Experts say the future is all about the integration of best-of-breed applications.
The market for student information systems is undergoing tremendous change in the wake of several recent ed-tech mergers and acquisitions—and this trend has important implications for school software.
As large ed-tech companies swallow up smaller providers of student information systems, they are able to integrate new features into these programs, resulting in a new breed of school software that meets several needs of educators in a single solution. For instance, student information systems and learning management systems traditionally have been viewed as two separate software programs—but today, they are merging in ways that allow educators to track student achievement and personalize the learning process, all from the same system.
On the other hand, consolidation within the ed-tech industry is leaving educators with fewer choices for their school software providers.
One example of this consolidation is Follett Software Corp.’s acquisition in October of X2 Development Corp., maker of a web-based student information system called Aspen. Even more recently, global education giant Pearson last month bought The Administrative Assistants Ltd. (aal), maker of the eSIS web-based student information system.
“The SIS market has been consolidating for some time,” said Suzanne Holmquest, product marketing manager for X2 Development Corp. “Follett Software is setting the pace in terms of the integration of [student information systems with] its other education platforms and applications. In the end, Follett’s acquisition of Aspen is all about delivering the best solutions for schools. Schools want integration, access to critical data, and the tools to act on decisions they make from [those] data. Educators, meanwhile, desire a platform that drives student achievement, puts the student at the center, causes students to take more responsibility for their learning, and encourages excellent teaching.”
Aspen serves about 90 school districts in the U.S. and abroad and is currently used in seven states: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Administrators in Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools use Aspen to make scheduling easier for 116 schools. Another component of Aspen is its Family Portal, and Massachusetts’ Bedford Public Schools use the product to help with emergency notification.
“We chose to open the Aspen Family Portal to utilize contact verification workflows within the system,” said Ken Lord, a network administrator for the district. “Parents loved that they were able to verify, update, and submit their students’ emergency contact information electronically. In addition to the contact information, parents are viewing student schedules, assigned teachers, attendance, and more.”
For administrators and teachers in Maryland’s Wicomico Country School District, the simplification of grade-keeping is what drew them to Aspen.
The district, which serves more than 14,500 students in 26 schools, has students who are enrolled at one school but attend a different school for one or more courses, making grading a hassle.
The old SIS required these teachers to maintain grades on paper and fax them to the student’s primary school for input into the gradebook at the end of the term. Feeder schools couldn’t plan for the upcoming year, because they couldn’t access incoming students’ course requests until the end of the year.