Benefits of a Well-Designed Automated Student Record System
A well-designed automated student record system will reach more than teachers and administrators. It will also benefit the students, parents, community, legislators, and others by providing information on the functioning and success of the education system. Some of the most important advantages are discussed below.
Cost savings and cost avoidance
A well-conceived and implemented automated student record system can reduce the costs of handling the paperwork associated with record keeping. Even when such a system proves initially expensive and actual reductions in current costs are not achieved, it is justified given future savings and efficiency. Nevertheless, system developers and implementers have to contend with two major concerns in order to maximize the cost-saving benefits of an automated system. First, it is sometimes thought that automated data systems do not result in actual savings. Granted there are computer purchase costs and personnel needed to maintain the system. These costs, while not minimal, should pay for themselves with the usefulness of the data and the reduced time data providers have to spend on data collections. Concerns about the reliability of computers may also lead some staff members to continue keeping their old records, "just in case." In fact, during the early stages of automating data it is often wise to maintain the data in two places, so that glitches can be resolved before relying solely on the automated system. Once the system is fully functional, however, the back-up paper system is no longer needed. Another mistake often made is that organizations automate a paper system instead of completely redesigning a system that takes advantage of the computer's capabilities as they exist now as well as thinking about future possibilities. Reconceptualizing a system that contains virtually no paper means that redundant activities such as entering data can be avoided. If, however, you merely automate the paper system, you may achieve fewer savings than could be achieved through a newly-conceived automated system.
When information from a student record is requested, it is usually needed promptly. A principal making placement decisions about a new student needs the previous school's records immediately to assign the student to the appropriate programs and services. A counselor with a student in crisis needs immediate access to records to help intervention specialists effectively deliver their services. A school board making a policy change to a "no-pass/no-play" rule needs analyses to support its decision. A well-designed student record system allows for timely retrieval of needed information in these, or similar, situations.
Data quality is basic to a well-designed student record system. Having clearly defined data elements that are used consistently promotes data quality. Paper records have traditionally been considered accurate, although not necessarily complete or accessible. Maintaining data quality as information is shared, analyzed, and reported is a characteristic of a well-designed system. Accuracy is vital at every stage, from data collection, to entry, to maintenance in the system. Accuracy provides users with the confidence they will require to rely upon a student record system.
Getting the needed information
An effective automated student record system should provide the information required on request, easily, and without burdensome trial-and-error searching. From the first steps of designing the system, the queries that will follow are anticipated and accommodated. Similar to an office filing system, the adequacy of a student record system is often judged by how much time and effort are required to find and retrieve information. Therefore, a key part of the design of a student record system is its process for access, retrieval, and reporting.
Moving data among different education agencies
A well-designed automated student record system allows for the easy and efficient movement of student records among levels of the education system using standard formats. For instance, when a student moves from one school to another within the same district, or to another district, the information can be extracted, prepared, and transferred electronically. The school receiving the electronic record can download the student record, thus eliminating the need for re-entering the information. Electronic data can also be received more rapidly than paper documents, enabling quicker decision-making about the student. Such a system can also be used to transmit student records to a state education agency that collects individual student records. It can also be used to transmit student transcripts to postsecondary institutions where a student is seeking admission.
As you can see, there are many advantages to having an automated student record system. The move from paper-based record systems to automated systems, or the upgrade of existing automated systems, means that there is a greater chance that information will be readily available when important decisions must be made about improving educational programs and services. Once the decision is made to upgrade your system, the next step is look at the process needed to design and implement an effective student record .