Observations on the School Information System (SIS) Landscape

Recently I switched teams to join the Campus Cloud bench.
My process of coming to this decision was one of reflection, past and present.
You see in the 15 years I have been in this education sector I have seen a lot of passion and need.

The postsecondary education segment is at a crossroads. Traditional higher education degrees have become very costly, and today’s young adults are questioning the return on investment of “getting that college sheepskin!”

My early introduction was in the career oriented postsecondary education segment. Institutional programs were designed to be clock hours based, year-round with continuous enrollment schemes.
Many began with the desire to provide students with the tools to achieve the credentials and skills needed to improve individual employment opportunities. Many institutions began with a teaching passion first.

Technology infrastructure was not a core expertise.

The challenge from a technology perspective is that the operational decisions to support the non-traditional degree seeking students were not easily supported by the IT of its time. Program design for clock hours vs credit hours, or programs that had multiple or monthly starts vs semester-based enrollments were critical to supporting these types of students.

Traditional IT was all shackled, as many are still to this day, by the fact that it was designed to address the compliance needs of the big Higher Educational Institutions. Specifically, credit hour programs and semester-based enrollments.

Finding a cost effective, flexibly adaptable and scalable SIS has been the holy grail for many postsecondary administrators.

In 2007 the challenge meeting with schools was first convincing administrators that cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) models were safe.
Larger or multi-campus institutions were all firmly rooted in the traditional ERP model of big IT. These would be great if you had the budget but as education has evolved data synchronization between multiple unique platforms became the key for flexibility.

Now the cloud is embraced, but you need a lot more functionality to be current. Connecting a CRM, an LMS, Accounting Software or a Financial Aid solution are the most pressing data synchronization needs.
An IT administrator once told me that when a system upgrade was needed from the legacy ERP based SIS platform, he had between 20 and 30 plug-ins that needed to be verified before the upgrade could be rolled out. This drove larger educational institutions to single-source big IT solution providers that had owned solutions for all the core needs. This also required huge IT budgets to implement and support.
Not cost effective for all educational segments. Keeping legacy systems and employing disconnected third-party solutions became the economical solution. But it relied on people as the linkages, and this could become a huge compliance liability.

When it comes to Cloud-Based SIS solutions several potential providers are out there, but the selection process is still a challenge for administrators. In the thousand plus schools that I have consulted I heard a lot of these challenges. A lot of these pains were driven by the origins of the platform. A lot of these pains were exacerbated by the program designs i.e., clock hour programs, continuous enrollments and managing the non-traditional students, all threw the traditional IT and many of the basic solutions into operational chaos.
As schools grew beyond state licensure into accreditation as a pathway to accessing Title IV funding, many of the solutions were loathe to easily support the institutions needs.

I joined Campus Cloud because in my growth experience I found a team of professionals with the right background, the right technology and the correct long term support vision to fulfill my vision of the necessities of the people and institutions within the education market.
As a support reference I authored a paper to share my experiences in advising prospects evaluating SIS solutions. It is titled “Technology Decisions in Education Are Like Decorating a House!” CLICK HERE for a copy if you think it might help your journey.

Paul Rutledge, Director Sales and Marketing with Campus Cloud Services
(717) 314-8338