When it comes to online learning, you probably already understand how important your student-facing systems are. However, many overlook an equally critical system that’s churning behind the scenes: your student information system (SIS). Make no mistake, if you want your school to progress, improve, and bolster its reputation, your SIS is pivotal.
Looking for the telltale signs your student information system is built for ongoing positive results? You’re in luck. We’ve picked out the five things to look for in a student information system to drive online education success.
What’s the role of your student information system?
Wondering why your student information system (SIS) is so important? Your SIS is the home of enrollment data, student performance records, transcripts, and all of that information that you need to run a school smoothly.
Different school leaders need access to their student information system for different, but equally crucial, reasons. For instance, administrators rely on the SIS to unlock student data that informs critical reporting. Those reports can fuel everything from accreditation and employee management to safety initiatives and other school decisions.
At the same time, counselors need to access the student information system to carve out smooth paths to graduation and beyond. They rely on the SIS to pull transcripts, make sure students are enrolled in the correct coursework, and to access other information that is critical to a student’s future.
Avoid these SIS red flags.
Because it’s such a crucial and undervalued part of online learning, a school’s student information system can cause major problems if it isn’t designed effectively. Here are some problems school leaders often run into with traditional student information systems:
Inaccessible data: Student information gives leaders the insight they need to improve education and every student’s future. Sadly, most traditional student information systems lock down student information under overly technical programs.
Too often, administrators and counselors are left wasting hours searching for information or tracking down an employee who can pull figures. That all holds up education progress and wrecks the day of your staff.
Reporting difficulties: Even if they manage to pull the right student data, administrators are often forced to scrape the right information together for reporting in traditional student information systems.
Enrollment management nightmares: Enrollment management is important for administrators, counselors, and your whole school. Yet, somehow traditional student information systems cause massive enrollment headaches.
Again, because traditional SISs make it difficult to access enrollment figures, your leaders have to leap hurdles when it comes time to pass enrollment data on to regulators, make plans, or chart out a student’s future. That can cause a school to miss out on accreditation, leave some students short of their dreams, and wreck a school’s reputation fast.
Incompatible systems: If your student information system doesn’t talk to your learning management system, there’s a good chance your school’s instructors, counselors, administrators, and IT pros will all suffer. When these systems are disconnected, it forces staff members to fiddle with multiple logins and enter the same information in multiple spots. That leads to huge time losses, increases the chances of errors, and frustrates leaders.
In most cases, leaders see the havoc disconnected online learning programs are causing and pass responsibility on to IT pros to fix the issue. Unfortunately, that puts unfair pressure on your IT pros to patch together systems that simply weren’t designed to fit together.
Watch out for these 5 qualities of a stellar SIS.
Finding the right student information system from the start will save you and your whole team massive headaches in the long run. These are the five things to look for when it comes time to pick out an SIS:
1. Easy Access to Reporting
The best student information systems will leave the door to reporting data wide open for school leaders. It should allow leaders to directly access information on their own and generate reports seamlessly.
The advantage? When administrators have easy access to reporting at their fingertips, it eliminates the stress around putting together information for the school’s most critical moves. The right SIS will include exportable reports that administrators can pass on for accreditation or use to set up online safety initiatives.
2. Connected Performance Data
If you want to save your team time and frustrations, it’s important to make sure your SIS and learning management systems are integrated. It may not seem like the most flashy feature out there, but it drastically impacts your school’s ability to serve students effectively.
Online learning programs that include an LMS + SIS integration simplify information management. Because data flows into a single database, your leaders don’t have to waste time manually plugging in performance info. It makes it easy for all leaders to access the information they need to inform decisions, and IT pros are freed up to improve your school’s technology.
3. Simple Enrollment
The very thought of untangling enrollment messes is enough to send shivers down any education professional’s spine. That’s why your SIS needs to make enrollment and managing enrollment data easy.
With easy access to enrollment, administrators have the info they need to monitor class sizes, measure growth, and pass critical data on to regulators. Counselors should be able to make enrollment adjustments readily to chart a clear course to graduation. The best SIS will make enrollment data accessible to all of the leaders who need it. That way, IT pros aren’t constantly interrupted to pull info or regrant access to data.
4. Clean Integration
In addition to having a connected LMS and SIS, it’s important that your SIS integrates with other third-party software. That should include enrollment software and marketing programs, such as HubSpot. By picking an SIS that integrates with other programs, your leaders can save loads of time on attracting students and getting them signed up for classes.
This is another important factor if you want to keep your IT pros from being overloaded. By checking up front which programs fit your SIS, you can keep your IT staff from having to try to piece together incompatible software.
5. Clear Information from Anywhere
Mobile-ready platforms provide advantages for both students and leaders. First, you can connect with more students from a wider variety of backgrounds. With 25 percent of 15-year-old students from disadvantaged backgrounds saying they are unable to access a computer, mobile platforms open learning up to more kids. Mobile capabilities let your school connect with students who don’t have consistent access to computers.
It also is a big advantage for leaders who don’t want to be chained to a desk 24/7. If counselors or other leaders want to work while they travel, mobile-ready platforms make it easy to stay connected from anywhere. That also opens up opportunities for online summer programs and allows a school to run smoothly outside the traditional bell schedule.
Learn more about advanced student information systems.
Want to learn more about the most advanced SISs out there? SmartFox K12’s online platform was designed to help educators avoid the problems of traditional SISs. Learn more about how SmartFox K12 is built for a smoother online learning experience by reading our guide: How K-12 Online Learning Works.
About the Author
Jana is the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) of Method Schools and SmartFox K-12. After spending 14 years in the secondary classroom, she started at Method in curriculum and working with SmartFox. As Method’s CAO, she works with Method’s leadership, teaching, and curriculum staff as well as assisting with aspects of the day-to-day operations of the school. She has always been interested in the intersection of technology and education in driving equitable learning experiences for all students. Jana holds a B.A. in Print Journalism and an M.S. in Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology from the University of the Southern California. She is the proud mother of two children, an avid reader, and a baseball fan.