Key points
  • A school app is a great way to connect and engage with your community, connecting parents and students with teachers and staff. 
  • If you’ve had your app for a little while, you may be wondering if you’re getting the best results from your app, and where you can improve.
  • Learn how critical functions of school apps (including push notifications, news modules, integration, and more) can make a real impact on your community.

Did you know that the average person spends over three hours on a mobile device every day? Our smartphones are with us at all times — most people even sleep next to their phone — so it’s no surprise that many forward-thinking companies (including schools) are choosing to engage their customers with a mobile app. 

For around a decade now, schools have been leveraging the power of apps to communicate with their community. They connect parents and students with teachers and school staff and ensure that everyone is in the loop and on the same page regarding important school information. If your school has already built your app, you might be wondering if you’re getting the best possible results from it. This post will cover five key ways your school app can help you better connect and engage with families and students. 

1. School apps help you get the word out — fast! 

Sometimes life throws us curveballs, and this is particularly true for schools. When you’re dealing with children, you often need to reach their families as soon as possible. Lockdowns, emergencies, severe illness or injury, can result in the need to communicate clear and accurate information quickly. Phone calls are great… unless the crisis affects the families of a whole year level or even your entire cohort. 

In these moments, app push notifications can be a lifesaver. Push notifications are automated messages sent directly to a user’s phone, even if their app isn't open. Push notifications are designed to catch your attention by popping up on your lock screen, similar to how a text message would appear. According to research from Deloitte, we check our phones around 52 times a day, so a parent will likely see your notification much sooner than if you were relying on another medium, like email or social media.

Push notifications aren’t just handy for emergencies. Parents can select the type of pushes they’d like to receive — for example, sports cancellations, weather warnings or final grade announcements. 

2. Digitize your school newsletter

If you’re a school marketer, you’re probably familiar with the struggle of engaging families to read your school newsletter. After all, it’s packed with essential information and keeps parents feeling connected to your school community. If you’re still relying on printed newsletters, there’s a good chance they’re arriving home crumpled at the bottom of a school bag — if it even makes it home at all. 

Print newsletters also leave you in the dark regarding readership numbers and engagement stats, so it’s hard to know what kind of information is engaging your readers. A great feature of your school app is the ability to digitize your newsletter and then track open rates and clicks using your app analytics. You can either publish individual news items as they become relevant or use digital newsletter software to post them and then set up a link within the app.

Your school app also transforms how parents consume school news by allowing them to subscribe to news and notices that interest them (and turn off notifications for anything that doesn’t). This means that every piece of content they receive on the app is relevant and engaging, which will undoubtedly boost your readership numbers!

3. Streamline your communication channels

Why send your school community on a wild goose chase across multiple platforms when they could easily access everything they need from one centralized location? A school app allows you to do just this by pulling many of your existing systems and processes into its interface by using integration modules. You can integrate many of your tools into the app, such as your:

  • learning management systems (LMS)
  • school information systems (SIS)
  • school calendar
  • permission slips
  • timetables
  • school website
  • absentee processes
  • Google calendar
  • social media updates.

App integration is a total game-changer for parents and school staff alike because it ensures that all of your various systems and applications can ‘talk’ to each other. For example, when you update information in one system, that information can be easily transferred into your app and vice versa. 

You can also provide single sign-on functionality (SSO) for your community when you integrate these systems. SSO means that your community doesn’t need to log in every time they access the app. Instead, the app will cache login information and pass it through to each integrated system – pretty handy, right?

4. Get even more out of your data

No matter the solution you use for your school app, you want to be sure that you’re able to leverage all of the information it’s able to uncover. We spoke briefly above about app analytics supporting you to understand your newsletter engagement statistics. App analytics can also provide you with extensive behavioral insights across all of your modules.

Most apps use a form of Google Analytics to gather user and session data for your marketing, administration, and admissions teams to access. You’ll be able to see important information about your app usage, such as:

  • the number of users who are accessing your app
  • the different devices and operating systems (OS) that they’re using
  • demographic information about your users, including their age, location, and gender 
  • an overview of how your users are navigating through your app
  • a quick, live snapshot of user activity, including clicks and sessions.

Once your app analytics is set up, you’ll have access to a wealth of valuable statistics — all you need to do is know how to interpret them. You can improve how you communicate and make gradual improvements to ensure your community gets the most out of your school app by adequately understanding your app data.

5. Showcase your school's brand

Your school’s brand is the key to building trust and showcasing your values to prospective and existing families. You’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating a digital marketing plan that defines your tone of voice, culture, visual elements, and unique selling proposition (USP), so your app must reflect this.

This means that your app should be custom-built to match your school’s unique branding and communication requirements. When users log on to view your app, they should quickly identify it as belonging to your school by the colors, imagery, and fonts used throughout each module.

Most schools undertake a brand refresh or total rebrand every few years to reflect growth and change within your community and culture. You must work with an app developer who understands that your brand is constantly evolving so that they can update your app design to reflect any changes.

Boosting your school app impact

Hopefully, you now have some handy new tools to help you better leverage your school app. On the other hand, your current app may not have the functionality you need to truly impact your community. Never fear — Digistorm can help! We have an expert team of UX/UI designers and app developers who can create a custom-built app that meets your needs and requirements.

Our free download, A beginner's guide to school apps will walk you through everything you need to know about using a school app to its fullest potential.

Published October 6 2021