Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky, is a private Catholic secondary school serving young men in grades 9 through 12 and is sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers. Saint X has a successful mobile-friendly website but found that Apple users – among its 30,000 students, alumni, parents of students, grandparents of students and parents of alumni - were more inclined to access mobile information through an app vs. a mobile friendly website. School staff wanted to create a unique and easy way to engage these individuals more fully in the life of the institution.
In just one month’s time, the App was downloaded over 1200 times, a substantial number given the school’s enrollment and alumni base. By successfully increasing participation in charitable giving efforts and community events, school staff enhanced the school's opportunity for continued success. Said Mike Littell, Vice President for Advancement at Saint Xavier High School, "Embracing technology as a part of our strategic efforts to increase student, parent and alumni engagement has been a critical success factor for us. Our interest in being present on the Apple platforms of iTouch, iPad and iPhone is a key part of our overall efforts to engage constituents where they are most comfortable."
The finalsiteApp for iPhone has now been implemented by a number of schools across the U.S. and many more are in development at this time. The app’s intuitive navigation is divided into News, Athletics, Calendar events, and a School Directory. The finalsite app is tailored to a school’s website, and features the school’s own unique branding. Customization controls allow individual users to set preferences regarding which information is displayed. The information presented in the finalsite app is drawn from the database of the standard website, and rigorous privacy controls ensure sensitive, private information is only available to authorized users.To learn more, contact the finalsite team at email@example.com or go to www.finalsite.com.
finalsite and Serco Learning are partnering together to offer increased data integration and single sign-on capabilities to schools worldwide. finalsite provides online communications and website solutions for schools in over 40 US states and 40 countries. Serco Learning offers tools and services to education establishments worldwide to help support their strategic use of data in driving improved educational standards. Details on future integration and SSO features will be announced in the months ahead.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to welcome Serco Learning into our marketplace at finalsite,” notes finalsite President and Founder Jon Moser. “As always, it’s about the user experience. Our International schools will now have the option to move data from Serco in an automated way right into finalsite.”
Serco Learning has recently launched Progresso, its exciting, innovative new education information platform designed to support school improvement. Interoperability is at the very heart of Progresso and Serco looks forward to establishing closer integration with its partners in education such as finalsite. John Parkinson, Serco Learning Sales & Marketing Director notes:
“We are delighted to welcome finalsite to the Serco Learning Technical Partner Programme. We trust that by working closely together to deliver fully integrated products, we can offer our shared customers a greatly enhanced user experience.”
It isn’t a complicated theory: in order to interact with your site, the user must first know about you. To know about you, the user must first find you. One well-known path information seekers turn to is the seemingly omniscient search engine. So, set aside complacency and strive to win the affection of major search engines, such as Google, for the best chance of leading rank when it comes to Internet searches. You can position your school’s website to be a top contender for certain keywords and key phrases through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of improving how high your website appears in an Internet search. Your goal: aim high. The challenge: your competitors want the same and are vying for many of the same keywords (for example, private school, independent school, Catholic high school, college preparatory…) It isn’t a simple popularity contest, nor can it be won overnight, so be patient and be prepared. These tips should give you an idea of how to begin.
What words are your users typing into a search engine to find you (hint: dig into your Google Analytics)? And which of these do you share with your competitors? Be sure to come up with some keywords and key phrases that are unique to you, too. For example, if you have a stellar music program, then you’ve got a few keywords that make you stand out. Now, take these words and incorporate them into your web content – but do avoid over-indulging in their usage (keep your website authentic instead of sounding like spam).
Search engine spiders crawl and index site pages but they’re going to steer clear (as will your users) if your content is old enough to have metaphorical cobwebs. Help both the spider and your human readers by using page titles and page headings relevant to the content in the page (think newspaper headline) and by writing for the web. That often means letting go of the words and writing short paragraphs, using bulleted lists, and being straight-forward with content. If it helps your human users, it will help search engines, too.
Search engines are often interested in your reputation. The more people that like you, the more Google will trust that you belong higher up in the rank. Get relevant websites to link back to you, for example, a school association website. Stay away from link farms. Paying to be liked is not cool.
This page lists out and links to the major pages on your site. With it, search engine spiders have an easier time finding where they need to go.
Spiders aren’t known to have keen eyesight. Those crawling your pages lack the ability to “see” or search images or graphics, and are limited to reading web-safe text. Be sure to provide an alt-tag/image description for any images or graphics you use on your site (and don’t forget to be descriptive and use your keywords).
Get people talking about you—the more you do, the more you’ll have links to your website spread across the web.
If you find yourself scavenging results for your school, then take action. Follow these tips, do some research, and ask for help when needed. Be aware that improving your rank doesn’t happen overnight nor is it permanent. It is a process. An ever-changing one, in-fact. For help with Search Engine Optimization and more, feel free to contact us. We would love to help.
With over 90 million users, Google+ is a relevant and growing social network. A strong argument for getting started on Google+ is how it affects search results. Google+ updates and the google +1 button now appear in the organic search results on google.com. If you have a +1 button on your site or are actively posting to Google+, you are improving your Google ranking. The connections you have on Google+ affect the search results when they search for a specific keyword.
Potential projects for classroom use on Google+ include creating foreign language Hangouts, live multiuser video conversations using Google Translation to enable video conferencing among people speaking different languages. French students at Loomis may hold a hangout with English students in France - imagine! Teachers could promote group projects through Google+ by dividing a class into whatever sized group a teacher chooses. Using course streams in this platform, a teacher has the ability to monitor the group project and assist students in real time.
Science teacher and Director of the Kravis Center for Excellence in Learning, Scott MacClintic uses Google+ with his students:
At Loomis Chaffee Google + is used in several classrooms for homework help sessions by using Hangouts with my students to extend the time in which a teacher can interact with them. The ability to interact with students beyond the classroom and beyond email has been a definite plus.
Since day one of finalsite, we have been a technology company, building CMS solutions for schools BUT I believe our sustainabliity has come from the people behind finalsite and the vision to evolve in this ever-changing technological world we live in. From marketing to support to product development and everywhere in between, my colleagues at finalsite have found a place in their hearts and minds to truly understand our school partners.
In our niche environment of schools, you must truly understand it is about the experience, building efficiencies, ease-of-use, and planning for a sustainable process for the future, each at the highest level you can imagine.
As we passed the decade plus mark, we have evolved from a techie company into a "Partner for the Future" with knowledge on mobile, social, CMS, LMS and integration with best-of-breed providers like Senior Systems, Veracross, Blackbaud, Naviance, Google Apps for Education, and more. See our Marketplace for a complete listing.
finalsite's ability to evolve as online needs change as well as being best-of-breed in product, people, and support help us to be the partner of the future we envision.
In Their Words
"We love working with finalsite because they are always available to help and sincerely care about teaching clients how to work within the content management system. During our Elementary design and our Middle and High School redesign, they took our many requests and ideas into consideration and created superb websites that capture the personality of the school. We are very pleased with the professionalism, design, and customer service finalsite provides."
finalsite, a leader in web services solutions for schools worldwide, and RenWeb School Management Software, the K-12 industry leader in Web-based student management systems, announce increased functionality in both data integration and single sign-on capabilities between their products. The RenWeb/finalsite partnership benefits those schools wanting to simplify the user’s online experience as well as to leverage data in the mobile environment, communications, and password-protected communities.
The RenWeb/finalsite partnership provides the ability:
To pull constituent – parent, student, faculty and staff, and pre-enrolled parents – data from RenWeb into finalsite
To transfer academic data (classes and associated teacher and student rosters) from RenWeb into finalsite
To pull RenWeb public calendar data into finalsite calendars
To display ParentsWeb announcements into any finalsite Portal
To allow students, parents, and faculty to securely access RenWeb’s ParentsWeb and FacultyWeb environments from their respective finalsite portals without requiring a second login.
“As a leader in web software and solutions for independent schools,” notes finalsite President and Founder Jon Moser, “finalsite believes strongly in the value that integration brings to our clients. For that reason, we are excited to announce our enhanced partnership with RenWeb which will offer increased in-depth data integration which will positively impact everything from mobile websites to Apps to online teaching and learning to blogs to enewsletters to calendars and more.”
“We are pleased our deeper integration allows both RenWeb and finalsite to provide more value to the schools we jointly serve,” said Brad Lee, CEO of RenWeb. “Whether a school wants to provide parents a single sign-on for navigating between finalsite’s secure parent portal and RenWeb’s ParentsWeb, or the school wants to enter calendar items and announcements once for display in both systems, our services now provide the level of integration one should expect from the industry leaders in providing web solutions and school management software for private schools.”
This past Sunday, 1 billion people celebrated Earth Day in 192 countries. Joining the movement is sure to be a win-win. The benefits extend beyond environmental preservation, in fact, better tracking capabilities and financial savings are motivating factors, not to mention delivering communications in a form mindful of an increasingly more digitally-dependent audience. So, how can you use web technology to support a green initiative at your school?
There are several ways you can reassign your publications from print to pixels. Here are just a few good examples:
It isn’t just a plus for the planet, but a nice perk for the pocketbook! In the first two years of launching finalsite, St. John’s Preparatory School (Danvers, MA) saved 452,126 pages of printed paper and $46,308 in printing and mailing costs by using finalsite Portals for school-to-home communication! Analyze how much you’re spending in print and take a look at where you can trim back.
It doesn’t stop there. Going digital also gives you access to invaluable data that paper along can’t provide. Google Analytics offers you instantaneous insight into the reading habits and interests of your constituents.
As much as the benefit is in your favor and that of the environment, it is on the right track in responding to the behaviors and uses of technology attributed to your constituents. Tablet devices are approaching the role of replacing print magazines. You’ll see that stack on the coffee table diminish, replaced by one slick device that can hold more data than the legs of the table were willing to hold in print.
Take a look at how you can enhance your communications and reduce costs by thinking digital. It's sure to feel like a breath of fresh air.
Last week I presented at the National Catholic Educational Association Convention in Boston. I concluded my talk with an offer "if anyone wants help with social media, whether you're a finalsite partner or not, feel free to contact us, we're happy to help." A number of people approached me later that day and asked "we'd love some help with our social media plan, but what's the catch?" I assure you there is no catch.
There is often a lot of fear when it comes to social media; while a small dose of fear can be healthy often times knowledge, education, and some exposure to that which you are afraid of can alleviate the fear. If you are leery of using social media for your school this next sentence will not make you happy - social media is not going anywhere, in fact the web is getting MORE social. It is time to learn to embrace the socialization and harness it's power to benefit your school.
I'm not going to overwhelm you with Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter statistics, I'm sure you've heard it all before; but know that your audience is actively on these channels and you are conspicuous by your absence or infrequency of engagement.
Fear not, we are here to help. finalsite offers free social media help to any school whether you are a finalsite partner or not. Simply inquire here and someone from finalsite will be in touch to offer tips, guidance, and best practices.
“Forget what we have taken for granted on how consumers use the Internet…. Soon, more users will access the Web using mobile devices than using PCs, and it’s going to make the Internet a very different place.” – Mobile Internet Users vs. PC Internet Users in 2015
What if you returned to your office tomorrow morning, and your laptop (or desktop) had been replaced by a smartphone or tablet? And…what if your parents, students, alumni, faculty, and staff had the same experience? Among many things, that device shift would mean that you and other users could look for:
Sites that are task-driven rather than copy-heavy
Simpler navigation and easy-to-click options
Apps that are customizable for your role at the school
Opportunities to edit your school’s web presence from a handheld device
Designs that are meant to be seen on smaller screens
Such a scenario may become reality in just a few years. At finalsite, we are preparing for tomorrow today with a "Mobile First" mentality, including
A mobile site for every finalsite client
The finalsiteApp for iPhone
The ability to add scores and recaps to Athletics Manager from smartphones such as iPhone or Android
The ability to edit basic content on your site from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
The ability to receive Alerts - text messages and/or e-mails on your phone
Auto-generated QR Codes for any page on your site via finalsite’s Page Manager
The ability to post to your mash-up page(s) from your mobile phone through Twitter and Facebook
And, a commitment to designing for mobile first, full version second.
We’re not waiting for 2015 to develop products for the mobile world. Talk to the finalsite team about how your school can make the leap to mobile. We’re happy to help.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on mobile and your school. Please connect with me on LinkedIn.
It is no coincidence that 24-48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, for we, without a doubt, enjoy watching online videos-- from sincere to just plain old silly. Surveys show that most Internet users actually view online video on a regular basis and may even consider a dose or two of online video as part of their daily web repertoire. Are you taking advantage of the opportunity to feed this type of content to your video-hungry end-user through both your full and mobile websites?
Fortunately, it doesn’t necessarily require fancy equipment or video experts to put together an engaging video. It does require, however, interest by the producer and the subjects, not to mention, some good editing—a no to low-cost solution. A simple idea and simple piece of equipment can produce an eye-catching video that delivers a purposeful message. On the other hand, a great idea with poor execution is no better than a poor idea with poor execution. Here are some things to consider when attempting to create your own low or no-cost videos:
Brevity can often be more effective with certain videos, but is subjective and requires good judgment on your part. A short, stimulating, and substance-filled video is going to be more powerful than a long video that bores. Simply put, get comfortable with editing out some footage.
Consider handing the camera to the students and allow them to capture authentic footage and passion.
(the kind you have rights to use, of course)
Don’t spend too long focusing on one object, i.e. A person talking. You can show clips of the subject matter and transition in and out of those different images and the speaker while maintaining his/her monologue.
Once you’ve completed your video project, then upload it to your website and your mobile site using tools like the finalsite Multimedia Manager and Mobile Media page types. Consider how they could be used through social media to drive traffic to your site, too. I can't promise these tips are the key to an Academy Award or anything like that, but when keeping them in consideration, you're sure to feel rewarded when you enrich your web content with some engaging new video content.