Tippecanoe School Corporation
Before switching to Finalsite, Tippecanoe School Corporation’s entire website communications was built in-house. “That was great for 2002 to 2004,” quipped Dr. Devin Arms, the district’s Director of Technology. By 2018, however, the district was long-ready for a change.
“One big thing for us was recognizing that our website had different audiences,” Devin said, “One audience was current families. But from that marketing perspective, we needed a presence that was appealing to new families moving to the area to know what our schools are like." That’s where Finalsite was able to help with extensive expertise in school web design.
Tippecanoe School Corporation is a K-12 public school district in the greater Lafayette area, about an hour north of Indianapolis and ten minutes from Purdue University. With 13,700 students across 2 high schools, 6 middle schools, and 11 elementary schools, the district is the 2nd largest district in the state of Indiana.
"We chose Finalsite because we liked how easy Composer is to use for creating nice-looking pages and websites without needing to know a background in coding,” said Devin, “Plus, we liked the ability for add-on pieces, like Messages, and the potential for adding a mobile app down the road, which we later did do. We wanted to have a product that we can grow into and know that as our communication strategy improved, [Finalsite] would be there for us."
“When we transitioned to Finalsite, we wanted our website to be that ‘one-stop shop’ and unified communications platform. Once we started using the the website, we also started using Messages for our mass emails and implemented consistent templates and letterheads to clean up those communications.”
A year into their website, the district launched their school’s app for iOS and Android.
“In fall 2019,” Devin continued, ‘we launched the mobile app to be a companion piece to our other mediums. With the mobile app we’ve begun leveraging the push notification feature. When we utilize Messages to send emails, we can send a push notification to the app as well. Because all of Finalsite's tools work together, we are getting to do everything more efficiently.”
We wanted to have a product that we can grow into and know that as our communication strategy improved, [Finalsite] would be there for us."
DR. DEVIN ARMS
DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY
With their new website as the central hub for school-to-home communications, Tippecanoe achieved two goals:
- Save time on the district end (getting out the information).
- Save time for families and stakeholders (finding and taking in the information).
For families, Devin said the website is “clean, modern and inviting.”
“Compared to where we were, it's a much easier type of interface for folks to navigate. On our old website, there was stuff everywhere… collections of random links, etc. You could scroll for minutes! The redesign forced us to do some housekeeping and saying, ‘Does this belong on the website?’”
Tippecanoe’s dedication to creating consistency between all of the school pages made a huge difference. “We spent a lot of time thinking what the websites would look like. All the pages have the same format. We went so far to say to each individual school, “these are the dropdown menus you’re going to have,” Devin said. “Now, if you [parents] have students at multiple schools, you know where to find everything.”
If visitors still can’t find what they are looking for, they can use the internal search bar available on every page. Advanced search is another website feature that the district didn’t have before switching to Finalsite. Devin said that families like it because “nowadays people are used to typing whatever they want into their browser and seeing the search results pop up.”
The consolidated content and more-organized navigation structure also helps save time on the district end because there is a place for everything content-wise.
For website admins, Tippecanoe has district-level contributors as contributors for each individual school. Editing permissions vary between roles at the district’s discretion and can be easily changed or updated to match what is needed.
“We’ve tried to get the schools to publish more quality content on their websites, but that’s easier said than done,” said Devin, “Some folks are great at it and seek out stories; others not as much.”
For the schools who regularly post on social media and only occasionally update their individual websites, Finalsite Feeds has been a helpful tool.
“The social media feed integration keeps those websites updated with [content from] social media posts.” Tippecanoe’s communications coordinator can push content from the district-level to individual school websites as well.
Mobile Notifications Sent
In the 1st 6 months of 2020
Average Open Rate
For emails sent with Messages
Community Members Subscribed
To receive district emails
A Mobile App for Emergency Alerts
Of all of the Finalist products at Tippecanoe’s disposal, Devin said email and push notifications are what the district uses the most.
"I came from a district who used SMS for emergency alerts and calls,” said Kevin, “So when I came to Tippacanoe, it was interesting because nothing like that was used, and there wasn’t much of a desire to use it. We used another platform at the time to allow parents to sign up to get text notifications about closings and delays. But that put all the responsibility on the parents to say, 'Yes, I want to receive alerts,'" said Devin. If parents changed their phone plans or phone numbers, the number registered with their account was no longer accurate, so they didn't receive the texts.
"Once we adopted the app, we completely got out of the text messaging business. No more depending on the phone carrier as the middle man. We utilize the app for push notifications and emergency alerts." It's easy for parents to install the app on whatever device they use, and easy for the district's website admins to push out content created in Messages to the app.
Streamlined Communications During a Pandemic
Like schools all across the world, Tippecanoe School Corporation halted in-person learning in early March 2020 and pivoted to remote learning. Unlike other districts in Indiana — who had experimented with online learning for snow days and such — Tippecanoe had never before done any form of distance learning.
“When the pandemic hit and we had to close schools, it was a rush to pull it together,” said Devin, “Like a lot of districts and schools, we started putting out information randomly and adding it to our health services. Then, as things escalated, we created a dedicated landing page for all things COVID-19 and pulled all of those pieces together into one hub.” The key for Tippecanoe, Devin said, was to maintain a “level of truth” with constituents in a way that was streamlined and easy-to-access — as well as easy to update from the district level. By sending website content through Messages and in the app, the district maintains consistent communication that the community can rely on — in times of crisis and beyond.
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