A School Management System is an information management system for educational institutions to manage all student's data. It provides abilities such as registration of students in classes, documenting of grades and analytical marks of each student and other evaluation elements. In addition, an SMS is used for planning students’ curriculums, recording their attendance and managing all student-related needs within a school.
School Management systems vary in size, scope, and abilities, from packages implemented in relatively small organizations to cover student records only, to enterprise-wide solutions, which aim to cover most aspects of the operation of large organizations and their online schools with significant local responsibility. Many systems can be staggered at different levels of functionality, by purchasing additional "modules" and usually formed by their home institutions to meet local needs.
Some of the SMS sovereign vendors can include in their products:
SMS usually provide portals for employees, teachers, parents, and students. A single sign-on with systems like Office365 for Education or Google G-Suite are considered almost mandatory features nowadays.
Additionally, SMS are lately fully integrated with external Learning Management Systems such as Moodle LMS. The SMS may be confused with the Learning Management System or the Virtual Learning Environment, where course materials, assignments, and evaluation tests can be published electronically. The reason is that SMS and LMS systems tend to overlap.
We can generally say that SMS cover mostly the administrative part of all processes in an academic institution whereas LMS cover mostly the learning & teaching part of the process.
Few software systems worldwide claim to be both SMS and LMS solutions at the same time (e.g. see Classter).
A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application for managing, archiving, monitoring, reporting and delivering training courses or training programs. LMSs help the instructor to deliver material to students, manage tests and other tasks, monitor student’s progress and ensure record keeping. The LMSs focus on the online learning but support a number of uses that act as a platform for electronic courses as well as various hybrid forms such as mixed learning. LMSs can be complemented by other learning technologies, such as a training management system for training under the guidance of trainers or a Learning Record Store for storing and tracking learning data.
An LMS provides and manages educational content and typically handles student enrollment, e-course administration, and student tracking and assessment. Some LMSs help to recognize progress, towards learning or training goals. Most LMSs are online to facilitate access.
An SMS keeps all organizational and structural information alongside with all personal and demographic data. On the other hand, an LMS keeps all learning and teaching material, information and actions. The combination of both systems provides an end to end and holistic approach for managing any academic organization.
Since mid of 2000, educational institutes have heavily invested in technological solutions, software, and hardware. However, the education sector is still left behind as far as the implementation and usage of technology. It is an interesting fact that most classes in public or even private schools worldwide have virtually remained unchanged during the last 50 or more years. A typical class of the 1970s and a class of today are in many cases completely identical.
However, this is about to change. Technology for the first time in the human history is rapidly changing the way teachers teach and students learn. In other words, technology is about to disrupt the educational sector. This is a result of using new technological advances in the classroom such as Tablets, social media, virtual & augmented reality, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other learning tools or platforms.
This change is going to be a difficult and demanding process for the average educational institute. These organizations are characterized by a high complication in security, processes, and spectrum of functions, low budgets and small or non-existence IT departments.
Academic institutes are like small cities. IT managers need to implement systems that handle everything from registration and admission, to academic management but also billing, transportation & food, health monitoring, communication, behavior, financials etc. A school with 500 students, may have more than 1500 end users and a tiny budget to manage all above.
Small budgets, lack of resources and urgency to use technology in a technology savvy environments such a typical school. A difficult combination indeed! Consequently, academic leaders and IT managers often try to use free or open source software and multiple different business application to solve all above different problems. These applications are usually not integrated with each other and as a result, the "Island of technology" issue becomes a common problem of many academic institutions. The student information “lives” in multiple systems or databases leading to a high total cost of ownership and administrative headaches!
It is obvious that the daily use of technology in all different aspects and parts of a school eco-system means that academic institutes urge for organization-wide solutions. Thus, School & Learning Management systems becomes core solutions for these organizations. As a result, institutes have to invest heavily in implementing these types of platforms by purchasing and implementing an SMS or LMS system.
Larger or more complicated institutions usually require customized SMS, to match their specific business processes, modeling of student services or academic policies. Often, these adjustments may include special workflows implementation, analytical data mapping, integration with other systems, special reporting and tools for BI analysis etc.
In the past, universities and large school districts have created their own SMS or LMS systems. However, with the increasing complexity in the business of educational institutions, most organizations today choose to buy ready software packages and a large number of them buy software as a service (SaaS). Most student information systems currently in use, are server-based, host-based applications and accessible from client applications at various spots inside or outside the school. Nevertheless, student information systems have been moving online since the end of 1990 and this trend is accelerating as organizations are replacing or upgrading older systems.
As more and more colleges, universities and schools are looking for cloud-based SMS options, information security is a matter of concern. Universities host a range of sensitive personal information, making them potentially attractive targets for security breaches. Education-technology software vendors must be fully aware of best practices to secure student information. Institutions have the responsibility to look for vendors using the best security measures.
GDPR regulation makes the implementation even more demanding. Consents management, high-security measures such as data encryption or anonymization are also required. Vendors need to meet these needs and only a few are up to this task!
The term end-to-end (or all-in-one) is used to describe a supplier or application system that will provide all the software components and resources to meet the customer’s requirement and no other supplier need to be involved. In other words, a software system is responsible for managing all major processes of an organization.
Below we explain why end-to-end and all-in-one principles are important for educational or academic institutes of any size or type.
Possibly, the main reason is the higher productivity that it is able to generate. This is because an end-to-end solution is often a fully integrated system from a single supplier, meaning that manual input is reduced and the middle-man effect of jumping between systems and providers is eliminated. All data is in one system and integrations are minimized as much as possible.
This helps to increase accuracy, efficiency and improved processes through greater automation. This increases the security of student data and generally simplifies daily workflow.
Another key selling point of the end-to-end solution is the fact that it is simply more economical. Instead of spending on multiple software systems, support packages, ongoing licenses and more, having a provider delivering everything means organizations only have to pay for a batch of services. This translates into lower costs, less discomfort at the time of renewal, and a massive reduction in costs. Therefore, investing in an end-to-end solution will not only help minimize software costs but also operating costs.
Full functional access to data could not be achieved with many disconnected systems. As data might be shared between the departments, organizations are able to acquire a collective database with all the information using an end-to-end solution.
Known services that have been established as School Management Systems (SMSs) are:
PowerSchool covers administrative needs such as scheduling, monitoring, reporting, data management, urgent/medical and health problems management, registration, and more. Teachers prefer it because it is easy to use and features a scoring book, PowerTeacher Pro. Users enjoy a web-based SMS, that is flexible, configurable and scalable with real-time updates on any operating system, browser or device.
The solution is mostly used in the USA where it is the market leader. Due to the large installed based is considered a safe choice. However, it lacks flexibility and it may not be suitable for small or larger private schools that require a more customized approach.
It is used more widely in UK schools, claiming that the market share exceeds 80% in the primary and secondary sectors. It is not a real end to end system, but a lot of applications have been developed around it. As a result, almost, any functional area is covered either by the core package or by another software that it is integrated with it. Mostly suitable for British curriculum.
Technology has evolved in recent years and there has been an unprecedented shift from the standard software solutions which were developed to meet organizational needs. The software should normally be installed and run on organizational computers, resulting in costs for hardware acquisition, maintenance, software licensing and support. However, with innovative solutions such as SaaS (Software as Service), organizations are changing and are beginning to recognize the benefits.
SaaS is a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts cloud-based applications and makes them available for customers to connect over the Internet. It is a way of delivering applications to customers as a service over the internet, without the need to install or participate in complex software or hardware maintenance. There are many reasons why SaaS has proven to be preferable to conventional software-hardware infrastructure. There are several types of SaaS software solutions such as Email Marketing software, accounting software, CRM software, HR software and many more.
Fedena is an open source SMS developed in Ruby on Rails Framework. It is a 2.0 web application developed by Foradian Technologies from India. Fedena is a cloud-based ERP software used in schools for administration purposes. It provides most of the required functions at a very low price. However, its structure and UI is quite simplistic and thus it is more appropriate for smaller academic institutes.
Classter is a robust end to end school & learning management solution offering a holistic approach to education. Fully integrated with Office 365 and Moodle this all-in-one system could be used by any school, from K-12 to colleges and universities, to cover all school management needs. The solution is developed on MS technologies and it is hosted on MS Azure within European Union. It offers a full GDPR compliance. Classter provides a Free version which however is limited in functionality and supports only 50 students.
Known services that have been established as Learning Management Systems (LMSs) or trying to become SMSs are:
A virtual learning environment and a learning management system developed by Blackboard Inc. It is Web-based server software, which features course management, customizable open architecture, and scalable design that allows integration with student information systems and authentication protocols.
Moodle is free learning management software or more simply a software package to conduct e-courses through the Internet. Moodle is provided free of charge as free software (under the GNU Public License) and can run on any system that supports PHP, and has the ability to combine with many types of databases (especially MySQL).
Canvas LMS is a popular online learning platform. It is a system that offers a customizable architecture and design that allows users to learn or learn the way they want. Communication between a teacher and a learner is relevant, making communication simple for both parties so that the learning process can be carried out smoothly.
Knewton is an adaptive learning company that has developed a platform to personalize educational content and has developed higher education programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Knewton platform enables schools, publishers, and developers to offer adaptive learning for each student.