5 critical functions of a student management system
From application to alumni, the student journey is increasingly complex. To make this journey a success, today’s education and training providers need to ensure students, staff and data are managed in a complete and cohesive way that ensures a high standard of learning and support, on the way to achievement and certification. With so much important, sensitive information to manage, education providers need as much help with managing it as they can get.
This is where a modern Student Management System (SMS) comes in. With the power to manage and activate data in ways that put education providers in the driver’s seat, an SMS is the mission-critical core of any provider’s operational arsenal. While many SMS functions make life in education easier, there are a few that today’s educators simply can’t do without if they want to thrive. Here we outline five more core functions that facilitate the student journey.
First things first: What is a Student Management System?
A Student Management System is an information system designed to help providers of education courses the management of students and the integration/streamlining of the administrative processes involved with running an education and training provider. As a centralised repository of student data and containing the tools and features required to carry out day-to-day management processes, the SMS eases everything from a student’s initial application and enrolment right through to graduation and even beyond.
This makes an SMS a crucial part of the technology backbone that allows providers to conduct their education and training business securely, transparently and compliantly, while saving time and costs through elimination of unnecessary administrative tasks. Beyond this, it helps them realise additional value through promoting student engagement, enabling new areas of growth and boosting student outcomes. So of the matrix of SMS functions available, what are some mission-critical must-haves for today’s education providers? Here’s five:
Federal, state and territory governments as well as bodies like the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) all have a job to do in Australia’s education and training market. By establishing policies, regulation, quality control guidelines and reporting requirements, they set out minimum standards, encourage best practice and hold education providers accountable for the training they provide. When a provider is compliant, they can rest assured that the education and training service they are delivering meets or exceeds the standards outlined by Australia’s regulatory authorities.
Compliance enablement is one of the core functions of an SMS, and something VETtrak prioritises before all other aspects of development. When a provider is able to meet education and training compliance requirements easily, they can get on with actually growing their business. Many SMS features support best practice compliance, including being able to capture and access relevant student information, the coordination of processes and people, the delivery of communications, and the facilitation of reporting. An SMS should make the compliance that comes with operating in education and training simple by streamlining management and reporting in any jurisdiction.
A disorganised organisation is an oxymoron: an education or training provider in today’s market simply cannot function without being organised. By sorting student information into logical, user-centred and accessible formats, an SMS can offer clearer perspectives on how students, staff and the institution as a whole are faring. Information can be extracted according to specific criteria and filters, which makes navigating the sea of data and finding specific information fast and painless.
An SMS empowers education providers in different areas of organisation. This includes everything from scheduling individuals, cohorts and trainers through intuitive course timetabling, through to intelligently managing provider finances with the likes of FEE-HELP, agent transactions and much more. An SMS is even able to go a step further when it comes to organisation, by enabling the proactive automation of tasks across the student lifecycle, which cuts out the need for repetitive tasks and expediting the forward movement of tasks through the education provider’s business.
Having data organised is one thing. Being able to understand it is something else. With an SMS, education providers can use their information to conduct complex analysis and achieve business-critical insight. Whether they are seeking intelligence on an individual (student or trainer), a cohort, a unit or course, or an entire institution, an SMS is able to respond by giving them what they need in a way that they can comprehend it and use it to effect change. Such analysis can reveal, track, and forecast trends, identify problematic issues and give better insights into strengths and weaknesses. It can surface the intuitively obvious or even the surprisingly counter-intuitive. It can deliver them all in clear reports. In the end, analysis provides the evidence you need to take educated next steps.
One of the simplest but most effective functions of an SMS is that it provides a central node where students, staff and other third parties like agents are able to communicate and exchange information. This can take many different forms depending on the needs of a provider and the stakeholder in question, including email, SMS or granting access to online portals. The communications component of an SMS is vital in the modern information age, as we all become more interconnected through technology and the relay of information speeds up exponentially.
An important part of effective communication is making it accessible. If people are excluded from the information or their access to it is hindered by something out of their control, then the information may as well not exist. By making the information readily available and using an intuitive, simple user interface (for example, in a student or agent portal), an SMS can become a centralised channel for communication. Over the long-term, an interface also needs to be adaptable to ensure that it can continue to be augmented or changed to meet student, trainer and business needs.
Today’s fast-changing education and training market conditions make software that stands still a liability for providers. It is now a fundamental requirement that an SMS be flexible in adapting to the needs of providers as they grow and change amid competition. Through regular releases and integrations, providers gain access to change and best practice as it happens in real time, enabling them to be more nimble. VETtrak is one system that is designed to be highly configurable for the different needs of institutions of varying sizes, services, and students. Although the baseline product and core features are versatile and broadly applicable, different features can be implemented and activated in different contexts, dependent upon the needs of an individual provider.
Mastering the mission-critical basics
The potential and growth of technology means the role of an SMS and other integrated systems will continue to evolve to meet the needs of both educators and their students. Consider for a moment trends like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Everything and Virtual Reality; will an SMS one day come with a personalised AI human enough to organise and teach a student remotely according to their individual situation and characteristics using virtual reality and tools from a 3D Printer?
Perhaps. However, what education and training providers need to focus on now is mastering the mission-critical basics. Being able to use the compliance, organisation, analysis, communication and flexibility of their SMS well can mean the difference between treading water or thriving in today’s market. With a system managing student information and the tools to organise, analyse, and communicate this information across an organisation, students and providers will find themselves wasting less time on admin and spending more time engaging with the material and each other.