With every school year that passes, parents expect to be able to conduct more of their school business online. Here’s why that trend toward more digital communication is here to stay.
by Emily Graham
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the conversation about digital tools and school has centered on online instruction, but the pandemic has sped up the digital transformation for schools in another significant way: families expect to be able to do more online.
Whether it’s enrolling their children in school, finding classroom supply lists, or scheduling parent-teacher conferences, most parents would rather take care of school-related tasks with a few clicks on a digital device than by making a phone call or sending forms in the mail.
It’s likely that your school district already sends digital communications to parents and collects lunch money online. Now’s the time to see what other parts of your district’s interactions with parents can be moved online to help your staff operate more efficiently and to better serve your school families.
Consumer technology sales surged to record levels in 2020 as more people worked from home or attended school online.
So many people began using digital technology during the pandemic that in North America, online customer interactions with companies jumped from 41 to 65 percent of all transactions, according to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.
In the early days of the pandemic, online grocery shopping doubled to 61% of consumers and 73% of bank customers used online banking. People who started using digital services during the pandemic are likely to expect the convenience of online services, even after the pandemic. That means that if your district is not yet taking advantage of digital tools to reach parents, you’ll probably have more parents pushing your district to do so.
Millenials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are largely digital natives. They grew up using the internet and cell phones more than encyclopedias and landlines. The overwhelming majority of new parents each year are millennials, and more of their children are becoming school-aged kids. And almost 100 percent of them use the internet.
These digital natives organize their life through online calendars and apps. It’s easier for these busy parents to search their in box for a registration form than to find the paper form that came in the mail. They want more efficiency and less bureaucracy.
What’s more, many parents (Millennial or not) have used online registrations for their kids’ summer camps and extracurricular activities, like t-ball or swimming lessons. After submitting sign-up forms online and getting immediate confirmations, some parents are uncomfortable with the slow pace and uncertainty of mailing forms. (Did my form get there? And has it been processed?)
Schools need to adapt to the community’s changing expectations. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to simplify your processes. For example, we’ve seen districts use Google Forms for summer school signups and free survey tools for gathering parent feedback.
TeacherLists makes it easy to upload and share school supply lists online with families, and makes it easy for parents to shop for supplies online or in stores. In fact, parents can view lists and, with one click, automatically fill an online shopping cart with leading retailers like Target, Walmart, Amazon, Staples, and more!
Don’t worry if your school district lags behind the pack in moving information and services online. You don’t have to plan a time-consuming and costly overhaul of your website. If moving everything to digital communication is too big of a project for this year, see what back-to-school information or processes you can make digital now, and set goals for moving the others to digital in the future. Every little bit counts as you make the transition to serving parents online.
As you get ready to start a new school year, sharing school supply lists online is one way you can make a good first impression with parents. The Metro Nashville Public Schools used TeacherLists to post all its supply lists for parents to view before Tennessee’s back-to-school sales tax holiday. In Texas, the Weatherford Independent School District helped families prepare for the unpredictable 2020-21 school year by sharing two kinds of lists with families, online learning supply lists and in-person school supply lists. Read about more ways that school districts have used TeacherLists to improve communications with parents.
The digital transformation is well under way in education, and was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that you don’t have reinvent all your processes or figure out digital communication on your own. Your school district can take advantage of many online tools to serve parents and to reduce the staff time spent on repetitive tasks.
Want to find out more about how TeacherLists can help? Feel free to contact us online or call us at 800-644-3561, ext. 6.