A student information system (SIS) is the backbone of any higher ed institution and affects every facet of the student experience – from admissions to graduation and beyond. An institution relies on its SIS to manage information efficiently, especially at community colleges and universities with limited resources.

Any student information system will have its challenges, but often it’s not the system that’s to blame but how the school is using it. So how can schools adjust their approach in light of the challenges they face?

3 Common Challenges of Student Information Systems – and How to Overcome Them

1.) Ineffective Staff Training

Ineffective staff training not only makes it difficult for employees to do their jobs well, but also contributes to a lack of confidence among students.

The first step to overcoming this challenge is to have effective training on the SIS provided for staff so they can ultimately help students succeed. Make sure that the training offered is:

  • Ongoing. Professional growth never stops. Instructors and student support teams will always have a new challenge or technology they need to learn how to use. Therefore, they need ongoing opportunities for in-depth learning on topics related specifically to their job responsibilities and the SIS.
  • Conducive to collaboration. All instructors and advisors need access to an SIS at some point during each day so they can follow up on student progress. This type of information sharing requires good communication between departments within each building.

2.) Inefficient Technical Support

At some point, faculty and staff will need knowledgeable technical support when using the SIS. Without proper training, some level of improper SIS usage is inevitable, which can result in inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

Readily available technical support is important to overcoming this challenge. Types of technical support include:

  • In-house provided support. This may be provided in person or remotely. In this scenario, an institution has the ability to provide its own support while also working with the SIS vendor who can help with more complex tasks that are out of reach for most departments.
  • Vendor-provided technical support. This is offered directly from the vendor that provides an SIS and typically includes both live chat or phone access as well as extensive online documentation covering how to use all aspects of their software platform. Employees can connect with someone who has firsthand knowledge of the software and can provide answers quickly.
  • Regular system updates. SIS vendors routinely push out maintenance updates in the form of system updates and patches to add to or enhance system functionality and, on occasions, to meet regulatory requirements such as in changes to financial aid processing regulations.

3.) Inability to track and process student records efficiently

Tracking and processing student records is a challenge for institutions due to technical issues, human error and lack of training. Here are some steps to help departments take care of this important part of your organization:

  • Determine what kinds of records are necessary to keep. Is a digital record needed for every student who has ever applied to or attended the institution? Or are SIS records only needed for current students, alumni and recent applicants in the SIS?
  • Create an efficient process for tracking these records. Outline which positions will be responsible for updating which information. This will make it easier to enter new information into the system, update existing entries regularly and perform other tasks as needed.
  • Have staff trained on how to use the system. Make sure staff understand what information needs to be entered, when it must be done and who can access certain records.
  • Ensure instructors are provided with a way to enter attendance and grade information for each class period that students attend. This enables accurate data on student attendance as well as grades earned in each class at any given time throughout the academic year.

In conclusion, use this summarized checklist to begin overcoming your SIS challenges:

  1. Create better user training programs.
  2. Improve technical support and update systems and processes regularly as needed (and not just when “big” changes are being made).
  3. Accurately track records through appropriate reporting functionality on a real-time basis.

If your institution needs help developing strategies to overcome its student information system challenges and keep your system running smoothly, the experts at Collegis Education are here to do just that.

Author: Dr. Baz Abouelenein

Dr. Baz Abouelenein is a higher education leader and technology evangelist with over 20 years of success in achieving strategic business objectives and transforming technologies in higher education. He has extensive experience in developing technology strategies and industry best practices. He holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and boasts a unique mix of industry and academic experiences.