How to craft your school’s digital agenda

Before the coronavirus, many schools did not pay serious attention to the digital plan, specifically delivering online learning. Despite the increasing mobile phone and internet penetration in Uganda and Africa in general, many schools continued with the traditional arrangement of delivering education: face to face classroom lecturers.

It has been like this for generations. Many people and industries are always comfortable with the status quo unless significantly disrupted.

First was Khan Academy that provided a new way of delivering school content in a new way. Many industry players wished innovation away. Yet Khan Academy was an equalizer of sorts – providing quality training delivery to all with Internet access.
Many schools saw the opportunity and started making the website available to their students during the computer lab time. But it was not enough.

Schools decided to focus on setting internal capabilities for digital education. They invested in the data center and started recording their lecturers and made the content available within their school local area network. However, this approach had a catch: students are not allowed to own private computers and other mobile gadgets like smartphones to enable access to the school’s data center on the local area network while at the school.

Students would, therefore, access the resources only via the school computer lab, which had a limited number of students it can accommodate giving rise to a challenge of scalability.

Many schools decided to ignore the digital agenda since it was seen as a cost center without significant benefits. For marketing and school online reputation purposes, many schools embraced the practice of setting up a website.

Websites in vogue

Schools did not have a specific strategy for online presence. Many owners of schools and the respective Head Teachers thought of the website projects as low end, which they delegated to the IT officers within the school.

The result was a school website that:

  1. Did not have the right domain name. Due to a lack of digital strategy, some schools are hosted as a sub-domain on someone’s main website. As they say, if you lack a vision, it is easy to end up in another company’s vision. Such a practice made it difficult for the school to develop a robust digital footprint, especially to be easily found online via search engines.
  2. Poor marketing copy – many schools had poor content online. You find the school’s home page was last updated about three or six months ago. Such old content makes it difficult for people to visit
  3. Many school websites are like brochures –— just providing notices and the Head Teachers information. They lack interactivity whatsoever. It is difficult for a parent to log in and check the status of their children or for a student to login in and access course works, join discussion forums for the classroom, and or download exclusive resources. And for a prospective parent to see whether there are vacant positions, the requirements to apply, and other details such that a parent can determine the chances of having their child admitted. Instead, the nature of the websites are so weak that a prospective parent must physically visit the school to know the criteria to have their child admitted
  4. School websites lack e-learning platforms to ease online studies.

In this coronavirus times, school owners must embrace digital at the highest level. Paramount, the board or the school’s governing committee, must champion the school’s digital agenda and provide the much-needed funds to develop a strong online digital presence and learning platform.

In the past, a strong school was defined by a massive campus with magnificent buildings and facilities like school farms, playing fields, swimming pools, availability of space for various games, and learning aids. Today, it is the extent to which the school has developed virtual studies and digital resource base in terms of online library, video footage for student learning and intellectual property.

To win, schools must integrate the school management systems with the online learning and student or pupil lifecycle – giving the school ability to track the student and parent experience from admission up to the completion of studies, as well as provide a great alumni experience.

To learn more about crafting a winning school digital strategy, take a few minutes and listen to our free webinar to heads of schools…

To request for an independent review of your school’s website and digital plan, make a request here

To have an expert speak to your School’s Board and Top Management team, about “Crafting a Winning School’s digital strategy,” contact Pius Babyesiza, on WhatsApp+256772844299 or email, [email protected].

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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