With responses to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, varying from country to country and even state to state within some countries, schools have found it increasingly challenging to keep parents informed and connected. This has especially been so, in regard to coronavirus information and management within the school, as well as general information and events.
Schools have been cognisant of the fact that parents are seeking accurate, up-to-date advice, as well as teaching plans and expectations, so they can work out what is possible in their own households, particularly for those who are deemed ‘essential workers’.
There are many and varied ways in which parents and carers can be kept informed and feel involved in their school and their children’s education. Of great assistance to effective communication, as we saw during the initial outbreak of the 2020 pandemic, are digital technologies including community portals, learning management systems and video conferencing platforms.
With an online learning environment like Schoolbox, a number of approaches to informing and connecting with the parent community can be achieved for teaching and learning, and enhance community engagement.
Approach 1: Parents and Friends associations (P&F)
Parents and Friends (P&F), or Parents and Citizens Associations provide a number of opportunities for engagement at the highest level. This unique parent body has access to information often before it is widely released; provides fundraising events for additional resources and opportunities; and holds significant levels of responsibility within the school, including limited decision-making powers. Traditionally, the P&F meets face to face on a regular basis, however, with modern technologies, there are numerous possibilities for communication, and these have been implemented in recent times with various restrictions in place.
Schoolbox provides opportunities for information sharing and private group correspondence and collaboration for associations such as these. Utilising the groups feature, an information page can be controlled, with only certain memberships and levels of access enabled. For instance, the president and vice president of the P&F may be group managers of the page, and the rest of the committee may be group members. When information is added or modified, or contributions are made, notifications can be enabled so that all members of the group are aware of updates.
Approach 2: Parent and teacher interviews
As a result of the 2020 pandemic, there has been an unprecedented need for innovative methods to replace the traditional face-to-face model for parent teacher interviews, or parent-teacher-student conferences. Schools have been searching for technologies that enable parents to access teachers, in a similar fashion to how students have been learning during lockdown. The combination of learning management platforms and video conferencing software has enabled a unique approach to both parent teacher interviews and subject selection events.
The approach sees the pairing of an LMS provider with video conferencing vendors, which offer integration capabilities. Parents access information regarding interview opportunities via the LMS, they book their time slots using various software, most commonly the Student Information System (SIS), and then connect to the interview call either via an emailed link, or calendar invite. Teachers are then able to commence the interview when ready.
Schoolbox has provided a successful alternative to the common parent teacher interview scenario. The Schoolbox integrations with both the SIS and external video conferencing software including ZOOM and Microsoft Teams, has enabled a smooth process for staff and parents alike.
Approach 3: Continuous feedback and reporting
The concept of continuous feedback and reporting is relatively new to schools, and often used in conjunction with the traditional end-of-period reporting models. Feedback can be delivered to students and parents as a set of marks, comparative results or standards achieved. Contemporary learning management systems enable schools to customise the way in which feedback is delivered—it can be instantaneous, at the point of marking, or can be held back and produced in report form, whichever method the school determines is most suitable.
Schoolbox provides flexible solutions for both feedback and reporting, whether schools follow a continuous, progressive and/or end-of-semester reporting process.
Feedback and reporting opportunities in Schoolbox are enabled through various means, including:
- Kami inline grader used for written, audio and video annotations.
- Class and course markbooks for grade allocations and comments.
- Use of rubrics for achievement against standards and descriptors.
- Integration with SIS and other data analytics suites for official reports.
Approach 4: School news and periodic newsletters
A communications platform ensures the entire school community is kept up to date with news, events, and curriculum matters. The ability to target the audience reach is a useful and valuable tool, ensuring that staff, students and parents receive information and resources that align with their particular needs and interests. Combining such a platform with the learning management system provides a single destination for all members of your school community.
In addition to the LMS, Schoolbox also houses a community portal and engagement platform. This unique all-in-one approach enables sharing of school daily news, notices and periodic newsletters in one place. Communications can also be targeted to particular audiences and notifications can be sent via preferred delivery methods including instant, push notifications and email.
Approach 5: School events
Adequate communication is vital for successful school events. Parents need accurate and timely information for such occasions, and possessing a central communications platform is highly advantageous. Where once materials were handed out to students in hardcopy, in the hope that they made it home, nowadays, digital technologies have made the entire process more solid and engaging.
Schoolbox offers great variety in how event communication is managed. Components including banners, images, links, video, audio and text boxes enable schools to provide event, booking and payment information directly to parents. News posts and notifications can also be utilised for targeting the communications to specific audiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has highlighted the importance of communication between schools and their parent communities. Beyond an LMS, Schoolbox offers a community-wide portal which provides opportunity for staff, students and parents to be engaged with the school on all levels. Having up-to-date information on school issues, events and academics, all in one place, enables a clear, user-friendly and connective experience for the whole school community.
Chris Durante is a Territory Manager at Schoolbox and has been a classroom practitioner and eLearning leader in schools for over 30 years. Passionate about delivering quality teaching and learning, Chris is committed to finding innovative EdTech solutions to lead overall school improvement for staff, students, parents and the wider school community.
Want to find out how Schoolbox can help with parent communication for your school? Speak to a Schoolbox expert today.