Buyer's Guideby Justin Guinn,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 2, 2018
Today, software is essential for completing daily administrative tasks in schools. Educational institutions are also leveraging technology to help them better assess student progress, rather than relying solely on teachers’ judgments. This helps take education to the next level.
With so many solutions on the market, however, it can be difficult to select the right software for your institution. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started.
Here's what we'll cover:
What Is School Administration Software?
School administration software helps educational institutions by automating regular administrative tasks. Also known as “student information systems,” these offer a range of functionality for everything from applications to student performance monitoring.
Common capabilities of this software include:
- Billing and invoicing
Some solutions also offer more advanced functionality, such as:
- Integrated learning management systems (LMSs)
- Tools for administrators to evaluate teachers
- Parent portals for checking students’ attendance and grades
- Reporting and analytics capabilities
- Library management tools
- Point-of-sale (POS) functionality for managing cafeteria and other sales
- Fundraising capabilities
- Electronic health records (EHR) tools for onsite nurses and clinics
Note that some vendors offer integrated suites of software that feature several of the aforementioned applications, while other vendors offer standalone or “best-of-breed” individual applications. There are several advantages and disadvantages to each approach. In general, fully integrated suites of software will be able to cover most of your bases and you won’t have to worry about integrating certain applications with each other.
However, integrated suites can have fewer features within each of their individual applications, whereas standalone best-of-breed applications tend to be more fully featured. The downside with relying on a mix of best-of-breed applications is that you might have to have certain integrations custom built, which can add to the price tag. That said, one key advantage to relying on best-of-breed applications is that it will give your school more flexibility in the event that one application needs to be upgraded or switched out for something else. With integrated suites, you often have to upgrade or replace the system on a cyclical basis.
Common Functionality of School Administration Software
The following capabilities are common to most school administration systems:
|Admissions||Helps users manage the admissions process, from accepting applications to enrolling students. Includes custom admission form creation and online application submission. Stores data on prospective and new students (e.g., admission status, demographics, contact information and communication logs).|
|Attendance||Users can record attendance in the system or through a mobile application; publish attendance records online for student, parent and teacher access; and use attendance data to build reports and letters.|
|Grading||Allows users to record grades; create and print transcripts and customized report cards (including narrative notes from teachers); and report on class rankings and distribution. Also includes automatic calculation of weighted grades, means, medians and averages.|
|Scheduling||Provides tools for scheduling classes based on student and teacher availability. Some applications come with automated schedulers, which match teacher schedules with student course requests.|
|Billing and invoicing||Allows users to create and send invoices and receive payments. Some vendors also provide an integrated accounting application.|
|Communication||Notification system keeps parents, students and teachers updated on school cancellations and delays, emergency alerts and events. These messages may be sent via email, text or voice message.|
Benefits of School Administration Software
School administration systems bring many benefits to users, including:
Automation of routine tasks. Handling student information, payments and other administrative tasks manually can be overwhelming, especially for midsize and large educational institutions. School administration systems automate these mundane tasks, and can even reduce administrative staffing requirements.
Improved communication. Parents can easily interact with teachers and administrators and get their questions answered quickly. Schools can also provide regular updates to parents and students through the software’s notification system.
Better analysis of student performance. Several solutions on the market include analytics tools. Drawing from grade and attendance data, these tools provide in-depth analysis of students’ performance in academic, sports and extracurricular activities. This helps teachers take any necessary corrective actions in a timely manner.
Increased transparency. Communication tools and portals provide parents with regular updates on children’s attendance, grades and health (if the vendor offers EHR functionality). This allows them to intervene when they see performance suffer. Students can also access their own grade and attendance information whenever they need it.
Market Trends to Understand
We have observed a few changes taking place in this market:
Shift toward cloud-based software. Since the 1990s, school administration systems have increasingly been deployed in the cloud. This trend is only accelerating, thanks to the convenience and flexibility it provides. Cloud-based solutions can be accessed remotely, and the vendor takes care of all software maintenance and updates. These systems also come with relatively low upfront costs.
Rise of open-source applications. Many open-source applications have also emerged in this market. Open-source solutions often provide basic modules for free, offering more advanced functionality and support at a cost. Buyers who don’t need a comprehensive solution or who want to test whether they really need software can try these out before committing to a paid solution.
Here are some important points to keep in mind as you search for new school administration software:
Integration with other software. Make sure the system you choose can easily integrate with other software your educational institution is already using, such as email, spreadsheet or accounting applications.
Vendors’ market history. Several vendors have stopped offering school administration products over the past six years. Thus, buyers should ensure the vendor they choose has a strong history in the market (five to 10 years is a good benchmark).
Customization requirements. The larger the educational institution, the more complex the system configuration will be. Buyers from large institutions should look for solutions that offer high levels of customization. This allows the system to be configured to fit existing processes and workflows, rather than the other way around.
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