School 2.0 – Don’t Forget Enterprise Applications

Statewide Web 2.0 applications for education are a growing force in the market. This has huge implications for how schools will organize and manage information.

Education Enterprise Software has always played a critical role in the adoption of new technologies. For example, when web applications first debuted in schools many of the earliest and longest lasting applications connected parents to student information systems. Yet, with all the noise lately about School 2.0 the focus has been on social networks and classroom applications.

Here is an interesting case study from Holland where they are deploying a Web 2.0 attendance application across multiple districts to help reduce truancy rates. Eventually over 200,000 students will be tracked. All the professionals involved (teachers, counselors, administrators) have custom work-flows that help them make sure the right kids are in the right schools.

In the US, transcript management is one of the more interesting uses of these technologies. National Transcript Center recently won state-wide bids in Texas and West Virginia to help manage student transfers between districts as well as college and employment applications. They and their competitors are leading the way towards a new paradigm of software for schools.

What the Dutch and US examples have in common is that they are:* Multi-district

* Web based

* Users control and manage their own information needsIn the US this is likely to manifest itself in statewide systems that help reduce the costs of routine administrative tasks. Texas is projected to save over $7 million per year (pdf) with the NTC system.

ss-and-pen.jpg What will be more interesting is when these types of systems can be used to evaluate educational practices by looking across multiple districts at large data-sets. Most districts in the US simply are not large enough generate solid statistical data and most of the current efficacy research in this arena focuses on a few classrooms at a time. We move forward doing the best we can backed by anecdote and social science. There have been some innovative new approaches to looking at statewide data but they are expensive and difficult to do because of the limitations of todays systems. These new systems promise a new era in educational research.

What implications does this have for the education business ? 1. More and more systems will move to statewide deployments. This is the next phase of a transition that began in the mid-90’s from site based to district based enterprise systems.

2. New applications will allow the user much more control over the information they use and create. Prototypes have existed for the last 15 years of administrator dashboards but their use has been fairly limited until recently. Students, parents, and teachers will all get this functionality as well. This has major implications for design and architecture of software systems as well as user support.

3. Data standardization using SIF and other interoperability formats will gather steam. It isn’t practical to deploy these statewide systems without data standardization.

4. We can expect a push back once these systems reach a certain critical mass. There is still a strong element of local control in the US system and these new statewide systems will have to accommodate that (probably through SIF).

5. This will be a long slow transition – schools are reluctant to trade out the enterprise systems because of all the training and implementation headaches that come with it. The average life of an SIS is 7 years and in larger districts it can stretch to almost 14 years (reference SIS Trends and Opportunities Report).

As the old Chinese curse says – “may you live in interesting times.”