Donovan Group Insights

Is Your District Website Presenting ALL Learning Opportunities?

Does your school district’s website truly reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of students, parents, staff and the broader community? A district’s website is a powerful platform that must uphold inclusivity, reach and ease of access to all learning opportunities—regardless of age, background or ability. In short: it must serve the full spectrum of learners in your community.

Is your district website truly presenting all learning opportunities in a way that educates, empowers and engages?

Consider diverse user perspectives

School district websites are often approached from the perspective of the administrators and educators creating them, rather than the community using them. This divide can lead to a mismatch between the site’s goals and its practical use for the constituents. To bridge this gap, it’s worth understanding various user perspectives:

Admins and educators

  • How they see websites: Sharing important dates, curriculum overviews and district news
  • Their goals: Provide necessary information and project a professional image
  • Measure of success: Effective communication across the district and community

Students and parents

  • How they use websites: Check assignments, school events and contact teachers
  • Their goals: Stay informed and engaged with the school community
  • Measure of success: Relevance and timeliness of information provided

Broader community

  • How they use websites: Explore education or employment opportunities
  • Their goals: Access resources for personal or family education
  • Measure of success: Ease of navigation and the richness of content

Craft an inclusive online space

An inclusive website is one that helps each visitor seamlessly find the content that matters to them, whether it’s a parent looking for PTA details or a professional seeking adult education courses.

Keep these concepts in mind as you structure your district’s site to be optimally accessible.

Universal design principles

A website built on universal design principles prioritizes clarity and ease of use for all visitors. This means employing intuitive labels and a logical structure for navigation, so every section is easy to find.

Language accessibility is also crucial. By offering information in multiple languages, you can reflect the diversity of your community and ensure everyone feels welcome. Also, make a point to cater to people with visual or auditory challenges by providing features like screen reader compatibility, interpreters, and high-contrast text options.

Tailored sections for specific audiences

Create dedicated sections that cater to the specific needs of different audiences within your community. For adult learners, develop easily identifiable sections featuring GED programs, ESL courses, and professional development opportunities. Streamline the student experience by offering direct links to academic resources, extracurricular programs and student support services on student-focused pages.

For parents, establish a comprehensive parent zone that provides access to parent-teacher associations, health and welfare information and volunteer opportunities, fostering parent engagement. Finally, bridge the gap between the district and the wider workforce by hosting job postings, training programs and professional development resources on inclusive employment pages.

Interactive features

Empower teachers, clubs and community groups to contribute to a dynamic master calendar by allowing them to submit their events. This fosters a sense of shared ownership and encourages increased participation. Regularly collect user experience surveys to gather feedback and guide the website’s evolution, ensuring it remains aligned with the evolving needs of its users.

Establish a dedicated community forum as a space for open discussion and ideas related to the district’s mission. The platform can nurture a sense of community and collective contribution.

Help your community discover relevant learning experiences

Building a comprehensive collection of learning options is a great start, but it means little if people can’t find what they need. Think of your website like a well-lit store: you want every learning path clearly marked and inviting.

Here’s how to make learning more discoverable to your community:

  • Create a dedicated adult education page: Highlight adult learning opportunities with a prominently featured section catering to this audience, showcasing GED programs, ESL courses and career development resources in a clear and organized way.
  • Focus on search functionality: Your website’s search function is key. Make sure your content includes the keywords people are likely to use when searching for courses. Additionally, include advanced filters that let users narrow down their search by category.
  • Put mobile first: Since more and more people are using their phones for everything, mobile-friendly design is a must. Make sure your website looks good and works well on smaller screens.
  • Highlight events: Feature community events in a prominent spot, maybe even with a rotating banner. Make sure it’s easy for people to find more information (ideally in one easy-to-navigate area).
  • Engage on social: A district website isn’t truly successful unless it sparks active engagement and supports learning. Seamlessly integrate your website with social media platforms to connect with your audience across multiple channels, and make sure to include share buttons to empower users to spread the word about events and learning opportunities.

Take a proactive approach to content management

Keeping your district website up-to-date is critical. It requires a proactive approach that ensures your content remains fresh, relevant and reflective of current events. Regularly update your event calendar, post news and announcements at least monthly and stay on top of curriculum changes to always provide accurate educational information.

Fostering a collaborative ecosystem

A successful website is a team effort. Establish teams dedicated to website development, content creation, and maintenance to ensure it remains a priority. Involve the community through advisory committees and partner with external experts, like web developers, school PR experts and education technology firms, to stay ahead of trends.

Remember that education is always changing

Education is constantly transforming, driven by advances in technology and evolving social dynamics. District websites must mirror this change. The process involves embracing new devices and platforms, prioritizing user feedback to understand how people interact with the site and recognizing the various groups of people relying on it for information.

Transform your school district’s website into an invitation to learn

Your district website has the potential to be far more than just a digital bulletin board. Essentially, it’s a gateway to discovery, fostering a love of learning for students, parents and the entire community. Is it time to revisit your website’s design and content?

A welcoming, inclusive platform—powered by community input and regularly updated information—can unlock the full potential of your district’s diverse learning opportunities, creating a vibrant hub of educational exploration and personal growth for everyone who visits it.

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