How to Choose a Student Information System
With the shift in education from the usual campus life and contact learning to forms of blended learning and distance learning, the role of and urgent need for an SIS to manage institutions have become even more apparent.
A Student Information System (SIS) is integral to facilitating the management of current and historical information of Higher Education Institutions. Essentially, an SIS should serve as the heartbeat of your institution, monitoring and automating your institution’s processes and procedures.
When working optimally, a Student Information System works to transform Big Data into Information Sets of Knowledge, helping you make informed decisions and ultimately streamlining your campus management at every level.
But how do you know if a Student Information System is what your institution needs?
And how do you choose a system that can work for you?
Here is a quick guide on ‘How to Choose a Student Information System.’ While it is by no means an exhaustive list, it does help in guiding you to ask the right questions and find the perfect fit for your institution.
DOES YOUR INSTITUTION NEED AN SIS?
Does your institution face challenges with one or more of the following:
- Report Generation:
Creating and managing reports manually is a time-consuming and strenuous task. Reports also need to be accurate for them to be of value. Due to the margin for human error, the manual process not only takes up resources, but it could also compromise on accuracy.
- Data Management:
Data is worth gold to any academic institution. Manual processing of data once again could lead to errors, whether it is due to loss of data, miscalculations, or incorrectly assigned data.
- Lack of coordination:
The management of an institution involves various stakeholders and consequently their contributions to decision making and processes. Coordinating communication between stakeholders, long-winded approval flows and numerous emails could hinder workflow – making processes both slower and less efficient.
- Attendance Management:
Keeping track of the attendance of both staff and students is a huge task to handle. And the larger your institution, the more impossible it becomes to keep track manually. Technology not only enables institutions to capture attendance records, but also to allocate data to a student’s profile, linking this important information to a student’s core record.
- Finances Management:
The collection and management of fees, compensation, damages, petty cash, refunds and so on is not only an immense task but also critical to the existence of an institution. Manual processes rely on trustworthy individuals and add a lot of pressure as well as time to all involved.
If you can relate to at least two of the challenges listed above, then your institution would benefit from a Student Information System.
HOW TO CHOOSE AN SIS:
Make Sure Your SIS Ticks the Following Boxes:
A compatible SIS can help address all the above challenges, through:
- Saving time and money:
An SIS automates manual processes, freeing up human resources, time and ultimately leading to financial savings. With limited manual inputs, staff can be redirected to other important tasks and activities.
Automation does not only save time and money, it also simplifies processes. Using algorithms, the system can double-check calculations, the listing of students, due dates and fee management easily and quickly.
- Reliability and Security:
Once processes have been automated and tested, less human intervention leaves less room for discrepancies and errors. This increases the reliability and accuracy of data. It is important to make sure the SIS of your choice has a track record of reliability, otherwise, you might find yourself off worse than before SIS. Do research on reviews and testimonials, and look at track records of Student Information Systems before you decide on one. The correct SIS can also help limit security risks – allowing certain users into specific areas of the SIS through uniquely allocated usernames and passwords.
Take note that a Student Information System only works as well as its users understand and make use of the system. It is therefore extremely important to include training as part of the roll-out and implementation of an SIS at your institution.
But needs to meet your institution’s requirements when it comes to:
- Cost and Budget
Be careful to weigh up the cost against usability for your institution. Education technologies do involve a great investment. Both budget and cost would depend on both the size of your institution and your operational needs. Be careful of hidden costs presented by some offerings – where the basic package may seem affordable, but then does not include the functionality or modules needed to manage your campus efficiently.
Change is always a challenge. Implementing a new system will take some time to get used to. While training is essential, it will not mean much if the system is not user-friendly. Ensure that you choose a system that is reliable, but almost as important, user-friendly. Especially for those who are used to manual processes and are not so familiar with technology.
- Configuration, customisation and integration
For a system to be user-friendly, is about more than how it looks and feels. Make sure to choose an SIS that is easy to configure or customise to your institution’s internal processes and language. In other words, how easy is it to edit fields to match your existing terminology? This affects not only data entry but reports too. Also, look at how well the SIS would or would not integrate with any existing systems – albeit a Learning Management System or a Financial Management System for example.
- Technology and hosting
Any system, from mobile applications to computer programmes, require updates to match the latest in programming and software needs. How will the SIS you choose to address these upgrades? And will there be costs attached to updates?
Also, think of access to the system. Do you prefer on-site hosting or cloud hosting? If either, what are the cost-benefits analyses of this and how adaptable is the SIS to meet your preferences.
- Support – during and after implementation
This should most likely be the first point rather than the last. We’ve added it at the end so that it does not get overlooked. When you decide on a Student Information System, it is extremely important to have the support of your implementation partner. During and after the implementation of your new campus management system, you cannot afford to have any hiccups. Therefore, be careful to choose an SIS that meets all the above requirements AND comes with support both in preparing for implementation, during implementation and after rolling out.
How useful was this process? Let us help you find your answers even more precisely. Get in touch today to learn which of our SIS solutions will suit your institution’s needs and requirements.