Online Registration is one of the most important processes that a school does each year. It’s an opportunity to start school-family communication before a new school year even begins, leading to stronger collaboration between schools and families. It can also be a time-consuming process for everyone involved. But it doesn't have to be!
Creating your online registration plan early can help alleviate stress for your admin team and set your families up for success. Based on our experience walking many schools through the process, we’ve identified 8 important tips to ensure your district online registration plan is ready.
1. Communicate with Families Early and Often
When it comes to a major change to any school procedure, there is no such thing as too much communication too soon. Families need to be told early and often that a change is coming. Even if the details aren’t finalized yet, give families a notice to be watching for more information.
2. Seek Input From Experts in Your District
Take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of your admin staff, particularly the ones who will be implementing the new system and working with it daily. Ask them about their experience with the current process, such as what parts take the most of their time and what parts are most often completed incorrectly – or incompletely – by families.
Then, check in with them often for their input on the system you’re designing and get their feedback. This will ensure not only that your plan solves for the problems they have, but also gains buy-in from key stakeholders.
3. Assign and Delegate Responsibilities
It is essential that everyone who will be part of online registration has specific responsibilities that are clear and measurable, ideally with deadlines attached. Identify who will be part of the team, define their role, and assign responsibilities.
One of the most important roles to assign is project manager, or keeper of online registration, who will partner with the tech team. This person should have hands-on experience with the current process and be able to act as liaison between registration staff and the tech team. The manager/keeper should be communicating often with the registration staff regarding changes to workflow and then bringing feedback to the tech team.
Another important responsibility is to identify who will need training in the new registration system, who will be providing the registration, and when the training needs to be completed in order to ensure everyone is ready on launch date.
4. Utilize Pilot Groups
As a general rule, it’s always best to do trial runs of a new process before implementing it system-wide. There will be errors and glitches. It’s unavoidable! But you can plan ahead so as many as possible are resolved before the launch to families.
As a way to catch errors ahead of time, identify a group of parents to act as your pilot – choose parents who are the most engaged and willing to give feedback. Then allow them to try out the registration process well before launching it district-wide, leaving plenty of time to fix the problems that come up for them.
5. Develop a Plan For Families Without Internet Access
Making sure there is a way for all families to access online registration is imperative. Work from the assumption that there will be families who do not have access to the internet. Will you provide a mobile app? Open the school’s computer lab for families to come in and register? Consider putting together a list of resources for families that provide convenient, free internet access in your area, such as libraries, churches, and even local businesses.
6. Utilize Custom Form Fields to Match New and Existing Data
You want the information you collect through online registration to integrate into your SIS so the existing data and the newly added data both show up when you query information later. This is especially an issue if you are transferring paper registration to online registration for the first time. Customize the form fields so they match the information you’ve gathered in the past.
For example, let’s say on your paper registration or last year’s online registration forms you asked families if their child has food allergies. Then, you asked about non/food allergies, like bees. This allows you to send food allergy notices to the lunch team and non/food allergy notices to the health team.
But in the form fields this year, you only ask families about allergies. Families will report food and non/food allergies in the same answer field, preventing you from querying by specific types of allergies.
Being very detailed about the form fields now will save time later. Once your form fields are ready, add the signable forms, downloadable files, etc.
7. Is new family enrollment different from your online registration? Create a plan
If your new family enrollment is different from the online registration you’re going to launch, make sure you have a plan for how to communicate this clearly to families. Consider adding clarification to the school website and any materials that mention online registration. Be clear that it is only for returning students, and include how families should complete new family enrollment.
8. Guide Families Through the Registration Process In Person
Consider organizing a back-to-school night where computers will be available for families to register. Have your trained registration staff on hand to answer questions and keep track of any bugs or errors in the system to quickly relay back to the tech team. The time spent in person will be well worth it when the forms are completed accurately and on time!
Do you have a district online registration plan but aren’t sure your SIS is set up for it? Contact our sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org and discuss your district needs, give you a free demo of our software, and answer any questions you may have about our online registration module.