It seems like there’s an app for everything today, even one to blow out a candle on a cake! Why are schools building an app for their families when their websites are already mobile responsive? Wasn’t the whole argument for being mobile responsive so you didn’t have to have an app?
We’ve all heard the argument for no app. Families can go to the school website for the information. If they are using a mobile device, and the site is truly mobile responsive, they can access all the same information as someone who is using a desktop. The mobile version of the site is practically an app, so why need a school app? If this was true, then why would we have apps at all? Here are four things to consider when looking at an app for your school.
Websites don’t alert
If you go directly to a school website and check their homepage, a lot of times there will be a homepage pop-up alert announcement. This is a great way to alert your community about something important like a snow day or picture day, but families only see this if they decide to plug in that URL and go to the site. What if that day they decided not to check the website? In a world where families are already checking multiple platforms outside of school related issues, (weather, their social media, work email etc), it’s unrealistic to assume they will be checking the school website every day as well…even if it’s mobile responsive. A benefit to a school communication app is that there are push notifications, so parents will be prompted whenever there is important school-related information to share.
Text messages cost money
Although some families enjoy receiving text messages from school, not every family has an unlimited texting plan. A well rounded communication strategy involves alternate solutions when trying to reach everyone. Roughly 10% of U.S. cell phone users are on a prepaid plan 1. This means that they are affected when their child’s school sends three text messages in a day, or a robocall every morning, about proper hand washing and mask wearing protocols (for example). That family member will most likely have to unsubscribe from the school text messages and instead remember to check the school website for alerts. Text messaging is not always the most equitable way to communicate with all your families. Imagine if 10% of students showed up to school on a snow day? With a school app, families can turn on push notifications, and they are able to receive an unlimited amount of alerts without affecting their phone plan. App messaging is also more cost effective for the school!
Let’s say everyone has unlimited data. Now what’s the problem? Not everyone has service. There are entire rural communities where schools rely on sending important information home in a note, trusting the children with the delivery. Most school communication apps, even if there is no service, will have the saved information from the last time the phone had service. In these scenarios, parents will still be able to access some information from the school instead of waiting until the next day. Although not ideal, it’s still better than no information.
Unreliable contact information
Often contact information changes for families, and it’s not always updated at school. Guardians change for children, family situations change, and not always is the school’s SIS the first to know about it. Sending notifications through an app is a more secure way to communicate with families who have unreliable contact information.
If we want to truly create digital equity, an app is a great way to communicate with families. It has unlimited notifications, it’s free to download (or it should be), and the most effective apps also come equipped with translation options. The website is not dead: it’s still your hub, where everything links to, the source of school truth. The app would be another option for families to receive alerts, look up school information, and hopefully engage.
Are you looking for a school app that will…
Include your school logo, colors, and branding?
Help you increase digital equity by reaching more families in your community?
Boost engagement and build relationships through a pocket-sized hub of school information on everyone’s mobile device?