The Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools now have an email subscription service for content posted on the district and school web sites. Parents, community members, and others interested in the schools may subscribe using the “Email Subscription” link on the district’s web site.
When signing up, subscribers decide which categories of information they want to receive, and how often they would like updates. For example, a parent might be interested in receiving school news from Hilton and Central schools on a weekly basis, and district Board Briefs on a monthly basis. Currently, there are 117 categories available, with new ones added as needed. These categories reflect sections on the web site to which content has been posted.
Once the subscription is confirmed via email, subscribers will begin receiving email messages on their chosen schedules when information has been added to the web site. The email messages will contain the text of each new article, along with links to any associated pictures or documents. The messages also contain details on changing or removing subscriptions, which can be done at any time.
Because the email updates are tied to information posted on the web site, both forms of communication are automatically handled when new content is posted. This allows parents and community members to stay informed without forcing staff members to separately post information to the web site and send out email updates.
The email addresses provided by the subscribers are not used by the district for any other purpose. They are not stored with or tied to student or employee records, and they are not provided to other organizations.
The software powering the email subscription system was developed internally by the district’s technology department for use by our district.
Community members interested in real-time updates may also subscribe to RSS feeds for any of the categories by using the RSS icon in the lower-right corner of each page on the web site.
The Rest of the Story
Okay, that’s the part that’s on the district web site. I’ve been talking about doing this for years, and most of the people I’ve discussed it with don’t get it. After all, we already provide RSS feeds for every category on the web site. If people would just subscribe to those, we wouldn’t need this clunky email system.
The problem is that most of the people in our target audience don’t understand RSS. So while it’s a great, convenient technology for those who use it, explaining it to everyone is beyond the scope of our communications efforts. We want simple ways to send information to people in ways that are comfortable for them. They know email. They like email. They understand email. So we’re using email.
That’s not to say that we’re abandoning RSS. We’re still using it, and we’re going to keep talking about it and trying to get people to use it more. We’re also thinking and talking about ways to use tools like Twitter to keep people informed. But when the focus is on communication, and not technology, we have to provide the information in a more accessible way.
That’s also, by the way, why you can sign up for email updates on our blogs. Sometimes it’s just about getting the word out. And I get as much feedback from my email subscribers as my RSS ones.