How to successfully launch an online school directory for your PTA?

The PTA Directory Chair at your school is tired of compiling the school directory year after year with hand written forms and extensive typing. Now, it is time for your board to make that job easier for her ( or him – it is usually a PTA Mom). What are the alternatives you have? You could go with an online school directory (which could also be a school directory app on your phone). What would be the steps you need to take to successfully launch and maintain a school directory? Parents who have been used to a paper directory are not going to immediately warm up to an electronic directory? How can you make this transition easier on parents? This infographic illustrates the entire process and best practices to create an online school directory for your PTA. A detailed writeup of each of these steps and how MobileArq deals with it follows below the infographic.

online school directory

How to successfully launch an online directory for your school

The transition to the online school directory is not always smooth unless the directory has been properly implemented by the PTA and sufficient support is provided to the parents on accessing the password-protected, secure directory. MobileArq would like to share the advice that we provide to all the PTAs who are considering transitioning to a mobile directory for their schools.

1. Directory Data: School Directories need to be complete, i.e., they need to list all of its members. Only if the directory is complete then it is useful to the school community. The school districts or the PTAs can ensure that the directory is complete by making sure that the parent-student data is transferred securely to the directory provider. The directory data should include these three main fields: home address, telephone number and child’s name and grade. Parents need to have the option of displaying or not displaying their other contact info, e.g., email address.

What if the school or the PTA cannot provide its parent-student data to the online school directory service provider due to privacy concerns? This situation is encountered in a number of school districts. To address this privacy concern, MobileArq provides an option for these schools enabling them to build the school directory by having the parents enter their own data via a separate link. After verification of the families entered in the link by the PTA, the data is integrated in the main directory. The directory built using the data entered by the parents is a viable option for schools facing the data privacy concerns. However, this option does not always yield a complete listing of its parent and student body in the first year of its existence. In our experience, we find that as school parents become familiar with the mobile directory and its usage increases, then other parents who have not participated also begin to enter their information in the directory. The parent-built directory format can take up two years before the listings are complete.

2. The PTA: The mobile directory can succeed only with full participation of the school’s PTA. So, what does the PTA need to do? First, the PTA needs to do their ‚homework‚to select the directory provider whose directory package meets their needs. This should include a demo of the directory, both the user interface and the Administrative interface of the directory. Discussion and feedback from schools using the directory provider should also be a major part of your selection process. Once, an agreement is reached and the directory has been developed for your school, the directory chair and other PTA members should ‚test drive‚the online school directory. Its usage should be intuitive. You will need to follow the registration process as recommended by the online school directory provider to successfully access your school directory. The PTA should also check that both email and telephone support by the online school directory provider is fully accessible to the user. There will always be an issue that needs to be addressed as parents transition to the mobile directory from their standard print directory. Thus, prompt technical support is critical in this transition process. The directory chair should also become familiar with the use of the administrative interface of the directory to communicate with the school parents and management of its membership. Only after a smooth and successful ‚test drive‚ by the PTA, the directory should be released to the rest of the school community.

3. The Parents: While the PTA needs to play a strong role in helping to launch a mobile directory, a full participation is also required from the parents. Each family is provided an access to the directory and parents should take a full advantage of having direct access to their school information at their fingertips. Ease of access includes being able to download your online school directory from an App store on to your phone. Secure access includes verification of email address or phone number from the parent with that being entered.