Outlook is simply the most powerful email, calendar, and task management system. Teachers can benefit enormously from its efficiencies and powerful personal management tools. This is the Office.com link to the Outlook product, and you may as well start here. Look over these videos from Microsoft, then explore more in depth tutorials at Lynda.com and elsewhere to learn how to exploit this powerful tool.
This paper by Germaine M. DiJohn, of St. Catherine University, reviews her experiences and reasons and techniques for employing MailChimp and Remind.com for her parent and student communications. This link goes to the abstract, which contains a download link for the full paper.
This YouTube tutorial describes how teachers can use MailChimp. While you can ask for "opens" notifications in Outlook and other email clients, MailChimp will automatically track opens and actions in all emails for you. This free system is used by organizations of all sizes for email campaigns. It's easy and powerful, and can be a great teacher communication tool. Go to mailchimp.com to sign up for a free account.
This video demo shows how teachers can use a desktop SMS system to empower student and parent communications, contact management, and, ultimately, student engagement. While Twitter and Remind.com are free, kids use texting more than any other single system for communicating. One of the most powerful features is "scheduled SMS" which allows for pre-programmed messages. While it costs about $0.05-0.07 per SMS, it's well worth the investment, especially at the Department or school level.
This very simple SMS and email reminder system is easy to set up and manage. Best of all, students actually use it! The only problem with Remind.com is that the communications are one-way; you can send messages out, but it doesn't help you hear back from students. For that additional capability, please look into alternative SMS systems such as RedOxygen or even your local cable/phone company for desktop SMS management.
A brief article that outlines studies showing the impact of effective communication with students and parents. The article has links to specific resources and ideas on technologies and solutions for effective teacher communication.