While we at SchoolNow provide school website hosting and would like to think we're certainly among the top 5 best school website hosting companies, we also believe it’s important for schools to look around and do their due diligence before choosing a content management system (CMS) provider. Sure, we offer a robust website design, hosting, and support for schools and districts, but so do others. After all, establishing an online presence that a school or district can be proud of and confident in requires a significant commitment of money, time, and other resources. It’s important you make an informed decision.
Choosing your school's website hosting provider is certainly something you don't do every day, every year, or even every few years for that matter. So when you do begin your search, we suggest you follow a definite process so that there's a good fit with the CMS provider you choose, and you won't have to turn around and switch vendors again as soon as your contract is up. Everyone's got an opinion, but there are some best practices you can use as a guide, like those outlined in this article in the SchoolNow blog, Selecting the Right School Website Hosting Provider.
In the interest of sharing information, we’ve put together a list of five popular CMS' being used in public and private schools. We feel choosing the right CMS for your school should include a review of these school website hosting companies, with SchoolNow excluded. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Think about what you want from your website solution provider. Knowing your priorities will help you make the right decision.
Finalsite is a comprehensive hosting and content management solution that helps K-12 districts build a community-based online platform. Districts have the ability to create custom websites that highlight the district’s brand, logo, and colors. It’s also easy to maintain, with hundreds of pre-made templates that allow staff members to simply drop in new content and elements in a matter of seconds. Finalsite also offers a bundle package that is a community-building platform that gives you the opportunity to not only build your district’s website, but also build online tools that will engage parents, students, and your staff. The platform can build parent portals, classroom pages, and student information hubs. Teachers and students can use it to share documents. You can even use it to create an internal intranet site to more effectively share information with your faculty and other staff. Finalsite touts itself as a complete solution for not just building an online presence but building an online community. Its other features include:
- Responsive design for mobile devices
- Nimbus suite of collaborative learning tools
- Synergy file sharing system that allows students and teachers to safely share documents online
- A web-based system to centralize and streamline all of your district’s service requests
SchoolMessenger also offers a complete suite of design, hosting, and CMS services. SchoolMessenger says that its standard design services include features that are only available as optional add-ons through its competitors. Its design process includes a consultation to learn more about your vision and a conceptual design that includes your logo, colors, and other visual collateral. SchoolMessenger also offers elements to help build your community and engage all of your district’s stakeholders. Its eLocker application gives students their own unique online portal where they can view updates from teachers, submit assignments, and store important files and information. Parents can also access their own portals to communicate with teachers and check on their child’s progress. Other SchoolMessenger features include:
- Automatic Language Translation
- Parent- & Teacher-Initiated Messaging
- Group And 1:1 Messaging Options
- Upload & Share Files
- Group Management Controls.
Linq offers content management, design, and hosting services, as well as other features that assist in the day-to-day management of your district. Linq’s design services are based on templates and modules, which allow you to plug-in design elements into premade formats. That makes the design process simple and extremely easy to edit. In addition to site design and hosting, Linq offers tools for managing your district. Its facilities management tool allows you to centralize all of the services needed to maintain the buildings in your district. Teachers and other staff members can use the centralized site to request items for their classroom or office, schedule service, and make suggestions. You can also use the service to coordinate activities with contractors and companies from whom you rent equipment. Linq's event registration tool gives you the opportunity to send out invites and notifications in just a few quick steps and also monitor your events’ planned attendance. Also, you can use Linq’s school store function to sell everything from supplies to event tickets to spirit wear online, providing easy access to those items and creating a fresh revenue stream. Other features include:
- Responsive design tools to make your site available on mobile devices
- Instant Connect, which allows administrators to send out important messages via email, SMS text, and social media in just one simple action
- Admin Pro, which puts site administration on one easy-to-use dashboard
- An optional PR consulting service to help you get your message out to the community
Educational Networks offers a combination of design, CMS, and hosting solutions. Their package is anchored around their design services. Your website will be custom-designed based on your colors, logo, and other brand elements. Educational Networks will even send a photographer to your school to highlight your students, faculty, and facilities. Educational Networks, also offers a CMS solution called SchoolSitePro. It allows teachers to quickly and easily update their own classroom sites. They can incorporate elements such as calendars, photo albums, and video streaming. Finally, Educational Networks offers free technical support. Staff is available from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. central time to field any questions or requests you may have. Whether it’s a serious issue or simply trouble adding a new element to your site, you’ll be able to get someone on the phone to help at nearly any hour of the day. Other features include:
- Form editor to help you quickly obtain student and parent information
- Photo albums to share your school’s achievements
- Email list builder to allow you to communicate with your parents and community
- Responsive design so your site will be available on any mobile device
Blackboard has long been known as a top resource for document sharing and classroom management. They now also offer website design and hosting services for schools. The design services come in two forms: quick start and custom. The quick start option allows you access to dozens of pre-made templates and the ability to customize them with your own colors and logo. The custom design option gives you access to experienced designers who will create a look that’s specific to your school or district. Blackboard offers a cloud-based hosting service that requires no hardware or software maintenance on your end. All updates and maintenance are done for you in the cloud. Blackboard says that its hosting service is fast, secure, and reliable and that it gives you peace of mind. Blackboard doesn’t offer much in the way of additional features. However, it does have partnerships with more than 100 companies that offer features that can be integrated into your Blackboard-hosted site. Some of those features are free and others come at additional cost. Other features:
- Drag-and-drop page editing
- Responsive design for availability on mobile devices
- District-wide or classroom-centric alerts
- Single sign-on capabilities
If you’re ready to expand your online presence, contact one of these CMS providers and contact us here at SchoolNow. Do your homework and talk to several providers. Makes sure you participate in a complete demo of the CMS, and ask for a list of current schools they’re serving.
About the author
Ted’s depth of experiences within digital communications as a former teacher and entrepreneur add insight and direction for communication strategies employed by schools and districts nationwide. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org