The beginning of a new school year is busy for everyone, but especially your school’s technology team. Between setting up equipment, troubleshooting software, and onboarding new users to your school network, there’s a constant flurry of activity — and that’s just internally.
Externally, you’re likely fielding a myriad of questions from your parent community. Where can I find my child’s class schedule? How do I pay my tuition bill? Why didn’t I get the back-to-school newsletter? Multiply each question by your total student population and that’s a few hundred queries to answer, if not more.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In other words, answering a question solves the problem in the short-term, but taking the time to instruct parents will help them find the answer themselves down the road. This year, do yourself a favor and empower your parent community to learn how to use your school’s technology.
Perhaps the biggest question from parents is, “Where do I find [X] information?” A parent portal can help. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for information that’s relevant to your parent community. Parents can log in and quickly see their child’s progress, upcoming school events, outstanding notices, important announcements, and more. This solution alone is proven to drastically improve the parent experience and reduce the amount of one-off questions your technology team fields.
Not sure what to include in your parent portal? Here are some of our must-haves:
- Student’s Daily Schedule
- Attendance Change Request
- Student Grades and Assignments
- School Directory
- School Calendar
- Link to required forms, like back-to-school health forms in Magnus Health
- Link to Student Billing
How-to Videos and Training Resources
While a web portal might be intuitive for some, it’s wise to train your parent community on the platform before giving them the reigns. This will help cut down on questions, eliminate frustration, and ensure that families can complete their required tasks on time.
Wellington School in Columbus, OH and Durham Academy in Durham, NC both use Veracross portals to keep their parent community engaged and informed. To train their parents, they created short videos that walk through the parent portal and explain where everything is. Durham Academy’s video is part of a larger Parent Portal Guide that answers frequently asked questions with platform screenshots and clear how-to instructions.
Consider creating a short video or FAQ guide for your parent community. Highlight areas of confusion, respond to recent questions, and showcase the breadth of resources available. You could also create a video series that walks through different areas of the platform. Bonus: these videos can be repurposed to share in email communications or on social media to reinforce the lesson.
Office Hours and Training Sessions
Hands-on training can also be beneficial. Consider hosting “Parent Office Hours” at your upcoming Back-to-School Night or alongside your parent-teacher conferences. Invite parents to stop by for a quick walkthrough of your parent portal or other important school technology like your learning management system.
You might also consider virtual options for those who can’t attend in-person. Remember: each parent will have a different learning preference or level of familiarity with your school’s technology. Be mindful of these differences and create a few resources that can cater to each.
Another way to empower parents with your school’s technology is to reinforce it across different areas of the school. For instance, encourage your academic faculty to promote use of the parent portal in their classroom communications. They want parents to know where to find their child’s academic updates and you want parents to know how to use the platform — it’s a win-win!
Or, partner with your marketing and communications team to establish a technology section in your school’s newsletter. Include a helpful tip or fun fact each week to both highlight your work and continue to educate your community. As you add features to the platform, be sure to announce what’s new and how it works.
Similarly, see if there’s any room in your school’s social media calendar for a few technology posts throughout the year. It might sound silly, but parents are likely to follow your school’s accounts and pay attention. Go the extra mile and make your Facebook PSA fun — it’s social media, after all!
Here at Veracross, we talk a lot about school technology. And while having the right technology in place is crucial for school operations, it’s even more important to have technology that people know how to use — especially parents. By taking the time to train your parent community on your school’s technology, you’ll improve communication and engagement between parents, students, faculty, and staff.