I have worked with and around Management Information Systems (MIS) for my entire professional career. When I first started out in education, school data was restricted to a few individuals in the main office, in a single database, and management of it was considered a dark art. I am sure this is a common memory for anyone who has worked in education for over 10 years!
What I have seen change in the last decade is the proliferation of information required by technology solutions in schools, and the expectation that that information be available as a standard of purchase. As a solutions provider enabling education systems to synchronise school and student data from one platform to another, we at Groupcall uniquely see the value in this to both software vendors and educationalists.
I will skip over the obvious benefit of not needing to duplicate data between systems, vastly reducing staff effort as well as mitigating data integrity issues. Instead, let’s look at the tangible positive impacts on education delivery.
A nationwide study that Groupcall undertook last year showed that the intelligent collection, use and exchange of information between systems could save over 1,000 ‘man-years’ of effort each year within schools nationwide.
Having access to timely, accurate and specific information is as important as any aspect of teaching and learning. It can inform on the most vital of decisions for an individual’s education right up to policy and strategic management within a school. These three key features are the core of your MIS data’s value:
Timely. Instant, or real-time, information is often touted as the utopia for school data, but used without context can hinder appropriate decision-making. The timely analysis and presentation of information gives such data tremendous value. Take for instance an isolated spate of poor behaviour by a student. Instant visualisation and intervention could lead to inappropriate actions being taken, such as isolation or exclusion. However, a timely analysis of the trends could show that the behaviour is limited to a single teaching session over a number of weeks. This coupled with a dip in performance,or even a lack of attendance at those sessions might lead to other enquiries. While this is a very basic example, it shows that immediate data and decisions made upon it is not always as useful as timely data.
Accurate. This goes without saying – inaccurate information is at best useless and at worst dangerous, particularly when school data can and does influence critical decisions such as student welfare or strategic planning.
Specific. This is the crucial point: we now live in a world of data; we are bombarded with it. Making sense of it and turning it into useful and usable information is of the utmost importance. Such insight helps us identify patterns in behaviour based on a correlation between two students, spot trends in certain types of subjects for a child, detect patterns before they emerge such as siblings missing the same periods each week.
Most of this is not news to even the greenest of school data managers or senior leaders, but deciding what system to implement to display, analyse, transport and maintain data in, around and between the MIS is often overlooked.
Know the value of your decision-critical information. Look at what different systems give you, your team and, most importantly, your teachers the best views of that data for their roles. Products such as Groupcall Emerge have been designed and are continually developed to achieve exactly this.
|Graham Reed has worked in the education sector for over 12 years, firstly within schools and then for educational software and MIS providers. He joined Groupcall in 2014 as Product Manager for all school-facing products, responsible for managing development and improvement for Messenger, Emerge and Xpressions.|