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Tech Tuesday Episode 6: How is a School Communications Hub Different from a Website?
Rob Rawcliffe & Cristina Pawlica
Tech Tuesday is a vlog series for schools and districts that covers all things related to the busy world of IT. Finalsite's sales engineer Rob Rawcliffe and our recent cybersecurity grad Cristina Pawlica discuss a variety of topics in education technology every other week. 
 
In this episode of Tech Tuesday, Cristina and Rob discuss an important question: How is a school communications hub different from a website? Watch or listen to the video to learn how schools are using communications hubs — a centralized website page for communicating with current families — to meet the communications demands of COVID-19. Plus, hear tips for how to set one up for your school or district, and why doing so will serve your community well, even after the pandemic. 

Episode Transcript: 

Cristina Pawlica:

Hi, and welcome to Tech Tuesday, a video series for Directors of Technology working in education. My name is Christina. I've been with Finalsite for about two years and recently graduated with my Master's in Cybersecurity from Denver University. I'm here with Rob, our resident expert in all things tech.

Rob Rawcliffe:

Hi Christina. My name is Rob Rawcliffe. I have been with Finalsite for eight years. I am a recovering tech director. And so that really has helped me in this role that I am right now, just trying to help clients incorporate technology into what they do with Finalsite.

Cristina Pawlica:

All right. And as you know, Finalsite is your specialist in websites and school communication. Today, we're going to discuss the importance of having a communications hub. So first let's start with this. What do we mean by a communications hub?

Rob Rawcliffe:

So, a communication hub is really a central place where you can get all your information. It's really like a member's club, somewhere where you can get lots of different information that may be pertinent to you in your role as a student, parent, faculty, whatever that may be. It usually contains links and other information dates, that kind of thing.

Cristina Pawlica:

So that sounds a lot like what some school websites look like. So what would be the difference between the role of your website and the role of a communications hub?

Rob Rawcliffe:

So the communication hub has really morphed into something a little bit more. Back in the early days of websites, they were really just a collection of data. You would just dump all your information in a website and then people would just kind of look through. And if you were lucky, you would have them organized into a little bit more of a parent, student type of role.

Rob Rawcliffe:

But what we've really seen as time has gone on and cloud services have grown and matured is, we're seeing that the marketing side of it is really for your prospective students and to give a good feel about what the school does and how it does it. And the hubs are really more of a location to get information, to keep updated, to find information that everybody needs. And so it really is just to reduce some of that frustration of finding information and making sure that people aren't operating in a vacuum and all that information is out there and shared equally and it's nice and transparent.

Cristina Pawlica:

Okay. Can you expand a little bit more on who benefits specifically from these communications hubs?

Rob Rawcliffe:

Yeah. I think everybody benefits from the extra communication that is afforded by a hub. On the flip side of that, I think if you don't have good communication in the school, you're going to see that people go elsewhere to talk about things, or they don't understand what's happening to the school. And so if something does crop up rather than having people complain about, "Oh, why is this happening?" Or, "Why was this decision made?" If you're proactive and you can put that kind of information on your hub and say, "We made this choice because of this," then people are a little bit more understanding and humanizes things. And it just gives a level of transparency that you really can't get.

Rob Rawcliffe:

And when people understand why decisions are made, or if you ask people, "What do you think of this decision?" And they have the ability to give feedback, then people feel more involved, your brand is stronger and there's less frustration and things like that. So it really just benefits everybody. I think the old adage is communication is the key to any good relationship. And that is the same with schools and their communities.

Cristina Pawlica:

All right. So that's a really good point for schools that they could take away from this. How does Finalsite suggest incorporating a communications hub into their website?

Rob Rawcliffe:

So there's a number of different ways. I think the first thing that is needed is you need a good URL. That's something that everybody's going to remember. So that may be yourschooldomain.com/parents or something similar, but it's going to keep people coming back, able to remember it without having a bookmark or having to trudge through email or something like that.

And then you really need to decide, do I want a password protected page, or do I want to have it open? There's benefits to both. Obviously you can put a little bit more sensitive information behind a hub that is portal protected, password protected. We call them portals. And then really, I think if you start to ask your stakeholders, what kind of information they need. Your front office staff at your school, what kind of questions are they getting asked on a regular basis?

Rob Rawcliffe:

That's the kind of information that you can put on your hub. Your school nurse, is there something that they need to put on the website so that information is front and center? And then athletic directors, all those peoples that usually need to communicate something out to the parents is that information on the website. Just really, again, communication with the parents, making sure that everything they need is on the website. And yeah, really incorporating those hubs is something that changes over time as well. So at the beginning of the year I'm going to see back to school supplies and then that might change into Halloween pics and Christmas pics and things like that. So, yeah.

Cristina Pawlica:

Okay. Naturally that leads me to think of everything that we've been updating during this whole pandemic. It went from crisis communications to just, here's the latest information on guidelines for school opening or hybrid learning. So once the pandemic is done and over with, and we go back to normal, will this still even be relevant?

Rob Rawcliffe:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the communication hubs really are here to stay. They should be here to stay. I think if COVID had happened a number of years ago and we were past it, this is how we would be dealing with snow days and hurricanes, those kinds of things. Whenever there is something that goes wrong with the school, services, whatever, it gives us the opportunity to continue learning and not just stop and interrupt that. So really it's a win-win situation. There's less disruption, more continuity and just more learning and happier children hopefully.

Cristina Pawlica:

I really appreciate your insight on communications hubs. This is something I'm hearing so much about from schools and how they're having trouble communicating in a streamlined way to their constituents. So I really appreciate your time.

Next time on Tech Tuesday, we're going to dive in a little bit deeper on managing Admin rights from a backend perspective and permissions and letting people bear the burden across the board a little bit, rather than just one webmaster doing that. Thank you so much for your time.

And if you'd like to learn more about Finalsite or get an inside peek on our platform or request a demo, you can go ahead and do that by emailing marketing@finalsite.com. So until next time, thanks, Rob.

Rob Rawcliffe:

See ya, bye.

For more on communications hubs for schools, read these blogs:


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