Choosing the BEST school management solution for your school. Part 1

The right SIS is vital to the success of your school.  For teachers, if your current system is just a data management system that does nothing except store data then your SIS is not taking advantage of technology that provides sophisticated learning analytics that interpret this data.  For parents, if they are inconvenienced with paper and multiple apps, then your SIS’s ease-of-use to access student information, forms, online purchases, tuition is not sending a positive signal to your “clients.” For admins, if simple functions are taking a lot of time then your SIS is chewing up tons of resources and costing you more money than you think.  So in this 2 part series, we will provide 10 tips when considering shopping for a new SIS.

1.       SIS buying decisions should be based on who is going to be using it the most.  Surveys show the amount of time spent on a SIS in this order: Teachers, parents, admins.  Who is making your buying decision? Admins spend the least amount of time with a SIS; yet, the majority of the buying decisions are made by just the admins.  Teachers should be able to test how easy it is to take attendance, grade, set up curriculum testing that autogrades and more importantly give teachers feedback on students’ progress.

2.       Learning curve and user interface. Should teachers, admins need to go to user conferences to learn about the software or should it be intuitive enough to use?  There is something wrong with a system if the users organize multi-day conferences to teach each other workarounds and how-tos and schools have to pay extra for training.  Are you factoring this into your cost of the product….including the travel, hotel fare and comp time to teachers?  What if there was a system out there that was SO intuitive that they allowed you to TRY BEFORE YOU BUY?  That would immediately send a message that the setup and ease of use must be so intuitive that it doesn't require a user's conference.

3.       Teacher collaboration. Collaborative teaching improves quality instruction.  Does your system allow for this? Many systems are not flexible enough to allow the exchange of learning curriculum amongst teachers.  We know that schools perform better when teachers collaborate on teaching material, idea exchanges and brainstorming. Best ideas are garnered and work-load is reduced when the system can collaborate instructional information.

4.       The power of data.  Technology should be used to improve education.  Learning analytics should be an integrated part and not an add-on.  Does your system interpret data to give you a picture of what is working and what is not?  Data has the power to inform teachers on the effectiveness of their instruction. Integrated testing with a LMS should reveal where students are struggling, what concepts require more explanation and more importantly, quickly reveal which students need more attention.  Schools should not have to pay thousands of additional dollars for the basic requirement to properly assess student achievement.

5.       User experience.  Is the system appealing and easy to use or clunky to navigate?  Many systems were developed as desktop versions and are retrofitted to be web-based versions, making the user interface not intuitive nor user friendly.  How quickly can teachers, parents and admins access their pages?  The analogy can be a user experience when using an “OLD” GPS built-in car system vs. your mobile phone.  Which one do you end up using?

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