What's Next for the Student Information System?
Many information management solutions have failed over the years, but higher education administrations have come to accept their downfalls as normal. We get it. After all the continual upfront financial investments, the sheer amount of faculty time it has taken to implement and run the solutions, and the monumental volume of data being moved around, it can feel impossible to consider another solution.
But what happens when those blind spots become too large to ignore? Or when you get the sinking feeling that you are paying for features that will never be applicable to you? What is the best way to build the next generation of the Student Information System?
The Student Information System Today
The Student Information System (SIS) is the backbone of a variety of core processes inside of a university — including registration, scheduling, curriculum management, credentials, and advising.
Analyzing the history of the SIS industry development helps us define its future. Ellucian was the first major SIS and became a market leader shortly after the acquisition of Colleague. Peoplesoft was nestled into the number two slot, and shortly after IPO Oracle waged a hostile takeover of the business, its founder Dave Duffield was ousted. Partially to spite Oracle, Dave founded a company named Workday, whose premise was to build a better version of PeopleSoft in the cloud. In the last decade, Workday has entered into the SIS market with its new product Workday Student, which is truly the first cloud-native SIS.
One of the most interesting things about the development of the SIS is its significant shortcomings. Students at campuses around the country often joke about how bad their registration system is. Was this really the tool used to manage their student data? Ironically, schools often adopt countless point solutions to integrate with their SIS, when most SIS systems don't have APIs readily available. Compared to most industries where the backbone software has innovated as fast as the growth of Silicon Valley, major SIS systems have failed to deliver significant innovations. To some extent, the SIS systems are held back by having to support many instances of legacy on-premises software.
In Higher Education, a few strong voices believe that Workday is the future of the SIS, while others believe that Salesforce will ultimately kill the SIS. Yet, many look at these solutions and recognize the pain and struggle of having to make a switch in an SIS system. It is ultimately a 10-year project for which a school is likely to receive a product 10 years out-of-date. It is estimated that fewer than 10 schools have successfully implemented these newer, bigger monoliths. Many believe that their investments in their existing systems are too large to pull the trigger for a switch in their SIS.
The Future Evolution of the Student Information System
I would argue that the future of the SIS will not be a monolithic all-in-one solution but modular point solutions that will provide institutions with all of the power and flexibility that they need.
I would also argue that the future of the SIS will actually be that schools will adopt point, cloud solutions until the point where they do not need an SIS. In most companies, the trend is toward adopting specialized solutions that will solve core business processes. Very few companies, even those with extremely complex workflows, will choose to adopt a monolithic system like Workday or Oracle to manage it all. Already, we are seeing that in the business world, many companies are recognizing that point solutions like Gusto or Lattice can provide more particular functionality and provide the same robustness as an all-in-one solution like Oracle or Workday. Yet in Higher Education, schools seem stuck in the thought that the SIS must manage everything and that investment should be targeted into the SIS rather than getting off from it and to more effective point solutions.
Our vision here at Coursedog is to build modular, specialized products that add up to an SIS. To a school — this means that they can wait for the market to develop, eschew massive upfront investment, and purchase modular, specialized products that will solve core business use cases extremely well. Over time, we believe that as schools use more of these modular solutions, there will be a tipping point where they realize the SIS may not be necessary anymore at all. In this scenario, the school has many products that integrate well with one another (perhaps from a single vendor such as Coursedog or Kuali), and that do not set their fate for eternity in a monolith that may or may innovate.
At Coursedog, our vision is to streamline and provide only the most applicable features of an SIS for our educational institutions — a custom fit to their use cases. These modular, specialized solutions are what will build the next generation of the Student Information System. They will have the freedom to create their own management system, comprised of modules that fit the needs specific to their case study.