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8 No-Fail Tips for Training District Webmasters (From Districts!)
Mia Major

Training your district’s website administrators and content contributors is vital to the success of your website. Training ensures your webmasters feel confident and comfortable with updating website content, rather than frustrated, and also 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?

A group of individuals with laptops learning from a presenter

If you want your district’s webmasters to feel excited and prepared about getting and 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 CMS, you’ll want to create a training plan — and most importantly, stick to that plan! Training 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:

  1. Train and empower a group of super-users
  2. Provide your super-users a platform for training all other website admins in a classroom setting
  3. Provide access to your website provider’s training materials
  4. 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 up a group of smart, avid "super users.”

It is going to be near impossible 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 “super users” get trained in the software first-hand from the website provider — whether it be at an 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 platform early on, 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 website’s content. The district took an “assembly line” approach to training, which included the district’s web team to first become 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 skill set or time available.

Tip #3: Train website admins.

Once you have a set of “super users” in place, it is time to train all of 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:

This made the process slightly less overwhelming for both experienced webmasters and newbies.

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 it 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.

Tip #5: Maximize the use of C.O.P.E.

If you’re worried about the skill set and the adoption of your 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.) funtionality, 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, content.

“These tools make it easy for people who need to share essential information, who don’t have the technical skills for a complicated platform, to reach our community,” said Mark Steelman, Webmaster at Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina.

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 over with...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 most 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 CMS, even your non-tech-savvy website admins will feel confident and ready to hop on board.

For example, Granby Public Schools in Connecticut needed a CMS that was easy to use so that their entire community could easily contribute. "Our toolset [with Finalsite] promotes communication and collaboration with our community by empowering our staff with the ability to contribute and manage the content themselves,” said Jon Lambert, Director of Technology.

In another instance, Avon Grove Public Schools shared the impact that an easy-to-use CMS made on the training process. “Once the site's design was ready, it was time to start building. It only took one 45-minute training session on Composer to get the 45 page owners up and running. They also set parameters for content, styles, and brand. This ensures there is a consistent look and feel across all four schools in the district. I really think everyone was relieved at how easy it was. And once they saw that, they started with the content, with minimal bumping," said Gary Mattei, the district’s Director of Technology.


Website and Digital Communications Buyer’s Guide for Superintendents


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.

  • Marketing/Communications
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