The pandemic has affected us all in some way and, arguably, the education sector has been the most impacted of all. Schools, colleges and universities have been closed for months on end and society still feels worlds away from normal. The impact on children’s and students’ learning cannot be ignored – nor can the crucial social skills so many are missing out on because they are learning from home.
Reassuringly, we are seeing great efforts to support the enormous pressure that teachers, parents and their children are under during this turbulent time. COVID-19 has brought about a digital revolution in the education sector, with learning shifting from the classroom to online. There has been a significant surge, for example, in use of language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, and online learning software.
Now, we’re starting to see the acceleration of technology to dramatically improve how teachers communicate with parents. It’s something that’s urgently needed, given that information related to the pandemic constantly changes. Since March 2020, the constant review of COVID-19 guidance has meant that the ever-changing arrangements have needed to be disseminated quickly and clearly to the public.
Technology – especially apps – offer a lifeline to teachers so they can communicate with parents about key changes quickly, but also deliver content remotely so children can continue to learn. As a trusted digital partner in mobile and web applications, we have been working with ConnectUs over the last four years, designing a solution that provides schools with a cost effective service to produce and deliver school-branded websites. This move to digital has helped these schools save money by moving away from manual paper-based communications, reducing call volumes, admin time and the need to send text messages, giving teachers more time and resources to focus on teaching and child care.
Ultimately, apps are a fantastic way to drive teacher-parent engagement during COVID-19. But when building effective apps for the education sector, there are some key factors to consider, including:
- Easy to use: apps should include a simple to use content management system so teachers can easily control it and self-manage. They should also allow more than one person in a household to download the app, meaning even grandparents can take part and engage with the school.
- Provide training and support: although apps should be simple to use, providers need to provide teachers with training and documents on how to best use them so they can get it right first time. What’s more, schools should be offered customer support so advice is always available as and when required.
- Be compliant: we all know about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and since teachers will be accessing parents’ personal data, every app must be compliant.
- Integrate with school management systems: apps should integrate with a school’s existing system so all communication is recorded in one place, therefore minimising any potential errors and ensuring there’s always ‘one version of the truth’.
- Offer unlimited messages: the ability for teachers to send unlimited messages is a major benefit. It means they don’t have to worry about incurring extra costs whenever they send out reminders or last-minute changes, such as new procedures for entering and leaving the school premises. Teachers should also be able to schedule messaging, create groups, add images and even links to send out surveys.
- Include calendars: apps should have the ability to sync with Outlook or Google calendars. Schools should also be able to display these calendars on their website as it ensures that people are informed of upcoming events (and any changes).
- Branded: any parent-facing technology should mirror the school’s branding. Parents will recognise the branding, which will help drive engagement.
Never before have schools and other educational establishments been so reliant on technology for real-time communication and virtual learning. And, with uncertainty continuing to surround the sector, it’s clear technology is here to stay – even long after the virus subsides. It’s now more important than ever for schools to invest in the right tools to empower teachers to better support children in their learning.
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