Across the nation, school and College are turning to technology as a means of growing and sustaining parent involvement. Technology-based activities, such as chronicling daily events , assignments, home work, circulars, results etc.. One technological intervention promising to augment home–school communication and keep parents involved is the use of a Educational Institute Management System (EIMS) and its optional “parent portal” features.
Simply put, an EIMS is a software program designed to manage student data for education organizations. These data systems are widely used. Some districts use an EIMS on a smaller and more personal level to house information such as attendance, grades, and standardized test scores for their own purposes.
The current study addressed that gap by examining what motivated parents of middle school students to use an EIMS parent portal and how they used the information they saw. The study examined how parents with access to their child’s grades on all individual assignments, attendance, and teacher comments used those data to support their child’s learning. The findings offer insight into how a parent portal may foster, deepen, and sustain parent involvement. Further, the results provide information about the presumed linkages between parental access to data and improved student learning.
The study addressed the following research questions:
1. Why do parents use a parent portal?
2. Does parent access to a parent portal support home–school communication?
3. How do parents use data provided via a parent portal?
4. Does use of a parent portal help to offset the traditional decline in parental involvement as children move through middle school?
School systems should recognize the potential of portals to motivate parents to sustain their involvement in their child’s learning. Most importantly, schools need to help parents understand that portals are more than just sources of student data to be monitored—that they are, instead, a tool that parents can use in meaningful ways to understand and support their child’s learning.
In order for this to happen, it is paramount that schools invest in training in portal use. Schools should hold tutorials for parents, either in person or in video form, to ensure that those who access a portal are aware of its full range of capabilities in helping them support their child’s learning and growth. Simply providing online access to student grades does not necessarily lead to parent–child (or parent–teacher) discussions about learning. For example, most online portals offer the ability to click directly from a student’s class average into a teacher’s grade book to view each assignment’s name and individual grade. A parent new to portals may not be aware of this level of access and/or may not understand the full value of accessing a grade book rather than just viewing the child’s class average. Schools that invest in EIMS parent portals must also help parents know how to communicate concerns to teachers or seek remedial help for their child when necessary.
Internet-based EIMS parent portals offer a means of bridging the well-documented communication gap between the home and the school. They allow schools to provide parents with a range of meaningful data about their child’s progress on an ongoing basis. Data sharing in this capacity offers much promise as a vehicle to potentially increase and sustain parent involvement and to improve learning. With further research, as well as with the commitment of time, training, and resources, portals can help educators and families build a strong home-school alliance around learning.