Student Information Systems: Engaging Instructional Designers

By Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies, MA, National Consultant-Blended Learning, McGraw-Hill Education

Cassondra Corbin-Thaddies, MA, National Consultant-Blended Learning, McGraw-Hill Education

Enterprise resource planning software allows an organization to use integrated applications to manage databases including student information systems. Student information systems (SIS) track student information such as grades, attendance, and in many cases, student interests. The two main SISs are K-12 Student Information Systems and Higher Education Student Information Systems. In K-12, parents have access to the SIS, which is the main differentiator between K-12 and the Higher Education SIS. In addition, the K-12 SIS allows teachers and parents to communicate directly about a student’s academic and social progress.

The SIS serves two main functions: as a communication portal and as storage for student information. Some of the key benefits for institutions using a SIS are increased communication between divisions, ease and transfer of data to external institutions, it provides a single location for resources for stakeholders, and it improves the management of prospective and enrolled student data. Student information systems have been deemed as one of the most powerful tools to track and influence students and their success. The SIS software is becoming more sophisticated with trending features such as mobile applications with registration apps that can suggest new courses for students based on previous course selections. With students and parents using their mobile devices more for daily communication, migrating SISs to the cloud is a real consideration for institutions. Cloud migration has the potential of increasing data security and mobility as parents and students expect to be able to access their data such as school grades anytime, anywhere.

The data generated by an institution SIS provides the “breadcrumbs” to understanding a student’s interest and predicting their performance and/or behavior. With the advent of technology, institutions can receive this complex data in real-time with a push of a few buttons. Research firms such as the Tambellini Group, suggest that some SIS data when integrated with retention software may be sophisticated enough to identify specific interventions or recommendations to support individual student success.

"Instructional designers will be in the forefront of innovation as institutional systems and technology evolves"

Although various SISs can produce just-in-time data, it does not mean that institutions have cracked the code on turning that data into actionable nuggets of progress. Many institutions and organizations understand that properly analyzed big data can be used for better decision making around teaching and learning for students and teachers. That data can even guide institutions with offering meaningful professional development to staff. Proper analysis is the key to gaining the right information. With analytics, educators can create relevant learning experiences according to the student’s learning capability, ability, and preference. This realization along with technology evolving exponentially has instigated institutions and businesses alike to choose to outsource their data analysis to experts such as instructional designers (ID). An instructional designer can be described as someone who creates something that enables a person or group to learn about a particular topic or improve a set of skills in order to gain a more holistic perspective and to make informed data-based decisions.

The process of instructional design has been around for many years. With innovations such as cloud accessibility, mobile application, and behavior tracking trending in SIS, institutions are less likely to have full-time onsite experts and opt for outsourcing these deeper tasks to IDs. In some cases, institutions may consider a combined solution of onsite subject matter experts along with an ID to lead or guide a specific project. Instructional designers play a valuable role in education and businesses as sole designers, part of a team, or as project specific consultants. As institutions work to become data-empowered, working with IDs or ID teams will allow institutions to use data to optimize their resources more efficiently. Instructional designers can analyze the real-time data generated from the SIS more immediately and predict the necessary outreach and services needed to differentiate, personalize and individualize the support needs of students. Instructional designers also look beyond the trends and mistakes of data and consider how the analytics can support institutions to answer specific questions, identify action steps, or serve to disprove some traditional institutional assumptions. The role of the ID includes these and other complex considerations.

Student Information Systems are evolving and becoming more than just data warehouses. These systems are uniquely leveraging technology to be able to integrate or complement other software solutions within institutions to offer school administrators, teachers, parents, and students real-time access to relevant data. For example, administrators, when these “breadcrumbs” are properly analyzed, can use big data for better decision making around teaching and learning practices and strategies for students and teachers. Teachers can use these analytics to create relevant learning experiences according to the student’s learning capability, ability, and preference. Students can now access the SIS directly and become empowered as owners of their own data and learning progress. Real-time data creates more engaged users.

Instructional designers will be in the forefront of innovation as institutional systems and technology evolves. Institutions will be tasked with keeping up with ever-evolving training, instruction, security, and product needs; however, many will not have the internal capacity or be financially prepared to hire full-time subject matter experts. Instructional designers will be key to supporting institutions to optimize their SISs and other resources to meets the needs of their stakeholders.

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