Training your district’s website administrators and content contributors is vital to the success of your website. Proper training ensures your webmasters feel confident and comfortable with updating digital content and puts your mind at ease. An effective training plan helps districts split the load, scale for growth, and simplify processes when there is turnover.
However, depending on the size of your district, you may have anywhere from two to two-hundred website administrators (or maybe even more!) And as the number of website editors grows, so do varied skill levels, and then, of course, the complexity of the training required.
How do we train webmasters of different skill levels? When is the right time to begin training? Is there a way to test the skill levels once they are trained? How do we reinforce training year over year?
If you want your district’s webmasters to feel excited, empowered, and prepared about keeping your website’s content up-to-date, you’ll want to follow these eight tips.
Tip #1: Create a plan and stick to it
Once you’ve chosen your content management system (CMS), you’ll want to create a training plan — and most importantly, stick to that plan! Training multiple users is a methodical, step-by-step process, and should be treated as such.
For most districts, the following training process has proven to be effective time and time again:
- Train and empower a group of super-users
- Provide your super-users a platform for training all other website admins in a classroom setting
- Provide access to your website provider’s training materials
- Create a content publishing workflow to proof and approve work, and provide further guidance
Throughout this blog, we’ll discuss these steps in greater detail.
Tip #2: Build a group of "super users”
It's going to be difficult to expect all of your website admins to get up-to-speed all at once, which is why most districts enlist a group of “super users” first. These users get trained in the software first-hand from the website provider — whether it be on-site, in-person, or online.
We recommend beginning the training process for your super users as early on in the website redesign process as possible. This allows them to get familiar with the CMS platform, and then teach those skills to other contributors farther down the road.
For example, Garland Independent School District in Texas is a district with 72 schools and about 140 volunteers managing each school's website content. The district took an “assembly line” approach to training, which included the district’s web team first becoming trained in their web platform. From there, they created documentation that was specific to their district. Then, using this documentation, they trained all 72 website admins in groups, based on skillset or time available.
Tip #3: Train website admins
Once you have a set of super users in place, it's time to train your other website admins. Most districts either opt for a training event that all website admins attend, or they split up admins based on skill level, expertise, etc.
We usually have two [in-person] events, one for brand new website admins, and then a combo event for veterans and new admins,” said Jasmine Preston, coordinator of web services at Garland ISD. “However, when we implemented our new CMS, we held one training for all of our users.”
Rather than train the community on every single aspect of the software, they only trained the admins on what they needed to know, including:
- Website accessibility
- Using the CMS’s drag and drop editor to edit content
- Uploading images, videos, PDFs, and other multimedia
- Adding news stories
- District policies
- User experience
This made the process slightly less overwhelming for both experienced webmasters and newbies.
Sun Prairie School District in Wisconsin holds 20-minute website admin sessions with each new staff member slated to update their school pages. "It's so easy to train people on Composer. I barely hear from them after," said Alesha Pannier, Sun Prairie's multimedia and website strategist.
Tip #4: Create a content approval process that works for your district
Your district’s content workflows will vary based on your number of website admins, but they should be planned and discussed during webmaster training.
For example, even though Barbers Hill ISD has more than a dozen webmasters editing content, only one individual in the district has publishing rights. Valerie Hull, the webmaster at Barbers Hill Independent School District said, “No one has publishing rights but me, and I check everyone’s new content before it gets published. This way, I can ensure content doesn’t get published without a second set of eyes seeing it first.“
Other districts are more hands-off in their approach, leaving it up to their well-trained webmasters to manage content. Your content approval workflow is truly just based on preference.
At Sun Prairie, they rely on Finalsite's Posts module to allow website editors the freedom to post their content without confusion over where it should go and how it should look.
“The Posts module is so great because you don’t have to give a contributor admin rights to your whole site. There are so many times a person doesn’t need access to the whole website, but I will give them access to a board they can post on. And by doing that, they are posting on our website by themselves and all they are seeing is this one board. It simplifies it for them,” she said. “It’s really easy for people who are not tech-savvy, but they know whatever they publish is going to look good.”
Tip #5: Maximize the use of C.O.P.E.
If you’re worried about the skill set and the adoption of your school district's website platform, you can simplify the training process by relying on modules. Most website providers offer modules (also maybe called elements or widgets), which simplify the content editing process for news, calendars, blogs, social media, etc.
If your website provider offers modules with Create Once, Publish Everywhere (C.O.P.E.) functionality, they'll find updating content even easier — as they only have to make the change once, and it will be reflected sitewide. This type of software often helps remove room for error and minimizes the amount of training required, as admins don't need to focus on branding or styling, but simply, on content.
Tip #6: Run contests
The goal of training website admins is to create a community of content contributors that keep your stakeholders informed. However, because most of your webmasters are volunteers, or employees with lengthy to-do lists, once the initial training is completed ... sometimes the bulk of the work is, too.
To keep website admins inspired and engaged with your CMS, try running contests. “We have a monthly competition for the school websites called ‘Cool Clicks’,” said Jasmine from GISD. “We give them a topic, and encourage them to add content to that section of their website. For example, we might challenge them with creating content around parent volunteers. It provides them time for them to focus on those pages, and then we recognize the ones who have done the best job.”
For GISD, this contest has been very successful, and the webmasters love it!
Tip #7: Keep training an ongoing process
Training is never a one-time event. Create an open line of communication between you and your admins, and make sure that they know where they can access training resources. In many cases during the initial training, they’ll be overwhelmed with the number of new products they need to learn, and may want to revisit some of that training at a later date when they really need it. Some ways to keep training an ongoing process include:
- Create an onboarding process for new webmasters
- Create documentation specific to your district and processes
- Provide training documentation from your website provider to your website admins
- Hold an annual training event to introduce newbies and refresh veterans
- Provide webmasters with opportunities to train with your website provider’s support team, whether on-site, online, or at their headquarters
Tip #8: Tie it together with an easy-to-use CMS
Selecting your district’s website provider is one of the most important decisions you can make — and often one of the most time-consuming. When you select an easy-to-use content management system, even your non-tech-savvy website admins will feel confident and ready to hop on board.
Training your district’s website administrators and content contributors is vital to the success of your website. An effective training plan can allow districts to scale for growth, empower your users, and simplify processes to help put your mind at ease.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.