Some years back, many schools and learning institutions started to adopt school management systems which worked offline. Despite several limitations, these systems worked well. However, as time goes, the need to bring all stakeholders on board and in real-time is increasing and this has made the offline systems not viable anymore. As integrated connectivity and round the clock access is becoming a necessity, the world has started moving towards more robust and effective all in one cloud-based solutions in almost every industry and the education sector is not lagging behind.
Considering that there is a large number of schools all around, many companies are trying to build business around this and so it becomes difficult for a school to choose the most relevant solution. This at times is due to the limited information and understanding about technology solutions and architecture and unfortunately this result to some schools concluding that cloud-based integrated systems cannot work for them.
However, considering the need for efficient, real-time and quality operations in every educational institution, implementing a good all-in-one cloud-based school system is inescapable. Implementing a wrong or not suitable system will not only result in fiscal loss but also affect the efficiency of all the participants associated with it.
At Infoney solutions Limited we felt the need to share some points to consider before making a decision on a school system:
- List down those departments that you wish to digitize: In a learning institution, different operations and departments have different levels of complexities and needs. The goal should be to make operations smoother and easy for all stakeholders and efficient to monitor. It is critical to consider that you need a system that will look into critical school management operations such as school fees, human resource, students management, bus transport management and other but even more important learning management operations such as exams, homework management, attendance, video conferencing, digital learning content and others.
- Delegate a small team of experts within the institution to assess the available options: The team should have all departments represented. An IT person is a very important part of this team. Choosing the right team is very critical and will determine the success of this process.
- Explore relevant options available and shortlist them: How you shortlist the available service providers is very significant. There are different ways to go about shortlisting; You can google best options available, or check what some reputable institutions are using or ask for referrals from your network. While shortlisting, it is important to check company website, product features, completed similar deployments and the team. This phase should result to a list of solutions and brief SWOT analysis for each.
- Assess shortlisted solutions: Out of all the shortlisted solutions, evaluate each one of them by asking for a detailed presentation and a demo. It is important to try and get a free demo access and try to operate on your own. During the free demo access, you may need to try out the critical functionalities that affect your day to day operations. At this phase, you should consider how dynamic the solution is, how effectively it aligns to your needs, the kind of rapid development the company is undertaking, training and continuous support processes of the company and the solution’s capabilities for external API integrations.
- Free trial period: After having your final shortlisted companies, consider taking at least two to four weeks free trial. During this period, assess how quick the company is in setting up the solution and how efficient they are in support and training. Check if you are able to easily understand and operate the system effectively. It is important to note that there are possibilities of finding the system a little difficult to understand or operate if you’re new but it should not take much time to get used to it. While on free trial, ask as many questions and clarifications from the support teams as not to compromise anything. During the free trial period, you do not necessarily need to implement all the modules. Consider only implementing 2 to 3 most critical modules just to get an idea of the efficiency of the system and the capabilities of the company.
- Cost: Different companies will propose different pricing for their solution. This makes it a very tricky situation to deal with because ideally there is no right price for technology solutions and systems. If you’re expecting quality support, continuous development and regular updates as is required for any progressive system, very low cost is not possible because a company needs to invest a lot in system development, server infrastructure, human resource and back-end operations. It is recommended that you invest a little more over your budget on a good visionary solution because this will become the face of your institution and a central point of communication for all the stakeholders.
- Finalizing the deal: Finally, after detailed evaluation and trial demo along with your experience with the companies, you need to take the final call on which system to go for. Consider that the system you are going to deploy will be with you for the next 10 years or more. So, you need to decide based on a futuristic vision. Agree on terms of engagement, commission the project and rally all the stakeholders to support it. Stakeholders involvement and support is a key ingredient to a successful implementation. Remember that implementing an integrated system in your institution is as important as having good buildings or quality human resource or any other infrastructure in the school.
It is imperative to note that no single product or company will be able to meet all your requirements from the onset in terms of features and functionalities. This is because, huge cloud-based solutions are impossible to tailor make them to each user requirements due to cost and time investments. However, if you’re able to realize over 80% of your day-to-day operations completely digitized, you will be in a good place to achieve success in ICT integration in your institution with that solution provider. Eventually when the system continues to develop, it will lead to 100% digitization of your operations.
Successful ICT integration in teaching, learning and management in an educational institution will not only save your time, money and resources but also add a lot of value to parents and all the stakeholders. This is the time to go ahead and decide on a deadline with your team to find a suitable solution and go digital.
If you need any support or consultation on ICT integration in your school, you can connect with INFONEY SOLUTIONS LIMITED’s team and we will be more than happy to assist. We are leading in providing digital education solutions in Kenya today!