A School App can be transformative for parental engagement, school communication and IT. Yet introducing a new piece of tech into your school’s ecosystem is a big decision to make. From parent apps to classroom gateways and school apps, there are a range of platforms to choose from, so how do you decide which is the right one for you?

In this post, we will ask nine key questions to help you choose the right school app.

#1 Who Will Be Using Your School’s App?

It’s not unusual for the users of a School App to change depending on the school.

At a nursery or primary school, it’s a good bet that your main users are parents. But when we get to high schools and colleges, maybe your app needs to starts involving students too.

A clear understanding of your audience, will help narrow down essential features and ensure an appropriate design too.

#2 What Problem Are You Trying To Solve?

Knowing your key goals when looking at a School App is essential. Maybe you're tired of having several different channels to communicate with parents, students and staff. If you are like most schools this is likely a mix of:

• Email

• Newsletters

• SMS

• Social Media

• School Websites

• Letters

Not only is it time consuming to reach parents on so many channels, but it also misses out one of the easiest ways to reach parents - on their smartphones and tablets!

It seems logical to bring these to one place, so if centralising school communication channels is a goal - write it down.

But there are many other reasons school’s look at an app too. From cutting back wasteful expenditures to monitoring parental engagement levels.

We would recommend narrowing down to 1-2 key areas that your school wants to address.

#3 What Functionality Will You Need?

It sounds obvious, but this is a fundamental basis for choosing your School App. It’s a good idea to create a list of “essential features” and “nice to have’s”.

Platforms like EdUnity, have a range of standard features from. Messaging, calendars and school news will all offer a great starting point. But the ability to add custom features can be a game changer for schools.

Custom features are particularly suited when you are looking at a School App for the long-term. They allow you to grow into your School’s App adding new features at a later date, and ensuring that you can grow into your school's app as goals evolve.

#4 Which Platforms Will The App Work On?

Wouldn’t it be terrible to invest in a great School App only to later discover that half your parents can’t use it? Compatibility is everything with school-tech. EdUnity School Apps ensure that no matter which platform your parents use - your School App will work too.

Among these platforms are iOS, Android and HTML 5 - meaning EdUnity (literally) supports 1000s of different devices.

#5 How Easy Is It To Update Your School’s App?

Updating your School App is essential. From being able to send out messages to adding new content and keeping parents up to date. But your team is busy - and you don’t want to spend hours on a quick update - or worse still, have to wait ages while your app updates.

School Apps that run in the cloud are a great solution. They’re super fast, update in minutes and generally include a CMS (content management system). It’s a fast, easy and non-techie way to manage your School App.

#6 Is Your School App Appropriate For The Long-Term?

When you look at a School App, you are looking for something that can be a cornerstone for your school’s technology - providing a long term solution. You don’t want to be moving data across or switching platforms at the beginning of each new academic year. It’s stressful for staff, and a nightmare for parents.

So, make sure you find a school app that’s future-proofed. Do they  invest in new features? Are there ways for you to extend on functionality if your school goals change? Finding something adaptable, where you can add and remove features as your needs evolve, is a great way to make sure your school app is suitable long-term.

#7 How Secure Is the App?

There’s an old adage in the technology industry that “if something is free, you are not the customer, you are the product.”

Sometimes that’s clear, and it’s okay if it’s a decision that you understand. Yet, when it comes to all the sensitive data your school processes and looks after - security and privacy should be an important consideration.

At EdUnity, we encrypt all school apps as standard - meaning that  parents, pupils and staff are all kept safe.

#8 Is It Worth It Financially?

An important question, “is a School App worth it financially?” A School App can be a significant upfront investment, which is why you need to be making the right choice and not settling for a school app that you’ll be switching in a couple of years. Have a clear budget in mind (and don’t be afraid to negotiate when talking to new suppliers).

If you’re paying for systems such as bulk-SMS, printing letters or running parent portals - the chances are, you can expect to achieve a cost saving by switching to a School App.

If you’re unsure, take a look at initiatives such as the EdUnity School Savings Guarantee - where if your school doesn’t save money, they’ll match the difference against your subscription.

#9 What Support Is Available?

The “learning curve” of new platforms is traditionally one of the biggest headaches of switching to a new platform, but it doesn’t have to be.

Features like our On-Screen Guidance are designed to speed up the learning curve, and show you step-by-step and on-screen how to use the platform.

Many providers also offer free support and training, but be sure to check what the deal is when it comes to technical support.

Are you ready to take the next steps towards a School App? You can talk to our friendly team today about a product demo for your school (obligation-free, of course). You can reach out to us on Live Chat, via the Contact page or by calling us on +44 (0) 2045 385 505.