When it comes to communicating with parents and students, many schools address the challenge by putting even more information — forms, calendars, pdfs, instructions — on their websites. As more information becomes available, additional pages are added and more downloads and uploads are enabled. What results is an unmanageable website that is confusing, out of date and increasingly ignored by parents and students alike.
To address the problems, many schools have created special parent ‘portals’ — password protected intranets that allow parents to search for and retrieve information on their childrens’ grades and assignments. There are three major problems with most portals, especially considering the ‘need-it-now’ more mobile phone oriented parent community:
- Access: First of all, many are not optimized for mobile phone use. That’s a deal breaker for 90% of parents. Secondly, they are usually passive. That means parents need to remember to go onto the portal with their user/password. The problem? Days and weeks can pass by and parents may miss important dates.
- Navigation: How deep do you need to drill to get to that one piece of information you need? With portals, the answer is often ‘too deep’. Portals that are not ‘alert oriented’ or are not well organized lead to confusion. Confusion leads to abandoning. And maybe never going back!
- Information: TMI! Many portals load up every shred of data, forms, calendars and other information that can trap parents in a maze of confusion. Portals should not be repositories, they should be agile, alert-driven, engaging, and geared towards instant access to key information — on the parents’ terms.
Adding to the above, these solutions are often expensive and take months to properly implement and deploy. And, while portals may seem a quick fix to troublesome websites, they only put a ‘band aid’ on an increasing need for single-touch access to all key information that parents with mobile phones expect from school administrators.
It’s time for school administrators to give outmoded parent portals a ‘time out’ and embrace mobile platforms that will organize data, make it easy to access and, most importantly encourage parents to engage with it.