Higher institutions of learning across the globe adopt various technology tools to fulfill their departmental purpose; to innovate and to support their institutions pedagogical and learning needs. The technology experts — to whom institutions must give credit for the excellent IT services their schools proudly show off or whom are the recipient of many finger pointing accusation — fight a constant battle on two major fronts. First, the battle to manage the many headed monsters in the form of multiple technology solutions that were implemented over the years, and second, the battle to innovate in order to remain relevant in a fast paced technology world.
Which ever battle takes up the larger share of your departmental resource — human and financial — there remains 3 major pillars that provide the support required for a university to run its academic and administrative services. If adequately provided; these pillars make the IT department of a Learning Institution look formidable with even without a large budget.
School Information Management System (SIMS)
The School Information Management System (SIMS) is the first of three, it forms a backbone that efficiently runs and manages many of a schools operations with a lean towards the administrative operations. Despite the core of education being academic learning; running a school requires an inevitable amount administrative processes for which School Information Management Systems were purposely designed. If you are not new in the Educational technology sector, you would be familiar with the popular brand names like Renweb, Skyword – constantly advancing K12 edtech, & Ellucian which remains a powerful thought leader in the edtech space. Capterra provides an info-graphic on the top 20 most popular School Administrative software. Every year ends with a new addition to the list of available solutions, however it takes a careful search to identify which solution fits your schools unique requirements. For schools looking to test the water, a good number of free options exist with their pros and cons.
Learning Management System (LMS)
The second is a Learning Management System which bears similar qualities and at first glance can easily be mistaken for an SIMS, also known as a School Information/Management System. Experienced Innovation Officers of institution know the differences: SIMS manage data on students, their parents, the school departments, academic records and grades, class scheduling and attendance and a lot more. On the other hand, LMSs are focused on the academic needs of institutions, providing learning/instructional content, and serves as an online classroom, herein lies the major differences. Learning Management Software solutions help to create, distribute, track and report learning materials/courses. Just like the SIMS, there is a plethora of LMS to choose from, you can find in my previous post 3 recommended actions to take to help you choose the right LMS for your institution. The end goal of an LMS is to automate the learning process for students and in some case; corporate organisations. As found in many instances, the existing solutions require a certain degree of Technical know-how, which creates a barrier to entry for the solutions. Hence many Digital Officers/Technology officers have found it easier to deploy WordPress based Learning Management Systems like LearnDash which works as a simple WordPress plug-in. Alternative brands also offer LMS as Software as a Service (SaaS). For institutions that desire to reach students beyond those on campus, services like ‘Academy of Mine’, go as far as allowing you create, sell and market your online course, all from the same platform.
Career Services Management System
Career Service Management Systems are less popular but not un-important. They help open students to opportunities that can advance their respective careers. Beyond grades, every student is concerned about securing an Internship during their school year and a job immediately after school, hence institutions that invest in this area are rewarded with an army of loyal alumni working in the corporate and public sectors. Gradleaders offers a robust Career Services Management System which also doubles as an employers opportunity desk. In this category, I find that ‘Experience’ by Symplicity for Higher eds, hold a fairly strong market share.
At this point, I’d like to remind you that most technology or digital solutions, however innovative; are really just an extension of human activity. These three Technology Systems — School Information Management, Learning Management and Career Management Systems — form a foundation upon which other solutions can be integrated or further developed. Other edtech systems like Library Management Systems, Collaboration & Community Platforms with mobile accessibility can be integrated without creating a monstrous system of solutions that end up being difficult to manage.