In the pre-pandemic world, the idea of taking efficient steps toward going digital probably wasn’t a top concern for most K12 schools. And while the future of communication is going digital, it’s hard to prioritize it when it’s already a struggle to get parents engaged digitally

Fast forward to the present, where most of us are working from home and relying heavily on digital tools to help us stay connected. Embracing the digital landscape is now a must, both for adapting to pandemic protocols and in preparing for whatever might be next on the horizon.

Of course, K12 educators and communicators already have a lot on their plates, and adding the need for a complete digital transformation can be tough to prioritize. But the world doesn’t wait, and neither can school districts. 

To help ease k12 communicators into this transition, we’re sharing small steps they can take toward going digital, along with actionable tips that even the busiest education professional can implement.

1. Bring Your Newsletter Online

We recently surveyed K12 school communicators about how newsletters function at their institution. Most of the respondents said they’re sending digital newsletters and sending them out via email. However, there is still a portion who are printing out newsletters and mailing them or sending them home with students. 

This practice poses issues. Sending newsletters home with students doesn’t guarantee that the parents will actually receive them in a timely manner, if at all. And if you mail your newsletters, the information they cover is at least a few days old. Things can change on a dime, and there’s nothing like a swift and timely digital newsletter to keep recipients as informed as possible in those circumstances. 

Additionally, parents prefer digital communication over paper. By disseminating your newsletter digitally instead of on paper, you could expect to see more engagement than you would via paper. So if your school is still relying on printed newsletters, start looking into digital solutions to save yourself time, effort, and paper, while also making stronger connections with your audience.

Marketing automation solutions for schools are out there; you just have to find the right tool for your needs. For example, BenchmarkONE’s K12 Edition offers school communicators all the email automation functionalities they need, as well as ways for them to grow and update their list, like landing pages, forms and FTP for SIS contacts. 

2. Write a School Blog

You didn’t get into the education space to become a content marketer on the side. But there are advantages to writing and maintaining a school blog, including the creation of an online hub where students, parents, internal staff, and others can easily go when they’re looking for things like back to school protocols or other essential information.

Want to get students in on it? A school blog is a great place to teach digital literacy and inspire creativity in the classroom. Ask for submissions, or start a school club dedicated to keeping your blog updated with relevant news, events, and interesting tidbits.

It’s important to maintain consistency with this, so have students meet regularly and create an editorial calendar that will hold them accountable. They’ll also learn to work within strict deadlines and the importance of creating well-written, informative content

3. Try Out Virtual Professional Development

Professional development is a necessity. It’s also incredibly time-consuming and can cut into your already limited in-person capabilities. Enter a whole host of new ed-tech tools dedicated to bringing PD off campus and into the digital realm. Your school’s teachers and staff can learn when they want and where they want, with self-paced lessons geared toward particular short and long-term goals. Your higher-ups will be able to track progress on both an individual and group scale, and you won’t have to worry so much about collective PD burnout.

It’s best to start slow with this and focus on maybe a couple of sessions a quarter. This will ensure the staff isn’t too overwhelmed and can easily balance their lesson plans and existing workload. It’s important that there’s a check-in after they’ve done a few sessions by either holding a staff-wide meeting or administering a survey. Their input will help determine how practical this approach is and if it’s something your school will want to instill regularly. 

4. Keep Lines of Communication Open

Most K12 educators are used to communicating with their students during school hours and school hours only. But those hours aren’t necessarily in tune with when kids are in the best headspace to complete their work. For one school principal, a majority of his school’s students have been answering emails and turning in assignments between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. during the pandemic. 

The digital world opens up so many more opportunities for staying connected with students and flexibility for helping them do their work when it makes the most sense for them — instead of trying to function when their developing brains might not be as focused. Your school doesn’t have to throw all rules and deadlines out the window, but bringing on additional digital streams of communication is likely only to benefit students and their capacity to excel.

5. Take It Slow and Steady

What’s crucial as K12 schools turn to more digital solutions is keeping progress at a steady pace and not investing too much too soon into every possible tool at your disposal. Technology only works if it works for your needs, and going digital just for the sake of it can be confusing and costly, not to mention ineffective.

We recommend evaluating your school’s biggest goals and challenges first. From there, evaluate what digital solutions might be at hand to help you address them. Some may be obvious due to their utility and low cost (for example, digital newsletters), while others, primarily various types of ed-tech, will require significant research before you commit.

The world is going digital, and K12 schools have to keep up. And while the pandemic may have moved up the timeline, these necessary changes were bound to happen eventually. Look to digital tools as a way to expand your horizons, including increased communication, increased participation, and increased efficiency. Once you get going, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier than you thought to make the transition.