School Loop Standard
Company: School Loop, 49 Powell St., San Francisco, CA 94102. Phone: (650) 351-5060. Internet: www.schoolloop.com.
Price: Free to the first 100 school districts. After that, the price is $500 per building per year.
Audience: K–12 educators (teachers and administrators in schools and school districts).
Format: School Loop Standard is a fully supported and hosted service that includes web-based software for website creation and management. The program includes secure high-speed hosting, all needed storage, and other features. Upgrades include an optional grade book and multilingual voice messaging.
Minimum System Requirements: This web-based program works on any computer system with a browser and internet access.
Windows 98 or Mac OS 9 or better are suggested. The recommended browsers are Internet Explorer 5x or higher, Firefox, or Safari.
As with many web-based programs, School Loop Standard works best on newer computers with faster internet access.
Description: School Loop Standard is a content management system that enables users to manage website content on a district, building, or individual teacher level—without experience in HTML coding. The program uses an extremely easy-to-learn interface with drag-and-drop tools, features, and templates for website development, as well as integrated district calendars, digital storage lockers, and more.
Overall Rating: ****
Ease of Use A
Product Support A
Installation: Installation is a matter of subscribing to the service and accessing the program on the School Loop servers. Nothing is required from district IT (information technology) personnel; the service is hosted entirely by School Loop. Installation Rating: A
Content/Features: The School Loop Standard content management system (CMS) is a tool for designing district, school, and teacher webpages through a very well-designed, easily used set of tools offering varying levels of access. (Basically, the "content" in a content management system is a series of webpages and any materials that might go into them such as text, pictures and slide shows, tables, and calendars.)
School Loop Standard provides several levels of access that control the webpages that specific users can create or modify. The highest access level is Webmaster; a 2-hour webinar is available to help district or school webmasters get started.
The webmasters work online in the Webmaster Center where the Homepage Dashboard, Site Map, and Approval Required sections are located. The Homepage Dashboard enables the editing of the homepage and the addition of events, files (that may be stored in server space called Lockers), and images from image albums. Webmasters may approve, edit, or delete news and events submitted by others, including students.
The Site Map section enables the editing, deleting, or management of existing website sections. These sections can cover departments, resources, and additional areas. The management duties include assigning rights, approving content, and working with the design setup. The Site Map section provides access to faculty/staff sites and enables the creation of subsections and pages.
The Approval Required section allows webmasters to review work submitted by website contributors.
Subsections, also called minisites, can serve as building, department, or club sites for institution- or organization-specific news, events, files, image albums, and navigation. Pages can be added by choosing a page template. Elements can be added, including images or slide shows, lockers (for storage), directories, and as many as five publishing tools (calendar tool, table tool, rich-text editor, etc.). Once added, the elements can be rearranged on the page through a drag-and-drop process.
The page design at any access level is extremely easy and very fast, resulting in a very professional look. The process usually involves making several choices from templates, color layouts, and other items. The pages can be saved as draft pages for later work or they can be "published," making them visible to the public. An entire site must be published before individual pages can appear publicly. Once published, pages can be "unpublished," or removed from public view.
Site users may be Editors or Contributors. An editor has rights much like a webmaster, although those rights are targeted to one section only. Contributors are also restricted to working with one section of the site; their work must be approved before it can be published.
Teachers and staff members can create their own sites. These sites can be linked to a school or district site, and the teachers and staff may continue to add pages and subsections. Their access is similar to the webmaster’s access, except that it is only available within a specific portion of the larger site.
School Loop Standard includes tools and guides for the creation of many website elements. With all of this support, teachers can easily create a class-specific webpage with assignments and information featuring subsections for subjects, clubs, field trips, and additional activities. Text on a teacher’s homepage can include subject syllabuses, information about the teacher, and more. Many of the elements and features can be functional across the entire website or a subsection of the site. An event or information entered in one site area may be made visible in another area.
All in all, School Loop Standard is an outstanding and useful service. The ease and speed of designing webpages with this program is amazing. This content management system is very appealing, especially when contrasted to some of the clunky and difficult processes I’ve seen in the past. Content/Features Rating: A
Ease of Use: School Loop Standard provides an intuitive interface that is remarkably easy and fast to use. Relative technology novices can create outstanding and useful webpages following the instructions on the site and in the many available guides. Ease of Use Rating: A
Product Support: School Loop Standard will require little support. When needed, support is available through an excellent online information base, movies, documents, FAQs (a frequently asked questions list), and a fast support team.
A number of the documents have very clear step-by-step instructions; much of the information is available in Spanish. If needed, online and in-person assistance sessions are available. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: A web presence has become an absolute necessity for every school district. I strongly recommend School Loop Standard for the creation of a complete district website featuring district information as well as school information with teacher, staff, and other pages.
Reviewer: Charles Doe, Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.