The Joomla! Community Magazine™

Tried and Tested Tools for Building a Teacher-Friendly School Website

Written by | Saturday, 01 January 2011 00:00 | Published in 2011 January
When I ask my school customers about Joomla! and how it helps them do their job, they all have the same answer — they say that what used to take them hours to accomplish before, gets done in minutes with Joomla! — from adding new pages, to creating new events, to managing documents, etc.

For many schools, Joomla! is the preferred content management system when it comes to public-facing websites. The reason is obvious — in addition to cost-effective deployment, Joomla! offers an intuitive, easy user interface and attractive learning curves, amply padded by myriads of free training videos easily found on Youtube.com or other media-rich sites.

Every parent knows that schools process an extraordinarily large amount of documents on a daily basis. To be productive and to be able to do their job better, the school staff needs an easy and quick way to add, update, organize and distribute documents online. In addition, both teachers and administrators need to be able to quickly post notifications, maintain an up-to-date calendar of events, edit page content, and more.

Here is a quick guide describing how Joomla!, in combination with some of its most popular tried and tested extensions, can be used to build a great website that not only meets the needs of a school’s web content contributors, but also has all the must-have elements that make it an effective and reliable web-communication tool that every school needs.

The ingredients:

  • Joomla!’s latest version.
  • Any school-themed Joomla! template.
  • JCE Content editor – powerful and user-friendly, JCE offers instant text editing and easy image management in a MS® Word-like environment that both teachers and school administrators love.
  • Docman – a document repository and downloads management system that allows you to separate registered users into groups such as parents, students, school board members, school administrators, etc., and assign different documents to these groups.
  • JEvents or a calendar of your choice that has a flexible and easy to use event management interface.
  • K2 - Joomla!’s award-winning content component that we will use for the website’s teachers pages.
  • Joomla!works’ Simple Image Gallery plugin that will enable teachers and school administrators to quickly and easily add picture galleries to the website.
  • A backup extension of your choice that provides protection for your website and helps automate website backup and restore functions.


See this month's TeamEASE article on backup extensions for Joomla!

Putting everything together:

  1. Set up your Joomla! site with the template of your choice.
  2. Install and configure your preferred backup extension.
  3. Add all your general content pages and menus, including relevant information about your school mission and policies, admissions, administrative offices, athletic and academic programs, etc.
  4. Download the latest version of JCE content editor and install, using Joomla!’s Extension manager. In Site > Global Configuration, make sure that you select JCE as your default editor. Additionally, before you start using the tool, activate the JCE plugin in Extensions > Plugin Manager.
  5. Set up your Events Calendar:
    • Install JEvents, using Joomla!’s extension manager.
    • You might also want to install some of the modules, available for this component, including the calendar and latest events modules.
    • From Components > JEvents, go to JEvents’ control panel and start adding your new categories and events.
    • Create an “Events” menu item for the component. Here is an example:

calendar

  1. Create accounts for the website’s content administrators and show them how to create pages, update content and add new events.
  2. Creating the teacher pages:
    • Download the latest version of K2 and install, using Joomla!’s extension manager.
    • Download the latest version of Joomla!works’ Simple Image Gallery plugin and install, using Joomla!’s extention manager. Make sure that the plugin has been activated.
    • Go to Components > K2 to open its control panel.
    • Create a category for every teacher. Create sub-categories for each class that a teacher teaches during the relevant academic year.
    • Provide your teachers with training and login information.
    • Teachers can use K2 to write blog-style articles and updates about what is going on in their classroom. They can also add quick links to important documents, assignments, class resources, planned events, and more. K2’s convenient commenting system can optionally be used for teacher-parent discussions.
    • Teachers can additionally create pages that can be viewed by registered users only (parents or students), and can easily add picture galleries, using the Simple Image Gallery plugin by Joomla!works that integrates nicely with K2.
  3. Setting up the teacher categories and documents :
    • Download the latest version of Docman from Joomla!tools.net and install, using Joomla!’s extension manager.
    • Create a document category for every teacher. Create subcategories for each class the teacher teaches during the relevant academic year.
    • Show the teachers how to upload, manage and add documents to content pages.
  4. Creating the teacher menus:
    • In Joomla!’s Menu Manager, create a menu for each of your teachers.
    • Create as many menu items as needed, including: teacher contact information, class name and documents.
    • From the Module manager, publish the menus on their corresponding teacher pages.
  5. Staff Directory and Individual Contact Pages:
    • In the administrator’s backend, go to Components > Contacts > Categories.
    • Create a new category, “Staff Directory”.
    • In Components > Contacts > Contacts add, one by one, all the teachers and staff. Enter their email, phone numbers, individual page url address, and other relevant information.
    • Go to the main menu and create a new item, select type “Contact Category layout” and edit your preferences regarding the look and feel of your staff directory. Example:

staffdirectory

The above quick guide should provide a good starting point for your school website, which you can augment further by adding more extensions or using Joomla!'s many useful features and capabilities. If you have any comments or questions regarding this article, please let me know and I will try to help as much as I can.

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