ClassTag Updates / Nov 11, 2021
How to Get Support for Your Classroom...
With #GivingTuesday kicking off the giving season later this month and the winter holidays ahead, we’re reflecting…
SchoolMessenger and ClassTag Connect are two of the leading school communication platforms, though they each take a different approach to enabling district and school leaders to communicate effectively with all stakeholders.
We took a behind-the-scenes look at SchoolMessenger vs ClassTag Connect and uncovered the differences in their family engagement capabilities, mass notification options, key engagement analytics, user experience, and compliance and security features.
ClassTag Connect is an all-in-one family engagement platform that empowers district administrators, principals, and teachers. This unified platform creates a humanized experience with an inviting user interface that improves two-way family/teacher communication. It also offers a robust analytics dashboard that gives administrators a complete overview of district-wide engagement success.
SchoolMessenger is a communication platform that offers district-wide notifications for emergencies and other alerts through text, voice messages, and social media. Their app also enables two-way communication between teachers and families to provide easy engagement.
Here’s a complete feature comparison of SchoolMessenger vs ClassTag Connect that we’ll discuss in detail below:
The first major difference when looking at SchoolMessenger vs ClassTag Connect is the way in which packages are structured.
While both brands offer mass notifications, two way communication, and social media announcements, ClassTag Connect’s platform offers all three tools in a single product whereas SchoolMessenger requires you to purchase three different products.
Specifically, SchoolMessenger users have to purchase:
SchoolMessenger and ClassTag Connect offer two-way teacher/family communication, though the features and user experience are very different.
SchoolMessenger offers a desktop dashboard and an app that’s available on Android, Google Play, and Apple iOS app stores. The app and the dashboard are designed with individual and group messaging capabilities to allow families to connect with teachers and other families.
The app also allows you to send files, images, and videos with your messages, and you can also like and comment on a message. For parents that aren’t native English speakers, they also offer translations.
Here’s the desktop version of their messenger center:
Here’s the mobile version of the messaging center:
Teachers also have the control to delete messages and send messages to selected groups or recipients.
Unfortunately, parents do not have the same ability to send messages to selected groups and can only reply to comments.
This makes it difficult for parents to schedule field trips, volunteer opportunities, and more without teacher involvement.
The user interface also forces you to scroll through various conversation threads to find important information, and they don’t offer a conversation search option.
ClassTag Connect offers a robust app and desktop dashboard that has the same features as SchoolMessenger and more.
First, it’s easy for teachers to send messages with files, images, and video.
Teachers can also post announcements to the class page, and families can comment and collaborate on the post.
Teachers can also schedule posts ahead of time, and they can attach videos, images, and files.
SchoolMessenger has a similar function, though its scrolling design creates an unorganized user experience.
Here are the two user interfaces next to each other:
Another feature unique to ClassTag Connect is that it enables parent-to-parent collaboration without teacher involvement.
For example, if you have an upcoming field trip, parents can create discussions themselves in the Volunteer Opportunities tab. This relieves the burden from the teacher as they no longer have to initiate and plan all activities.
ClassTag Connect also enables teachers to post a list of classroom supplies that they need so that parents can donate the appropriate items.
ClassTag Connect also has a tab that allows families to schedule parent-teacher conferences directly on the platform. Teachers post times that work best for them, and parents can anonymously claim a time slot that is most convenient for their schedule. This eliminates unnecessary back and forth communication and prevents double-booking.
ClassTag Connect user interface organizes all information under tabs so that you can find exactly what you need without scrolling through endless threads.
The calendar view also makes it easy for parents to see upcoming events and avoid forgetting important meetings.
Translations are available in over 100 languages and translate automatically based on the user’s language preferences. This is ideal as SchoolMessenger’s translation requires the teacher to take the extra step of ‘validating the translation’ in SMS before it gets sent out.
As a school leader, engagement metrics and analytics are essential to improving your communication strategy. While both platforms offer some form of analytics, their reporting metrics and depth vary.
SchoolMessenger offers very few analytics. They have a dashboard that covers basic information such as the average content mix (SMS, email, and phone call), the top senders, and the translations used. Below is a more granular breakdown of the same information for each individual message.
While this information is useful, it misses key insights like the percentage of read messages, which types of messages are most effective, and export and filter capabilities for reporting.
On the other hand, ClassTag Connect offers the most robust analytics and engagement metrics dashboards available.
These dashboards help district and school leaders see which teachers and classrooms are the most effective (and which ones need more support) as well as which families are in need of extra attention should messages go unread.
Teachers can also boil it down to a granular view of each individual student that is at risk.
The ClassTag Connect reporting suite drills down to individual families, making it easy for teachers to reach out and offer support. In the Students at Risk report, teachers have a full view of families that are responsive, unresponsive, unreachable, or have no contact information.
The overview also makes it easy for administrators to see how each teacher is performing at a glance.
To re-engage families, you can filter and export the file, and then reach out through their preferred communication method.
The family engagement dashboard provides a visual overview of connection health so that administrators and teachers can see the overall status of family engagement on any given day.
In addition to showing which families are unresponsive, unreachable, awaiting confirmation, and have no contacts, this view also shows an overview of families engaged in the last 7, 14, and 24 days.
Some families enjoy hearing about child stories, whereas others prefer to only hear about important events and announcements.
So how do you know which one is more effective for your class?
With the Communications dashboard, teachers and administrators can see metrics for each type of communication, from child stories and announcements to events and weekly digests.
For example, in the dashboard below, it’s pretty obvious that announcements have low engagement. Therefore, the teacher can improve engagement by sending fewer announcements and focusing more on child stories, which generate high engagement.
Reducing non-engaging messages prevents families from giving up altogether and is essential to communication success.
The communications report allows you to see what types of communications are most effective and ineffective.
The top dashboard also gives an overview of the average engagement and read rate for each message.
Finally, administrators can see which teachers are most effective with rollup dashboards. This enables them to see the average read rate, engagement rate, and send rate for each teacher, and they can uncover strategies from the most successful teachers to help those that need support.
Administrators can also sort by date range to see which teachers have improved or declined over time and how many messages they’ve been sending.
Zooming out to a district level, leaders can see which schools have the best engagement metrics and identify those at risk.
It also gives a thorough overview of the average read rate, engagement rate, at-risk family rate, and weekly communications.
Another essential element of an effective communication platform is school and district-wide notifications. Whether it’s alerting families about school closures or a lockdown, you need to be able to send notifications quickly and easily to families through their preferred communication medium.
Here is an overview of SchoolMessenger’s dashboard where you can send mass notifications:
As you can see, you can create a list of contacts and select the type of message so that it’s sent during school hours or after school hours.
From there, you can create voice messages, emails, and SMS messages.
For voice messages, you can either do text to speech or record your message and send it. However, if you choose to record the message and send it, you won’t have language translation options.
Once you’ve completed your message, the next step is to choose the preferred medium to send it to and schedule messages to send later.
Unfortunately, SchoolMessenger calls are also often faulty. For example, some users report that families answer the call, and then it hangs up. In other cases, it will redirect to voicemail without leaving a message.
Another issue that users report with this is that families can’t upload their contact information directly to the platform.
This creates friction as some schools report that it sends notifications to people that graduated, and many will send nasty replies.
With ClassTag Connect, families can just upload their email address and phone number to avoid mistakes.
ClassTag Connect offers similar features to SchoolMessenger (voice messages, email, and SMS messages), though its user interface is easier to use and the system is more reliable.
In addition, parents have complete control over the notifications they receive, which keeps them more engaged and prevents drop-off.
Sending a district or school-wide announcement is also very easy, requiring the teacher or administrator to send one simple message rather than choosing email, SMS, or a phone call.
This way, administrators and teachers only have to write one message in one step versus the three-step process that SchoolMessenger requires.
For example, if you write an announcement as an email, families that opted for SMS will receive just the title as a text message (URGENT: 2 Hour Delay!), whereas those that opted for email will receive the message as an email (with the full-body text).
ClassTag Connect is also the only platform that offers push notifications, which will appear 30 seconds after an announcement or comment is posted.
Finally, both ClassTag Connect and SchoolMessenger offer district branding.
The user experience is perhaps the most important factor in adoption and usage. If families and teachers are frustrated with the tool, they will likely resort to email and render the entire platform useless.
ClassTag Connect’s interface allows the user to easily sort through different tabs for past conversations. They also receive notifications for messages at the top. Both the desktop and mobile interface are designed this way for ease of use.
SchoolMessenger’s interface is designed with an endless scroll on the mobile and desktop versions.
This makes it a little more difficult for families to sort through past conversations and announcements.
Another feature unique to ClassTag Connect is Backpacks, which enables teachers and families to upload and store files natively to the platform. This makes it much easier for teachers and families to quickly find essential documents without searching through threads or emails.
With SchoolMessenger, you’ll have to manually search through threads to find files. The only exception is for select secure documents such as report cards and progress reports, though this requires authentication and is not user-friendly for simple homework documents.
Support is another major aspect of the user experience, and ClassTag Connect offers a robust help center with easy-to-read articles complete with updated screenshots and instructions. They also have a phone, live chat, and email support with incredibly fast response times.
SchoolMessenger offers phone support and a web form that you can complete to request help. They also have a live web session, though you have to fill out all your information to get in line.
Finally, ClassTag Connect just works. You can be sure that your content will always be available, and we offer industry leading uptimes.
SchoolMessenger users report that, because their systems are about 10 years old, they often have unexplained technical issues. One user reported, “We did a redesign with them and had trouble getting the pages to update. They put the wrong phone numbers on the wrong profiles along with other misplacements, and they weren’t very quick to fix it.”
Another said, “Occasionally, one of the staff members in the directory just disappears, and I have to call them.”
ClassTag Connect and SchoolMessenger easily integrate with SIS, Clever, and ClassLink for a single easy sign-on, though only ClassTag Connect enables Google Classroom integration. With Google Classroom integration, families have a bird’s eye view into everything their child is working on, and they can use all Google products seamlessly, including Google calendar, drive, slides, docs, and more.
Security is also a major concern for schools and both ClassTag Connect and SchoolMessenger are FERPA certified by iKeepSafe.
While SchoolMessenger is an excellent communication tool to alert families of important announcements, ClassTag Connect is a 360 degree family engagement solution that makes two way engagement seamless for families, teachers, and school leaders.
ClassTag Connect also offers all communication tools under one integrated platform, while SchoolMessenger requires several products to enable all of the communication tools ClassTag Connect offers.
In addition, ClassTag Connect offers more robust analytics and reports for administrators to better understand the success of their family engagement strategy.
To get started using ClassTag Connect, schedule a demo today!
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