One of the most valuable resources to an educational organization is its public-facing website. Schools use their sites for everything from sharing calendars and school menus to getting permission slips signed or accepting enrollment applications. The website is also a place to seek community involvement in school events or collect input through feedback forms and board meeting updates. These websites almost always have budget transparency or compliance components, as well as curriculum information, bus routes, a student handbook, and links to student and parent portals.
Not all schools use their websites this way, but most are finding new ways to incorporate the website into school workflows. It’s time for these schools to start thinking of their websites as business enablers for their organization.
6 ways to make a school website a business enabler
There are multiple understandings and uses of the phrase “business enabler,” but what we are talking about is an asset that cuts costs and makes the company more competitive. Businesses have been having conversations about IT and digital transformation as business enablers for years. Companies have proactively created their own workflows around technology so that the technology helps grow the business. For a K-12 school district, that could look something like this:
Transform processes: Allow parents to pay fees, buy tickets, and submit documents and signatures using secure payment processing, forms, and signature tools. School employees and students’ families no longer need to keep track of paper if they prefer to use the web. Back-end automation eliminates manual tracking of these transactions.
Eliminate communication delays or disruptions: Automated calling, bulk email, and paper newsletters or announcements have always worked, but the families have to wait for that information to arrive. Adding these messages to the website gives parents a way to seek out the information as desired and offers an additional point of reference if the original message was lost.
Strengthen relationships in the community: Public recognition of school volunteers and sponsors, student volunteer work in the community, and school accomplishments contribute to a positive view of the school. Highlighting these types of activities can also serve as a motivator for more community involvement.
Grow enrollment: A school website that projects a positive image to the public can encourage new enrollment and student retention. This is especially true in areas where families are free to move their children out of their home district at no cost. Good schools can also help the community grow, as they are a draw for families who are moving into the region.
Create new revenue streams: Subscription services such as live streaming of sporting events have been shown to grow the number of spectators. Fundraising and merchandise sales also benefit from an online presence.
Add a mobile app: Even a stripped-down app can add benefits that the website just can’t provide, such as registration through QR codes, easy call-up of schedules, emergency alerts, payment with mobile systems like Apple Pay or Google Pay, digital copies of season passes, and more.
Securing school websites
These are just a few examples of why schools should be thinking of their websites as business enablers. Of course, true business enablers require more than extra features; there are operational and strategic changes that have to be put in place. Technology directors, system administrators, website administrators, and compliance specialists need to collaborate with superintendents and other school leaders to make sure that the website and mobile app are secure, functional, scalable, and in compliance with accessibility and other regulatory requirements. IT has to communicate openly about the capabilities and limitations of the website, and roles have to be assigned to ensure the content is kept up to date.
If you have invested in a website that helps you cut costs, increase efficiencies, and improve relationships with the community, then you’ve created an asset that’s worth protecting. A joint cybersecurity advisory was issued late last year warning schools about the dangers of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. These attacks take websites and other web applications offline by flooding them with traffic so that the servers become overwhelmed and cannot respond. DDoS attacks will be increasing again soon as the new school year gets underway.
Barracuda Web Application Firewall and WAF-as-a-Service can protect websites from DDoS, OWASP top ten attacks, and advanced threats including malicious bots and API vulnerabilities. See how we can help you protect your site.
Christine Barry is Senior Chief Blogger and Social Media Manager at Barracuda. Prior to joining Barracuda, Christine was a field engineer and project manager for K12 and SMB clients for over 15 years. She holds several technology and project management credentials, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master of Business Administration. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Connect with Christine on LinkedIn here.