 47% of internet traffic and 8% of traffic came from mobile browsers, according to data from comScore, cited by the research firm Enders Analysis. PCs clocked in at 45%.
In addition to mobile app usage being up overall, a report this year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, indicates more than half — 56 percent — of U.S. adults have smartphones.
So how do these stats translate to your school improving communication with parents? Mobile apps are widely adopted, but will your parents embrace a mobile app for your school? You may know the answer already, but a quick parent survey on their preferred methods of engagement might be just the ticket to help justify your adoption of a mobile app. Before you do so, however, be prepared to respond to what I'm guessing will be overwhelming support for the idea.
Mobile app helps cut through the clutter
Have you ever had to run to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk? Well, a big supermarket is not designed to make that very easy compared to a convenience store. It is safe to say parents, like the rest of us, put a premium on convenient communication and, a mobile app can be the 7-Eleven store of communication.
A school mobile app is designed to bring all of that utilitarian, frequently accessed information to the front. Key areas of school communication such as calendars, news announcements, lunch menus, contact directory, documents and links to portals for grades and payments can all be a click away.
Gateway to your school website
A school mobile app can also pull in all of your website content. It is important to have a responsive website, a feature becoming more common among website hosting providers. Integrating a mobile app and a website with responsive design enhances your school's ability to connect with parents.
Instead of parents being forced to click a browser on their phone and pull up the website and navigate around, all of website pages can be linked within the mobile app. Most mobile apps have a built-in browser, which allows the user to stay within the mobile app to access your school website.
Keep parents up to speed… instantly
Push notifications are what make the mobile app really useful to get parents' attention instantly. We're all conditioned now to being automatically notified via "pushed" messages. Most adults I know have a Facebook app and prefer it over the desktop browser version because of its ease and immediacy in getting up to date on all of their friends' activity. Your school parents can benefit from push notifications and gain information immediately, whether it is a special announcement, closing alert or school safety related issue.
A school mobile app fits in tightly in with your other communication channels also. Yes, you can use email, voice messaging and texting to push information, but is it integrated seamlessly with your website content and other channels?
A mobile app can bring efficiencies to your classrooms too. Imagine if you were looking for volunteers for the school field trip. You can send out a push notification to the parents and they can click a link to complete a form integrated into the mobile app.
Lastly, what makes a school mobile app instant is how it fits into our lifestyle. We are alway on-the-go, and anything that plays well with how we operate these days will help strengthen your school’s communication.
School communications methods are evolving, and a school mobile app is yet another and potentially powerful tool for engaging your parents.
When researching mobile apps, know that they're not all created equal. Do your homework. Find out what parents need. See what other schools are doing to integrate their need for mobile connections with their parents and the entire school community. Parents, after all, aren't the only ones on the move these days. We all are.
There are many channels to use for parent communication. Your school may not be able to use all of them, but a mobile app could be the best way to extend your reach and keep parents closer to your school.
You might want to check out these related articles:
- Responsive Web Design or Mobile App for My School
- 7 Must-Have Features for your School Mobile App
- 3 Keys to Consider before Selecting a School Mobile App
As co-founder of Campus Suite, Steve believes behind every great school is great communication. His tech savvy and passion for design fuel his desire to help administrators understand, embrace and seize the power of web communications.