School districts hesitate to change their biggest student data system, the SIS, but after navigating remote learning, rising cyberattacks, and staff burnout, the old ways of operating are suddenly a poor fit for many districts’ goals.
It is a big decision to change your district’s Student Information System. When any school district approaches this decision, one question tends to come up right away:
Our staff are feeling overwhelmed right now. Why is making this transition worth it?
The answer is, of course, right in the question! You make this decision because staff are overwhelmed. A new approach to SIS is a remedy that most school leaders don’t often think about.
If you speak to any teacher in your district, one of the things they’ll tell you is that the district has different programs for just about everything.
Historically, school districts choose a SIS. Then buy an LMS. Then choose assessment tools. Then choose a place to put their curriculum or lesson plans. Then buy staff evaluation software. Then buy a data warehouse. Then buy integration software to try to stitch it all together.
Sometimes integration works; but more often than not, we end up asking teachers to shoulder the load and use their spare time to move data between programs. In a 2019 survey, teachers reported wasting between 1-2 hours a week on manual data entry tasks.
We know that student achievement suffers when we overburden our teachers, and yet, this is the downstream consequence of sticking with a standalone SIS.
OnCourse took a fundamentally different approach then most legacy SIS products.
Where most historical SIS products were limited to being state reporting databases, it was clear by the early-2010’s that teachers were using the SIS more and more each year. OnCourse did something no other SIS had done, and rolled out a comprehensive toolkit of instructional tools made to help teachers and students achieve their growth goals.
In one recent example, when schools went remote, OnCourse was one of the few SIS products with an integrated LMS fully integrated to Google, allowing teachers to use their favorite Google content but served through the SIS portal that students and parents used already. Unlike Google Classroom, there were no rosters for teachers to manage, no need to move grades manually; this single feature saved teachers between 15-30 minutes every night.
Teachers could also take advantage of a test bank and integrations with popular tools like Kami and Desmos.
In OnCourse, districts could also do formative, common, or benchmark assessments, connect it all to teachers’ grade books, and monitor student progress toward standards.
Teachers can see how students are performing across multiple measures on one dashboard. They could use that data to build their lessons, design student growth goals, and differentiate instruction using OnCourse tools.
By bringing all of these systems together, schools dramatically improve the parent and student experience by having one place that houses assignments, grades, school communications, Google content, class messages, course requests, and lots more. One teacher explains:
“To say I am obsessed with the wonderfulness that is OnCourse is the understatement of 2020.
We just switched to OnCourse this school year. I also picked up two virtual classes. Overwhelming.
But OnCourse is letting me have one platform to host EVERYTHING. I love that I can just tell students to login to OnCourse and everything is there! This is really the best thing our district has bought in a while!”
Emily Webre, Teacher
But your SIS needs to do lots more than just help out in the classroom.
For main offices, OnCourse has everything a traditional SIS offers, like:
…and lots more. OnCourse is used by districts as large as 25,000 students and as small as 200, which is a testament to a deep and flexible feature-set that can fit the needs of almost any type of school district.
One of the barriers to creating a thriving culture of data-informed decision-making has always been the tediousness of the process. “Data analysis” used to be a process of running PDF reports or mashing data into spreadsheets; but school staff always ended up wasting more time managing data than learning from it.
In OnCourse, administrators have visualized analytics of everything happening across their campuses, like chronic absenteeism, behavior trends, and state test scores. The Multiple Measures feature brings together data from multiple sources to show growth and correlation across a range of data points.
In October 2021, OnCourse also released the Student Story feature, which consolidates 20 aspects of a student’s career on a single convenient screen.
One important note: your district probably has tools that are working well. You may love your LMS, data warehouse, or Special Education program. Don’t worry, OnCourse integrates with more than 100 of the most popular ed-tech tools used in districts today.
At this point, your data team will likely want to know if OnCourse can handle the critical state reporting tasks that are responsible for your district’s funding.
It’s important to know that OnCourse SIS isn’t offered nationwide; it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. That approach tends to make state reporting generic and error-prone.
OnCourse’s state reporting team monitors state/federal requirements and aligns your OnCourse suite accordingly to give you an excellent reporting experience.
Tech folks will love this; they don’t have to manage any big updates themselves. OnCourse is a cloud-based system, letting us release approximately 300-400 free new features every year with no extra work on your part. There is no downtime required. In fact, OnCourse has had 99.9% annual uptime for over fifteen years.
There’s one important part of being on a cloud-based system that people don’t think about. That’s the safety of your student data. New and devastating cyberattacks are hitting school districts at record rates.
If your district SIS has been around for a long time, there’s a strong chance that it is built on an aging architecture that could leave it vulnerable to common cyberattacks, like Denial of Service and ransomware.
OnCourse’s cloud-based system was architected on the modern web to provide you with a safe and speedy experience. Cloud-based systems are built much differently, layering many redundant security features that older systems simply don’t support.
Every year that schools stay on older architecture, the more vulnerable they become. This is why you are making a great decision to look into the cloud-based OnCourse SIS.