Keeping a school web site current is a bit like Hercules trying to clean the Augean stables that contained 1000 cattle and hadn't been touched in 30 years. In this seemingly never ending job, you need to figure out what content is best for your school web site and what must you do to keep it current?? Think in terms of what your students, parents, and teachers use most often. Create an opening page that is attractive, perhaps with some revolving photos of students in class and on the fields, but make sure that the page gives easy access to student, parent, and faculty portals, has the ability to display emergency announcements, shows important upcoming events, and contains links to information about the school. If those using the site have to drill down through many levels to find what they need, they are likely to give up and call the school instead - just what you were trying to avoid.
Setting up different portals, you'll have content related to the needs of the target audience. Don't forget to:
- make the content easy to find. For example, creating highly visible links to forms parents and teachers will need throughout the school year is a must.
- provide a search within your portals, if possible.
- make sure you've got a secure service to take care of payments in the Parent Portal if parents will be able to use credit cards to pay for lunches, insurance, special events, field trips, etc.
- allow access to portfolios, coursework teachers put into course management systems, enrichment, calendars, etc. in the Student Portal.
What I worry most about with school websites is maintenance and supervision. As sites fill with information, it's almost impossible to keep everything current. Are your teachers keeping up with their course pages? How about when courses or testing requirements change? Sports calendars are always in flux. Oh yes, and then there are the links posted in course management and library areas that haven't been checked. Are there spelling or grammar mistakes on your site?
Some of the biggest complaints we get about our school website is stale information. For example, it's April but your Chess Club event list ends in January making it look like they only play in the winter even though it is the spring tournament that everyone knows is the most important. Parents are the ones who complain the most that some teachers haven't added anything to their course pages since they published the class syllabus in September - and rightly so, if they are trying to ride herd on some student who is too busy or organizationally challenged. Of course, everyone goes wild when the sports events calendar doesn't show the rescheduled games.
Whose job is it to make sure your website is a valuable resource? With budgets as they are today, schools aren't likely to have money for adding a Web Manager position. So the job will fall to those already available. The school administration is ultimately in charge, and those who supervise teachers should also be cognizant of what their staff is posting online, at least in a general sense. A teacher who loves technology, a technology professional, or a faculty team might be put in charge of the site. Knowing that checking everything would be impossible given that they have other responsibilities, they'll need to browse the site looking for what needs to be done and contact the people responsible for that area. They might also put to work a team of students who could help in the effort. Some say, just leave it to the students; they can do it. But they can't, without the guidance of a professional educator who understands what a school site needs.
What can we add on the practical side -- like having things submitted in a web friendly format, i.e., how can you get those who are submitting things to be more organized and do some of the "work" for you?