Making your job easier from the top down
Time is tight at your organization, but you have 50 new teachers starting this year, and it's been agreed that everyone needs a website provisioned. The superintendent says all the teacher websites need to share the school brand too. That usually means provisioning teacher websites in the Content Management System (CMS) that also manages your website. Wow, what do you do? Luckily, Campus Suite is on your side. With some minor set-up, a system admin can establish a teacher website structure, called a "Plan" in Sitebuilder. Once it is set up, and once teachers have a login to your website, they will be able to spin up their personal websites with a few button-clicks and begin customizing their site pages immediately.
Here, I'm going to suggest a few best practices that you should consider implementing in your organization. These basic ideas work for a small, single school, all the way up to a large school district.
- Consider a mandate that requires teacher sites to be managed in the same system.
It does not matter if it's Google sites, Edmodo, Wix or Campus Suite. Just choose the preferred platform and stick to it. Supporting all of the above is a nightmare for a typical website admin. You have other things to do. There is going to be some blowback from some teachers, but know that any decision you make is going to have protestors. Poll your teachers and let the majority win. Managing sites in multiple platforms also makes it more difficult to support your teachers as some may start submitting tickets asking what's wrong with their website... when in reality Campus Suite doesn't manage it. Let alone the work required on the site admins part to manage everything.
- Personal sites are just that. Personal.
When a site admin logs in, they can create a personal site under the "Personal Sites" tab at top-right, but they can also create website departments. Basic Publishers obviously should not be allowed to create regular departments out on your website... so they're limited to only their Personal Site. Under Personal Sites, a teacher may create a site for her 5th Grade Math class... and maybe another for her 6th Grade Science class. These sites will be linked to from their directory profile page and can be managed under Teacher Websites at top-right when they log in.
- Class sites are not personal. They are co-managed.
The moment you need a "Class site" where multiple people will be managing it, these should be created as regular departments out in the main site somewhere... maybe under "Academics" or "Class Sites" even. Then, access can be given to all the teachers needing access to co-manage it. Class sites should never reside under someone's Personal Sites list.
- Caution on allowing multiple sites for teachers
Just a caution on teachers setting up multiple sites... make sure they plan to actually use them. It's better to make a simple, single-site with separate pages in their secondary navigation for their course materials than to have two sites and not have the material or energy to manage them. Set some standards for your teachers in your organization's "Best-Practices" policy. Perhaps you might require them to agree to actually update their website if they request to have one. There's nothing worse than having a bunch of outdated or never updated teacher sites.
Page-building best practices
We're not desktop-publishing in Word anymore. There are a few basic things you should do differently on the web. Your publishers are not expected to be web designers... but over time, establishing some standards at your school can have them making consistent, nice-looking pages.
- All pages should start with an "H1 Heading" or main headline.
- Let paragraph text be paragraph text and only use bold to set something off. Personally, I dislike underlined text. It makes me, and many people think it's a link to be clicked.
In general, leave content aligned left. That is the default. Publishers love to center things nowadays, and we get it. We want the page to look cool. Avoid "centering" text... or adding any kind of additional formatting other than the styles available in the WYSIWYG Editor. When you center things, it can render more unpredictably on some devices and platforms based on the width available. Aligning left and allowing content to flow on its own will better "tile" and reposition when it re-renders on a smaller screen.
- Less is more!
That's right... less formatting, less padding... even less text! It's harder and harder to read on-screen... and people want to get bits of information from a site... not read a novel. Abridge content where you can so it's easier to see and read on today's smaller screens. Less formatting also means fewer problems across a larger array of browsers, platforms, and devices. Your Campus Suite onboarding team helped you QA your site theme so that it works on more devices. As you add more styles that may not have been tested on the same devices, the display can be unpredictable.
- To PDF or not PDF?
When should we serve a PDF instead of a web page? That answer is different for many organizations and there are pros and cons to each. Pros, it allows a greater degree of formatting and controlled printing where it may be needed. Spiders are doing a better job of indexing PDF's into the search engines. PDF's can be served right from a Google drive folder if you choose to embed it on your website. Con's, not everyone can open a PDF still, believe it or not.
You can use them... paste them in using the Script Source widget... but make sure to remove the opening and closing <script> tags since Campus Suite adds them for you. Just be sure to hit your page on a mobile phone and tablet to make sure they work as friendly as you expect.
Adhering to the above basic guidelines, make the pages feel tighter and more integrated with your website.
Make an incentive for publishers
Make incentives for your publishers to update their websites... Perhaps have a contest. Maybe you'll award the most frequently updated, or the best-looking site. Maybe there will be donuts in the break-room if everyone makes 1 update per day on their website. You know what will work at your organization. Over time, if you enforce some basic best practices then your site becomes a better and better resource... and it will benefit your parents, students, and community.
Campus Suite is here to help
The Campus Suite support team is going to help you. When you and your publishers contact our Support team, by default, we will always steer your publishers towards best-practices. We're happy to help you learn the tools and support you as you do. Start simple, and evolve the best-practices at your organization over time.