When it comes to schools and information technology, attention tends to focus on how best to make use of IT as a teaching aid. Strategies include equipping students with notebooks, installing smartboards in classrooms, and incorporating internet-based resources in the learning process.Increasingly, however, schools are also coming to understand the potential IT has to improve the administrative side of their operation. Just as it can radically change things in the classroom, so too can IT deliver big benefits in the back office.
A new way of working
Now, thanks to rapid advances in IT, there are fresh alternatives on offer. Schools have the option of embracing a range of new tools and platforms that can radically streamline their administrative function and free up more resources to be focused on the delivery of quality education.
Five key ways in which information technology can help school administrators are:
- Student information systems: Designed to sit at the heart of the school, a well-designed Student Information System (SIS) can automate many of the tasks that have traditionally been manual and time intensive.
A good SIS can also function as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to support the entire process from an initial call from a parent regarding enrolment through to a student’s graduation. Relevant information can be captured at appropriate points along the way and stored securely for later use. The system can also help a school efficiently manage the archiving of personal data for seven years after a student has graduated.
- Better systems integration: Some schools may have invested in point solutions to help streamline particular tasks or processes. However, this often causes issues when it comes to sharing data between them or trying to gain a complete picture of each student. Often bought on price, such point solutions tend to have less capacity for integration with other tools and can be difficult to evolve to meet changing school requirements.
Improvements in IT have allowed the creation of integrated platforms that can support a wide variety of tasks across the school. These can include everything from enrolment and fee payments to attendance records, course selection and academic achievements.
Having a single, integrated system in place will also reduce overheads associated with IT management. Without the need to connect and maintain multiple systems, the school will be able to divert resources to more value-adding activities.
- Web-based features: Parents are increasingly asking for more information about their child’s school experience. New-generation IT platforms can deliver internet-based portals through which parents can securely access information about their children and communicate with teachers and other staff.
This capability can also help with the increasing need to provide parents with up-to-date information on student attendance. Marking rolls electronically and having that data immediately available to parents can do much to alleviate concerns. The portal can also remove the traditional paper trail associated with activities such as excursion permissions and payments, allowing them to be managed online.
- Cloud-based alternatives: Clearly schools are educational institutions and not IT shops, yet many can find themselves bogged down with the task of managing technology. Thanks to advances in hosted or cloud-based platforms, there are growing options for schools to transfer these responsibilities to an appropriate external third party.
When considering investments in new school administration systems, it is best to look for vendors who have a clear cloud offering or strategy for how they can help a school take advantage of this ongoing development. A cloud platform also means operational costs can be shared across a number of clients, thereby reducing margins for individual schools.
- Improved data security: If paper-based and manual processes can be replaced with digital equivalents, the security of data can be significantly improved. Ensuring student data is only accessible by authorised parties is increasingly important and a fully featured digital platform can help make this a reality.
A digital future
Having a reliable digital platform in place means administration processes can be as efficient and effective as possible while also allowing staff to focus on that which is most important: the students.