The Aurora City School District is located 30 miles outside of Cleveland and enrolls 3,000 students in five schools.
Overall, the design of the home page provides easy access to a lot of information, without having too much content to overwhelm the user. The layout is sleek and intuitive, with content well placed in clearly defined sections, such as the navigation menus bordering the top and sides of the center column of news items.
The headings for each page use quality pictures of district students, instead of graphics or stock photography, which gives the site a unique character.
Links to each school are placed prominently in the left of the page, and commonly accessed links use professional-looking icons in the right margin.
The location of the district should appear in the heading, rather than in fine print at the bottom of the page.
All of the schools in the district maintain the same design and navigation menu in the heading of every page, and each opens up its own individual menu in the left margin, so navigation is consistent and logical.
While the search tool on the home page works well, it should also be maintained on each district page just as the navigation menu is, so users can search at any time without having to return to the home page. Each school should also have its own search function.
Interaction with the User
Links to all resources requiring login, such as Blackboard and Groupwise, are grouped together in a box on the home page.
The Staff Directory starts out well, but it needs to be reworked. All district staff members are listed in a long column, resulting in a large amount of blank space, which makes the page awkward to navigate. Since all staff are listed, the poorly functioning staff search function is redundant and unnecessary.
The Site Map hotlink, which should access this important tool for users who prefer a map to a menu, was apparently never developed and only opens to a blank page.
There are no unique access provisions for disabled users.
This district offers a "Student Grade Viewer," where a parent or student can log in and see the student's up-to-date grades, accessed via a large icon on the home page.
The Links collection includes a resource called "iSafe Aurora," a "wikispace" created by district guidance counselors with discussions and video clips profiling examples of educational implementation of the Web in the district. It also explains some potential dangers posed by student Internet use, and teaches parents which behaviors are warning signs.
The middle school page has a "Homework Hotline" feature, where students or parents can select a grade and download homework assignments for the week. However, this useful and innovative tool should be in a more prominent location than the bottom corner of the page.
The School Board page includes a schedule of meetings, a podcast of the most recent meeting, and photos, biographies, and contact information for each board member.
Use of Online Technology
Each school page has a great photo gallery tool, where users can select a slide show by event, such as sports games or guest speakers, and click through dozens of quality photos. Unfortunately, some of the pictures are too large and consequently awkward to view, and the district home page icon for "Photo Galleries," which should connect to these galleries, only links to a blank page.
While the principal of the Miller and Craddock Elementary schools has created excellent podcasts to communicate with parents and students, the recordings on display have not been updated recently.
The news and announcements for the district and for each school are well maintained and recently updated.
However, the prominent Superintendent's Message was out-of-date at the time of this review, and even included invitations to "upcoming" events from months ago. Two of the three elementary principals' messages were also months behind, and the middle school principal's message was dated nearly two years ago. Maintaining this material is important for portraying an administration connected with its district.
Kurt O. Dyrli is a contributing writer for District Administration. To be considered for a district site review, contact Judy Hartnett at email@example.com.