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6 Ways a Mobile App Increases Family Engagement in Schools
Connor Gleason

Schools are always looking for ways for families to feel more connected and involved in their child’s education. When families get involved, students do better in school, and the entire school community becomes closer, more resilient, and generally happier. Easier said than done, right?

It can be tricky to keep families in the loop and ensure they're a meaningful part of their children's education. Parents are busier than ever, and not surprisingly, important information sometimes gets missed.

An amazing website can do wonders for marketing and reaching prospective families, but after the student is enrolled, you’ll need a way to keep families informed and involved. Schools that are serious about engagement must also use other communication channels and engage with families where they already spend most of their time: on smartphones.

Today, 97% percent of Americans now own a cellphone of some kind, 90% own a smartphone, and last year, mobile phones were the preferred device for internet access, making a mobile app an ideal way to reach and engage families.

The best mobile apps for schools offer personalized news, a sleek branded design, and quick access to information. They provide families with everything they need to stay updated on school events, receive relevant news, and connect directly with the school community. All this information is readily available without the need for endless scrolling, right at their fingertips.

For those wondering how to increase parent engagement in their schools, a mobile app allows parents and guardians to not just hear about what's happening at school; they have a better chance of becoming an active part of it.

mobile app news

1. Personalized News, Calendars, Directories, and More

As a central hub for information, the personalization features of a mobile app let parents receive only the updates and information that matter to them and their families. And your families want that personalized experience in their communications. Consider this:

No more scrolling past info about the high school prom or kindergarten registration if that doesn't apply to a family. A mobile app puts the most relevant updates, photos, and announcements a tap away, with numerous options to personalize the experience and filter based on the school campus, sports teams, or groups they’re a part of.

“With our mobile app, parents can set filters to see all the content they want from the schools they are associated with,” said Tarah O’Connell, Northbrook School District  27’s director of communications. “Now, they can see everything in one place very easily.”

This setup has a few advantages when you're trying to communicate with parents, including:

  • Users See What Truly Matters: Parents get the important news for their family, meaning they’re more likely to read and act on it.
  • Saves Time: Since the news is tailored to their needs, parents spend less time searching for what they need to know without hunting it down. Everything relevant to their student is right at their fingertips, easy to find and read.
  • Reduces Overload: School information can be overwhelming, especially when it's not relevant. Personalized news reduces this overload, making your school communication more helpful and less of a headache.

2. Connecting with Families on the Go

Today's families are always moving. With jobs, errands, sports, and other activities, keeping up with everything happening at school can be challenging. Mobile apps, by nature, are made for busy lives and help families stay connected to their schools, no matter where they are or what they're doing.

Parents waiting in line for coffee, sitting at soccer practice, or on a work break can quickly check the mobile app to see what's new at school or in their child’s class in real time throughout the school year.

Keep Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Apps for Schools

And it’s not just about accessing updates in the carpool lane; a mobile app provides an extra convenience because it:

  • Fits Their Schedule: No matter how packed their day is, a mobile app allows parents to check in on school news, see upcoming events, or read messages from teachers at a time that works for them. Americans check their phones more than 140 times a day, so the app is always there when they have a moment.
  • Brings the School Community to Them: See photos from recent events and read about what’s happening in athletics or on the stage; an app helps families feel connected anywhere in the world.
mobile app two way chat

 3. Chat in Real-time Directly with Faculty and Staff 

The two-way chat capabilities of a mobile app provide a streamlined, personalized, and consolidated hub for parents and guardians to chat directly with faculty and staff.

Contact info is automatically pulled from your school's SIS, making chat groups easy, secure, and manageable right away. No more DMs or personal texts back and forth — users can communicate one-way or two-way with parents, teachers, and coaches 1:1 or in a group setting to receive important messages and stay informed.

mobile app calendar

4. Instant Access to School Resources

Think about everything happening at schools — events, class schedules, meetings, and special announcements. While this information may be on your website, it’s likely buried within a page.

By placing this information within thumbs-reach of your community, you’re ensuring that they have constant access to the information they value the most, whether it's finding contact information for their child’s teacher or viewing picture highlights from their daughter’s soccer game.

A mobile app makes a variety of content easily accessible, including:

  • Calendars: Events are created and automatically synced to the app so users can filter the events relevant to them.
  • Directories: Parents can look up contact information for faculty and staff, alums, and even other parents within the Directories section of the app.
  • News, blogs, and more: Users can catch up on the latest blogs, news, sports, slideshows, recaps, announcements, and more.

Finalsite’s Mobile App was built with the same “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” mindset as Composer, so changes on your website are also reflected on your mobile app.

With the option to rearrange the icons on the bottom bar, the app’s navigation is easy to customize, too. Place News next to the Home button if that’s a popular component of your website. Or, if Athletics isn’t as important as your Directories, you can place that section of the app in the More menu, freeing that navigation space for another, more commonly used feature.

mobile app notifications

5. Mass Notifications Through Mobile Apps

What are the chances that the parents you’re trying to reach already have an inbox stuffed with promotions, spam, and the latest updates from a dozen other companies? Your emails will likely get lost in the flood of communications landing in their inboxes.

Generic text messages and a flooded email inbox

Today, more than 80% of mobile users have push notifications enabled on their smartphones. From sudden school closures and urgent notifications to reminders about events, targeted push notifications via a mobile app cut through all the noise by directly sending the information your constituents need to know.

When schools need to quickly share important news with parents, mass notifications sent to mobile apps are especially effective when you want to communicate with families:

  • Immediate Alerts: Since nearly everyone has a smartphone, sending mass notifications through a mobile app allows your school to reach families immediately. When the information is urgent, like a weather-related school closure or instructions for an upcoming school-wide event, mass notifications ensure all families have it right in their palm.
  • Reliable Source of Info: You know the message comes from the school, so you can trust it's accurate and up-to-date. 
  • Easy for Schools to Use: For schools, sending a message to everyone at once through an app is quick and easy. Mobile apps pull contact information from the same data source as your information system, meaning you’ll access the latest records for constituents.

For parent involvement, this means staying informed about what's happening at school right from their phones, without having to dig through emails or wait for news to come home in backpacks.

mobile app language selection

6. Community Building Features

Intuitive layouts, branded colors, mobile-first navigation — the ease of mobile apps was inherently designed to support communities and improve the user experience. With similar accessibility and multilingual support as a website, mobile apps continue that same inclusive experience.


Mobile apps support the diverse needs of the school community by including multilingual options for non-English speaking families. This way, all families can fully engage with your school and its resources, regardless of their preferred language.


By following accessibility best practices and standards, like using accessible colors, Alt-text, large buttons, and clearly labeled calls to action, all the latest accessible content can reach a wider audience and keep everyone, regardless of their ability, engaged.

Key Takeaway

A mobile app creates a convenient central hub with information relevant to families, including numerous options to personalize the experience and keep your constituents engaged with the pulse of your school. Stronger connections lead to more engaged families, and when parents are active participants in your school’s programs and community, everyone benefits.

mobile app

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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