Student information systems (SIS) store and track all student information, including grades, attendance records, and more. The software functions as a digital dropbox for school-related information. SIS software has become a vital tool for both educational institutions as well as parents and students, who use it to gain access to student information, make payments, and communicate with school functionaries.
SIS products are used by teachers, students, and parents to access all relevant information pertaining to a student’s schooling. SIS software is leveraged for a few different functions; the main two being as a channel of communication and as a place to store student information.
Key Benefits of SIS Software
There are a variety of benefits associated with using student information systems for parents and students as well as educational institutions and their staff. Solutions in this category provide channels for communication between school officials and students, act as a singular source of student-related information, streamline billing processes, and more.
Information storage — SIS software houses many types of student information, consolidating all records in one place so they can be easily accessed by school officials, parents, and the students themselves. In a single system, a school official can view student attendance, financial aid status, class rosters, student enrollment, and more. On the other side, students can see unofficial transcripts, enroll in classes, check tuition and fees, and access a schedule builder. Keeping all student information in a singular system allows users to make and track changes, as well as maintain a holistic view of both individual students and the student body as a whole. Information in an SIS is not siloed in disparate systems, which makes organization easier overall.
Facilitate communication between parents and teachers — This benefit is applicable primarily to K-12 SIS software, as those systems offer parent portals and communication channels between parents and teachers. This portal allows parents to gain insight into how their children are doing in school as well as in-depth information on classroom behavior, attendance, academic planning, and more. Parents can use the portal as a channel to communicate quickly and easily with their children’s teachers, which is particularly helpful in case of a time-sensitive question or classroom misbehavior that requires parental intervention.
Facilitate communication between students and faculty — The student portal is a vital part of a quality SIS, particularly at the university level. As college classes tend to be larger and professors are typically less accessible, giving students a direct line of communication to their professor is of increased importance. Students can communicate with both their teachers and the administration in one place, as well as maintain records of those conversations. If a student is reluctant to ask a question about a topic or assignment in class, they can ask it via the portal and receive clarification.
Facilitate interdepartmental communication — Departments within an educational institution can be extremely siloed and uncommunicative with each other. SIS systems have the ability to break down the barriers to communication and allow departments to work as a singular unit, as opposed to disparate forces. Unifying access to information and giving everyone equal access is the key to bringing together departments and potentially an entire institution.
Handle student admissions — The admissions process is complex and multifaceted, making it difficult to manage as an administrator. SIS software can help by allowing the responsible officer to track prospective students during the admissions process; the software also updates students’ profiles with changes as they happen. SIS software can often handle the entirety of the admissions process, from initial inquiry to acceptance and enrollment. The result is a seamless transition of the individual from a prospective student to an enrolled member of the university. All of the relevant information is in one system as opposed to multiple distinct pieces of software that may prove difficult to integrate.
Improve security — The majority of SIS software today is cloud-based, which is a better option than on-premise legacy systems for a variety of reasons. Cloud-based systems provide easier setup, universal access, immediate technical support, improved data security, and an increased ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace and update the product with minimal hassle.
Billing and payment processing — SIS solutions offer tuition payment processing features so that students can handle all of their billing issues in one place. Schools can bill students and students or parents can pay those fees directly through the application.
Reporting — School officials can use SIS-gathered data to create data-driven reports on student progress for individuals as well as the whole student body. From the perspective of a designated school official, SIS provide an easy way to handle student information management. Officials can use the software to create reports on everything from how many students have nonimmigrant status to what the average GPA in a given class is.
There are two main subsets of SIS systems,K-12 Student Information Systems and Higher Education Student Information Systems. The difference between the two is the target demographic. Of course, changing the target demographic means changes in the feature list and structure of the solutions. While the core functions remain more or less the same across the two subsets, the major difference lies in the inclusion of parental access features in the K-12 SIS solutions.
SIS software may include, but are not limited to, the following features:
Information management — This is the primary feature of the software; an SIS houses everything from medical records to addresses.
Reporting — Most SIS software comes with reporting functionality, which allows users to manipulate the information housed in the solution and generate reports.
IEP creation — This feature allows teachers to create Individual Education Plans (IEPs) directly through their SIS.
Admissions management — You can manage the entire admissions process in your SIS, from application to tours to acceptance and tuition payment.
Billing and payment — Most SIS solutions provide student billing functionality through the application as well as allow them to pay their bills via the system.
Student information management — With an SIS, teachers and administrators have the ability to manage all student-related information, including medical history, emergency contacts, attendance, and grades.
Student portal — Students use the portals to track their own performance, including attendance and grades. The portal also acts as an open channel of communication, which students can use to communicate with their teachers.
Parent portal — K-12 SIS software includes parent portals, which parents can use to track their kids’ progress, attendance, and behavior. Parents can also use the portal to maintain communication with the administration as well as with their children’s teachers.
Registration and scheduling — Most SIS software has course registration and scheduling features built in, so students can sign up for courses via the application.
Gradebooks and transcripts — Teachers can keep a comprehensive gradebook for all of their students and manage all grade-related activity. Students can request unofficial transcripts, which can be delivered through the application as well.
Cloud accessibility, mobile applications, behavior tracking, and analytics capabilities are all trending features in the SIS sphere, with artificial intelligence close behind.
As artificial intelligence develops, SIS software will leverage the technology to become more engaging and an active participant in the student’s academic career. As AI weaves itself into SIS applications, expect the ability to track student behavior and analyze that behavior to improve greatly.
As is the trend with software in general, an increasing number of SIS software is cloud-based. The migration to the cloud in the SIS world means increased security, improved ease of technical support, and more mobility. For mobility in particular, more solutions are adding mobile applications to increase the ease of use for parents and students who are increasingly on their phones. While cloud migration and mobile access are current trends, AI integration into SIS applications is likely a bit further on the horizon, but should be a reality within a few years.
The main users of SIS software are school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Each group has different uses for these solutions, but the software is vital for each group. SIS software functions as a data warehouse to keep student records in one place, manage the admissions process, handle billing, and more for school administrators and officials. A student will use the technology to check their class schedule, grades, and attendance as well as maintain communication with their teachers. Parents of K-12 students can use SIS solutions to keep up with their child’s progress in class and stay abreast of any classroom behavior issues.
SIS software fits snugly within the education software ecosystem. Some systems integrate directly with other pieces of education software, while others act as a complements to the other players in the space. SIS software typically has a wide range of features that overlaps with those of other education solutions.
SIS vs. Classroom Management Software: SIS software acts as a repository for information, and some of that information is related to student behavior in the classroom. Classroom management solutions, on the other hand, offer features that are designed to limit class distractions, increase classroom engagement, and assess students. Classroom management software can work in conjunction with SIS solutions to help monitor and analyze student behavior in the classroom.
SIS vs. Learning Management Systems: Learning Management Systems (LMS) deliver online content to students and allow for assessments to be delivered, completed, and graded within the platform. LMS offer some of the same features as SIS, but while SIS are focused on tracking and storing information, LMS are entirely focused on the creation and consumption of online content.
SIS vs. Special Education Software: The primary shared feature between the two systems is the creation of IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). Special Education software has a much deeper range of features centered entirely around students with special needs, but can work in conjunction with SIS to maintain a full picture of the students that need it.
SIS vs. Assessment Software: Assessment software and SIS software have a fairly symbiotic relationship. While assessment solutions are engineered around creating assessments and administering those solutions to students, SIS software is concerned with the input and tracking of the results of those assessments.
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