Highlights of the Gartner Report

A Summary Prepared by the B.C. Ministry of Education

Background

In the spring of 2011 the Ministry of Education engaged Gartner Consulting to conduct an external review of future Student Information System (SIS) requirements. The results of this review were posted on a Ministry website in September. The study looked at current and future requirements, existing BCeSIS service, products available in the SIS marketplace, an analysis of options and recommendations for going forward.

The complete Gartner report is available at
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/pubs/review_of_student_information_systems.pdf (PDF, 745KB).

Current and Future Needs of the B.C. Education Sector

In surveying stakeholders, Gartner found continued strong support for a common, province-wide student information system that is web-based and takes advantage of technology available in each school district.

The key requirement is to maintain a single record for each student and provide access to all teachers and school staff who provide services to that student throughout their educational career. In this student-centred model, a student may receive educational services from several different schools simultaneously, including public schools, independent schools, First Nations schools and distributed learning schools.

A common student information system must support administrative processes such as student registration, withdrawals, transfers, cross-enrolment, scheduling and timetables and ministry reporting. In addition to traditional courses with fixed schedules, it should accommodate continuous entry/exit and self-paced formats such as distributed learning.

The system should be flexible to support evolving educational requirements, including personalized learning, and data should be used to guide each student’s education. The SIS should track individual learning goals and learning outcomes based on standards and the K-12 curriculum. It should provide educators with the student’s complete record, from pre-K to graduation. The system should support secure electronic communication between teachers, parents and students.

The SIS should streamline administrative processes and promote consistent data and business practices, including data sent to the Ministry. The user interface should be easy to use, requiring minimal training.

The system should provide consistent ways to generate reports and gather or exchange data and should integrate easily with other third-party systems. It must be easily adjusted in size and efficient to manage and operate over time.

Assessment of BCeSIS

The existing BCeSIS system is addressing the basic administrative needs of B.C. schools, but is not well-positioned to meet B.C.’s strategic educational goals in the future. BCeSIS can support schools’ business and technical requirements over the short-term (the next one to three years), but the risk of the current system not being able to align with future educational needs – and the cost of operating it – will increase significantly over time.

Gartner also noted that participation in BCeSIS is voluntary and that some valuable features have not been deployed consistently in all districts.

SIS Market Assessment

B.C.’s decision to implement a provincial student information system has positioned our province as a leader in the SIS marketplace. B.C. is "ahead of the curve," but several other North American jurisdictions are now considering introducing similar systems. Most products currently available are based on district- or school-level models, but vendors have recognized the trend toward large multi-district implementations and are beginning to develop products that can meet these needs. Software will likely evolve over time to include flexibility and features necessary to support personalized learning.

Gartner conducted a high-level scan of the SIS market and concluded that viable commercial off-the-shelf products were available that could address most of the requirements identified by B.C.’s education stakeholders. They noted that there are several additional products they did not evaluate that B.C. may wish to consider. Some customization of the software may be necessary, but this should be kept to a minimum and business processes may need to be modified.

Recommendations

Gartner recommended that B.C. initiate a competitive procurement process to acquire a new SIS system. This process should ensure that the new solution meets stakeholders’ strategic requirements.

They also recommended that a common set of SIS business processes and data standards be adopted province-wide, so all B.C. districts and schools can take advantage of best practices and features built into the software.

Gartner found that the existing BCeSIS can be used in the short term (three years) while a new solution is being procured.