For many institutions, a student information system (SIS) is the most important piece of software on campus. These systems are an integral part of college and university operations, housing student data and enabling everything from grade keeping to registration. But as student information systems improve with the rapid pace of technology, many institutions continue to use outdated, legacy systems that are cumbersome to operate and difficult to maintain.
The recent IDC PlanScape, Cloud-Based Student Information Systems, outlines the importance of modern, cloud student information systems and lays out important advice for buyers looking to upgrade from a legacy SIS to the cloud. Below, we address the importance of a cloud SIS as well as detail some of the conclusions from the IDC report.
What Is a Student Information System?
A student information system is an institution’s central system of record, providing schools with the ability to store important student information and perform administrative tasks like registering students for classes and maintaining transcripts.
More modern, advanced systems incorporate additional features like admissions, billing, course management, and communications. Most significantly, a modern SIS allows colleges and universities to manage student data from a centralized platform, making it easier to track student progress, meet accreditation standards, and confer degrees.
What’s Wrong With Legacy Student Information Systems?
Legacy student information systems are often on-premises systems and, according to the IDC PlanScape report, can be inflexible and difficult to maintain and update. As Edtech companies make constant and important changes to their systems—altering interfaces to be more student-centric, improving security features to respond to ever-growing cybersecurity threats—updating a student information system becomes crucial to its continued functioning. Where legacy systems were once foundational to the higher education technology ecosystem, they’re fast becoming burdens.
But if legacy systems are so burdensome, why aren’t more institutions upgrading to cloud student information systems? One of the main issues institutions face when contemplating a system upgrade is how incredibly complicated it is to migrate information from older systems onto newer ones.
According to the IDC PlanScape report, one higher education leader likened the upgrade process to open heart surgery, and another likened it to divorce. This is because many student information systems comprise a series of disparate, siloed solutions, and moving information from these silos onto a modern, cloud SIS contains many complicated and moving parts.
What Are the Benefits of a Cloud Student Information System?
Institutions shouldn’t let the complicated migration process keep them from upgrading their student information systems. A cloud student information system (an SIS housed in the cloud) has many advantages over its legacy counterpart. Among the benefits listed in the IDC PlanScape report are cloud SIS’ ability to grant institutions more agility, flexibility, and scalability. Rather than purchasing and installing physical servers whenever they need to expand operations, IT departments can automatically scale systems to meet growing resource demands.
Cloud student information systems are also easy to update, which means that institutions have access to constantly improving user interfaces, security features, and new technology like artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Because updates to a cloud SIS are often made to meet the latest student demands, they are better able to enhance the student experience and support institutional objectives.
How Can Institutions Migrate to Cloud Student Information Systems?
The report recommends that decision makers sit down with other campus stakeholders, align missions, and create a strategic plan that all parties sign off on. The report also suggests ensuring staff understand the need to equip users for training and support.
Most importantly, institutions want to ensure they’re working with a vendor who meets their needs. Migrating to a cloud SIS means you’re engaging in a partnership as opposed to merely purchasing a solution. As vendors can continually upgrade their cloud student information systems, it’s important for institutions to partner with vendors who are not only experienced, but who offer extensive support and training.
When considering technology vendors, the PlanScape report suggests that institutions make sure they’re partnering with a company that is right for them. Institutions should not only examine a vendor’s success rates, but their company values and guiding principles as well. This can ensure that partnerships are enduring and that institutions don’t have to continually search for different vendors and products to meet their campuses’ diverse and changing needs.
Ultimately, cloud student information systems can help establish institutional innovation, student empowerment, and campus unification. While migrating away from legacy systems can seem like an arduous process, the benefits of the cloud and its ability to help future-proof campuses make it the right choice to ensure future institutional and student success.
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