Empower Educators through Technology

In large sectors like the Education Sector, decision-making must be driven by data. Software like Academia SIS supports a flow of data that is easily accessible and can be analysed to increase the accuracy of decision-making.

A Student Information System like Academia provides automation solutions for universities, colleges, schools and training institutions. In practise, this means solutions that are flexible, comprehensive and scalable. What makes Academia unique, is that it configures to automate an entire student management system based on an individual institution’s needs and requirements. Data is accessible through adaptive dashboards and reporting, empowering all staff to make decisions based on interpreted data. In essence, it brings data together, for those who have the knowledge not only to analyse existing data but predict trends too. If knowledge is power, then decisions based on interpreted data is the ultimate empowerment of your institution’s management team.

Of course, this is only one of the benefits of implementing an SIS. Other benefits include:

  • Better communication and collaboration amongst stakeholders
  • Increased efficiency
  • Real-time data for parents, teachers and students
  • Streamlined information and data sharing
  • Automated reporting
  • Analytical capabilities
  • Access to information from anywhere and any time

Technology empowering educators

Communication and collaboration between staff are key to a successful institutional management structure. The perception is that technology can disconnect individuals, but if the correct technology is applied effectively, it can help improve communication and increase connectivity.

How?

A SIS offers a centralised dashboard, managing the daily work-flow of institutions. All administrative processes are also automated, and information sharing becomes simple – accessible with a click of a button. The system also generates automated reports, which means less time spent on manual reporting, leaving employees with more time to connect with each other.

With tertiary institutions becoming increasingly complex to manage, the implementation of a SIS has become the mainstream solution. It makes sense, as the flow of data at these institutions increases, an efficient system is vital to ensure accurate tracking and interpretation and ultimately informed decision-making.

Interested? Contact us for a free demo and learn how your institution can empower Educators through Technology. Or visit our website for more information.

Article adapted from Academia ERP.

Robert Speed Reflects on Blackboard’s TLC RMEA

We recently hosted some of the region’s most experienced educators from across Russia, the Middle East, Africa (RMEA) and Turkey at the first Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) in Dubai. Over the three days of the conference we discussed the spectrum of challenges and opportunities facing the region’s educational institutions and recognised the importance for education to keep up with a rapidly changing world.

In his opening remarks, our Chairman, CEO and President Bill Ballhaus highlighted that “education is at an inflection point and must meet the needs of a brand new generation of learners and digital natives.” And during the Executive summit Solveig Nicklos, Dean of the Abu Dhabi School of Government, pointed out learning “learning is not anymore about students absorbing information like sponges. The focus is on creating curious, knowledge-seeking learners.”

I think these two reflections perfectly exemplify the discussions around teaching and learning that happened throughout the conference: how can we bring education in the hands of the students in a way that is meaningful to them? How can universities change their traditional approach and make education available 24/7 through an online adaptive platform accessible via web or with mobile devices? How can we use data to distil meaningful insights to inform better educational and institutional decisions?

Together we tried to address these and other questions and also explored possibilities and solutions. Having hosted more than 40 sessions, I believe all attendees had food for thought and ideas to bring back home. That’s why I would take the opportunity to thank our clients who shared their success stories and their experiences, as well as our executives and our product experts who shared their views and knowledge.

While considerable attention has been given to students and their learning needs, we did not forget that teaching and learning always go together. That’s why we need to arm teachers not only with the best technologies but also with the knowledge of how to use them in the most effective way. As Dr. Fahad AlShahrani, Director of eLearning Center at Royal Commission for Jubail suggested during the client panel “training is key: training on what technology does, training on how to use technology and training on how to innovate with technology.”

To this end, we hosted several sessions dedicated to our eTeacher program, a series of three certified professional development courses focused on Digital Teaching and Learning. We developed this program based on our deep expertise in the role of technology on learning and our unique insights on pedagogy and how people learn that come from serving more than 100 million users around the world. While eTeacher stemmed from specific needs expressed by the institutions in the Middle East, this program has been extremely well received by faculty and educators also outside the region and today we have hundreds of certified teachers around the world.

Beyond these unparalleled opportunities to share knowledge, insights and best practice, TLC gave us the opportunity to reaffirm our mission to be the best partner for you, our clients, and to support you in your efforts to drive student outcomes and meet your institutional goals. The strong momentum we see in RMEA, the number of people attending TLC in Dubai, and the two new partnerships with the Abu Dhabi School of Government and the Batterjee Medical College we announced at the conference further testify to our commitment to the region.

We are not just a technology provider; we’re an education technology company.  And I am thrilled about what the future holds for our partnerships and the innovation we will bring to your students and teachers.

 

Robert Speed

How to drive engagement through a unified mobile campus app

Technology is moving faster than ever, changing all the time. One of the challenges that come with these changes is, how do institutions successfully reach their students. What we do know is students across the globe are all using mobile devices. And they access most of their information via their mobile device. It therefore only makes sense to start here. In fact, 70% of South Africans have access to mobile phones. So how do you make a student’s life better at higher education institutions? Communication and easy access to information relevant to them would be key.

The challenge of communication

Past experiences have taught us that mobile apps bring information to students but can also bring confusion. If not planned carefully, various departments or faculties often develop apps for administrative or management purposes. The result and the problem is that there are numerous apps for different functions, leading to scattered functionality and non-user-friendly experiences for students. Consequently, they end up not serving their purpose of communication, well.

The solution

What if there was a solution that unifies various functions all in one app – a unified mobile campus app? Modo Campus offers this solution. It gives you the platform to build an app that is designed by your institution, that pulls all information and functions of multiple apps into one platform. The best part is that it is not about reinventing information and functions, but rather pulling all existing information portals to one central point where the student can access it, and where the institution can send their communication to.

The solution offers a:

  • A unified mobile campus app – all the information a student needs about their studies and campus in one place.
  • Engaging student experiences – share information on campaigns, causes or drives, built specifically for your campus, faculty or residence
  • Events, from new student orientation to graduation – develop content on a platform with all the information pertaining to a specific event, or even student orientation, in one place.

Is it difficult to use?

The goal of Modo Campus was to transform the ‘digital campus experience’ through mobile engagement. Modo is a no-code mobile app platform. This means no coding skills are required for you to build your institution’s app. Besides being easy to use, it also easily integrates with an unlimited amount of existing and legacy systems. The experience offered includes communication, engagement, analytics and optimisation. It offers all the technical aspects you would expect of a mobile app solution, without needing the technical skills.

Create a personalised digital campus

The platform allows for several modules, including out-of-the-box modules. If you can think it, you are almost sure to be able to build it with Modo Campus. It is also scalable, and the app can be customised to suit the relevant campuses’ needs.  Modo Communicate also gives you the functionality to broadcast messages via your app, reaching your students with personal targeted messages, giving them opt-in subscription access to information and even delegate or approve workflow via the app.

Insights

Data empowers you to make informed decisions and to improve the way your institution operates. Using Modo analyse, you have access to data that shows you how your app is doing and how to adapt the user experience to ensure it benefits students and of course staff and faculty.

The result?

Experience shows that a personalised, unified campus mobile app dramatically increases student engagement on campus – leading to a happier student, happier staff and overall better student retainment.

Interested? Please watch our recent webinar for more insights on the unified mobile campus app solution offered by Modo Labs.

Presented by Matt Willmore – Director of Product Management at Modo Labs.

Or book a free demo with us today.

 

 

Managing student safety and mental health in South Africa

“1 in 4 varsity students have been diagnosed with depression.” Parent24, 10 October 2018

“Courts let Rhodes University lecturer off sexual harassment hook” SowetanLIVE, 22 January 2019

“Alarming that safety on campus for students remains elusive.” SowetanLIVE, 11 Feb 2019

“47 rapes on SA campuses last year; varsities to take action.”  Independent Online, 14 October 2018

 

These are just a few of the headlines that featured in the news in 2018 and early 2019. While registrations are almost nearing an end, the new academic year in 2019 has not been uneventful for tertiary institutions. Protests were rife across South African universities, colleges and TVET colleges – ranging from demonstrations about registration and fees to lack of adequate accommodation. Shockingly, one student died during this time, allegedly at the hand of campus security.  Currently, the safety of students in South Africa is questionable.

While our education sector has gone through many changes over the past two decades, challenges of managing security and mental health on campuses are on the increase. At the same time, institutions are increasingly pressurised to abide by legislation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 (OHS) and related legislation. Under this act, institutions must guarantee an environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of the higher institution community. The diverse challenges that come with health and safety, specifically mental health and violence, along with the increasing pressure to create a safe environment for students call for an urgent solution to manage these issues.

Advocate by Symplicity offers a solution that guides these processes, helping institutions manage events as they happen while tracking student behaviour data could help prevent possible incidents. The system allows relevant staff to track student complaints and their well-being. Through providing a safe and secure space where students can complain or report incidents, as well as a process to manage these complaints, Advocate promotes a general sense of safety on campus. Insights into student behaviour through data available also means relevant staff could intervene when a student is going through a tough time. And through early intervention, the system allows for action before an incident takes place – avoiding the emotional impact as well as the reputational and financial implications of incidents.

While this may sound great in principle, it is important to understand the actual implementation and integration of this system into an institution’s existing processes and systems. Our recent webinar hosted by Symplicity Advocate, demonstrates this system in action. You are welcome to watch this introduction to Symplicity Advocate here or book a customised demo with us – or simply reach out for more information.

Simplify and increase the efficiency of registration – Academia SIS

As February comes to an end, there is some extent of relief for the staff of administration in Higher Education institutions. Students should, by now, be registered and finding their feet around their new schedules and campus environment. But did registration and all the management processes that go with it, run smoothly?

There is no downplaying the level of management that is required when it comes to registration and student admissions. In South Africa, we have our own set of challenges. The reality is, the more efficient the registration process, the less stressful or taxing it will be for both institutions and students. Of course, the nature of admissions and registrations entails labour intensive processes with many extensive parts to be considered. Students rarely stick to their original module choices, their personal data must be double checked, academic history, as well as financial aspects all, fall within this process. While a solution that simplifies this process seems impossible, there is a viable one available that simplifies automation and increases the efficiency of student admission and registration management. Here is how.

A solution in the form of a Student Information System allows the automation of an institutions management system. While it speaks to every part of the student lifecycle, it by no means neglects any part of it. It offers a complete solution for each step or phase of a student’s time at the institution – including admissions and registrations. Academia SIS has a module that handles registration and admissions processes for both new and existing students. This module allows members of staff to supervise the admission and registration process of all students, and stores all relevant information associated with them, in their profiles. This would include their family details; previous schooling information; academic records; birth certificates; financials (who is responsible for accounts); blood group; physical details; vaccination details; conduct/behaviour; identity photographs and many more details. Aside from linking all personal information to a profile, your institution can also keep track of all fees paid, assign a course or class to them, along with their student number.

Of course, student registration goes hand in hand with student admissions, which is a module to be discussed its own.

Interested in to find how your registration process could be improved? Contact us for a demo.

Equip leaders for the future with Turnitin

While Turnitin is a familiar anti-plagiarism tool within the tertiary education sector, it also has its role to play within secondary education. Using Turnitin at this level helps to cultivate literacy skills in learners, while providing the necessary tools that support best practice. In essence, Turnitin sets learners up for success in school and beyond. Bishops Diocesan College recently implemented Turnitin at their school. We checked in with them to learn how Turnitin is helping to equip leaders for the future.

Bishops ICT Programme

A few years ago, Bishops  College adopted a one-on-one laptop programme. This involves Grades 9 through to 12, where each boy is required to bring a working laptop to class daily. All users have access to a robust network and wifi for internet access. The boys also have access to all teaching content and resources through a customised LMS.

Why implement Turnitin

Turnitin was implemented into the school’s ICT Programme to address the frequency of internal plagiarism amongst the boys, i.e. copying assignments from one year to the next and across classes. Bishops is rolling implementation out in phases.  The initial focus involves concentrating on Grades 10 to 12, specifically in Life Orientation and Business Studies.

Features and benefits of Turnitin

The school is using Turnitin to educate Bishop’s boys about plagiarism. Teachers guide them on how Turnitin can be used to generate similarity reports while teaching them the necessary skills to cite their assignments correctly. Alongside this, the programme is guiding them through research processes, internet research skills, and the ethics around plagiarism.

Feedback from Bishops

“We are about to get our Grade 12 boys to submit their final LO assignments through Turnitin and have no doubt that the benefits of Turnitin will become very apparent to both boys and teachers alike. We believe that we would be doing our boys an injustice by not introducing them to Turnitin before university and feel obliged to equip them properly for their tertiary education.”

Ultimately, Turnitin is about more than plagiarism. Through a process of constant feedback, Turnitin helps improve writing skills, while fostering critical thinking skills and creative writing skills. As a result, students gain confidence in their authentic writing style, equipping them for their future.

Find out more here.

 

Are our schools preparing our learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The 1st of December marks the start of a quick countdown to the end of the year. For the Matrics of 2018, it also means the start of a new beginning. As Matric exam papers are being marked, many are waiting for the results to see where the next year will take them. While others already know where and what they will be studying, barring a big dip in their marks, many have no idea what they will do tomorrow. But the burning question is, are the learners of today prepared for what their future holds? Have they learnt the necessary skills to be prepared for the 4th Industrial revolution and the new skills and challenges the workplace would bring?

Key to the 4th Industrial Revolution is the reality that the youth of today will no longer start a career path and grow in one role. In fact, futurists predict that roles will change regularly. With automation and robotics redefining the need for humans in the workplace, individuals will have to adjust and find manners to be of value – in ways that machines cannot.

Graham Brown-Martin, the author of Learning {Re}imagined, explains that there are three key areas where humans are, and always will be, superior to machines. These key characteristics include creative endeavours, social interaction and physical dexterity & mobility. The question, therefore, is whether our schools are preparing our youth to apply these key characteristics in the workplace one day, along with the digital skills needed to face the future. This seems far removed from the rigid schooling system where the testing of knowledge is based on one-way learning and repetition.

According to Glenn Gillis, MD of Sea Monster, our schools have been using the right buzzwords when it comes to preparing South Africa for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  But in reality, where a large percentage of schools do not even have access to basic sanitary facilities, it is difficult to see how these schools will have the tools to achieve what is needed.

It is quite evident that great changes are needed to improve our Education system so that we can have learners who leave matric with the skills they need to face the future. Starting with bridging the gap between schools, but even more so changing perspectives on what teaching means.

As Mr Gillis explains, it is teaching and learning that is unique to humans too. It is the personal nature of the interaction between teacher and learner – where a teacher can speak to a learner’s talents, encourage his/her strengths and skills and adjust to a learner’s unique learning needs. In his book Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler states that, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.

Perhaps what we need to understand most of the role our schools need to play in preparing learners for the future, is the importance of developing their emotional intelligence. Shaping their minds to understand how to acquire new skills and apply these skills, how to solve problems creatively and how to unlearn or relearn when they need to.

Sources:

https://www.weforum.org/about/jobs-and-the-fourth-industrial-revolution

https://medium.com/learning-re-imagined/education-and-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-cd6bcd7256a3

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2018-11-26-sas-education-system-needs-a-radical-overhaul-for-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/?utm_source=homepagify

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How dashboards help you – one decision at a time

In 2018 data is worth gold. Data is the key to making informed decisions, instead of going with your gut only, we now have statistics and information that can guide our most important goals and plans for the future. This is especially true for higher education institutions. But data is only valuable when analysed. Otherwise, it is just a series of meaningless numbers and letters.

So why do some institutions still not harness the data they collect to make the most optimal decisions? The answer is simple – processes! No matter how seamlessly data is collected, if information systems do not have processes that automate data interpretation, analytics and reporting remains cumbersome and often avoided or reduced to underwhelming results. This is where dashboards come in…they literally can help you one decision at a time.

Dashboards are nothing more than data visualisation tools. But when customised and configured to show the data, metrics or Key Performance Indicators you need, they become so much more!

One source

Dashboards combine all data into one source of information.  Rather than trying to pull up information from 100s of different exported spreadsheets, with the right information system and dashboard you have the ability to integrate different data sheets and analyse trends. What this means in practice, is that compiling reports has suddenly become easier and more efficient at the same time. Looking through high volumes of data on spreadsheets and trying to find trends to report on could take months, but now you can use dashboards to pull together information and spot trends within a shorter space of time.

On real-time

Dashboards do not have to wait for you to instruct on pulling reports. You can schedule for daily reports to be compiled and visualise data for you. Regular reports mean you stay in touch with real-time information. This not only saves you time but minimises the chance for human error when it comes to making decisions.

It’s in the details

With spreadsheets, it is challenging to set up filters so that you can effectively drill down to underlying information. With layers and layers of complex data, you may be relieved to find that dashboards can work from one detailed layer at a time. Choose how much detail you want to see at a time and pinpoint if and why any data looks strange.

In short, if your institution has evolved to using Information Management Systems, but you do not have configurable dashboards that help you visualise your information – it is time to change. No matter what system you are using, dashboards could save you time, money and ultimately can make the difference in how accurately you interpret and apply the data at hand.

Academia SIS offers a Student Information System with dynamic, adaptable dashboards that can be configured to suit your analytic needs.

Contact us for innovative technological solutions that enable your institution to excel.

How to streamline your examination processes

Exams are stressful for students! But probably even more so for lecturers and staff members.  For examinations to run smoothly, there are processes that need to be followed. Several channels of communication are pulled into these processes, and ultimately, there should be a central point where these processes are managed. If any of the links in the chain is broken, examinations will be disrupted. An automated examination process can streamline examination management, ensuring efficient processes.

Student Information Systems like Academia SIS, offer an examination module that covers all the activities relevant to examination management. It covers the enrollment process, examination forms, eases the processing of results and even prints out certificates. With analytical features, the examination module also generates statistical reports. The module helps with setting up an exam table too and allows for the creation of test papers and even handles logistics like allocating invigilators to specific exams and venues.

The best part of Academia’s examination module is that it is not an isolated feature. As this is part of the SIS, the module links to the student database, which means it becomes seamless to pull up any information regarding the student. Simply by filling out an identification number on the enrolment form, examination results are directly connected to the student’s profile.

This module offers a  systemic workflow for managing examinations from start to finish. It literally offers help from pre-examination setup to assessment and marks to pulling up different reports.

 

Image Source: Academia ERP – Examination Management Module

When your examination processes are automated, you streamline all functions, saving you time and energy. It also reduces the need to duplicate work and prevents errors. The automation process allows you to monitor a student’s progress more efficiently, which improves learning outcomes. Through simplifying the exam process, there are less manual processes, as well as less paper! And not only is the process simplified, but it is also more secure – with settings that authorise unique users to access certain levels, meaning sensitive information data is protected.

Interested? Contact us for a demo on the Academia’s various modules and learn how this SIS can streamline your processes.

How to prepare students for the 21st Century workplace

In 2018, we can safely say we are no longer on the brink of a technological revolution, but part of it. Known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this is the new industrial era where technologies fuse to blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. What this means for the future of today’s’ graduates is uncertain. What roles will they need to fulfil and how will their studies equip them for the unknown? 

While there is no one correct answer, there are ways to prepare today’s students for the 21st Century Workplace.  In the learning environment this would include developing the core skills students will need to adjust to the new workforce challenges, known as the four C’s: Communication (acquire the skill to explain ideas), Critical Thinking (learn how to solve problems), Creativity (applied thinking that is outside the box) and Collaboration (understanding how to work with others effectively).  

But besides developing these skills, there should be practical support for the transition from graduating to working. Jeff Selingo is an expert on the topic of preparing students for this new dynamic work working environment.  Author of the New York Times best-selling book “There is life after college,’ Jeff Sellingo was a keynote speaker at Symplicity’s CSM Symposium this year. Here he shared very specific points on how to prepare students for the 21st Century workforce. His recommendations for preparing students for jobs of the future included increasing access to employment opportunities, provision of hands-on vocational training and helping students to develop a career narrative. A more in-depth discussion of these points follows below: 

Increase accessibility to career services from the start 

“We really need, as institutions, to start treating career services as the next big student amenity. We need to treat it like we do student success and retention efforts, and spend the amount of money and effort on it that we’ve done on student retention over the last couple of years.” 

Students attend a higher education institute to get a job one day. This means it is essential that career centers at these institutions guide students toward the careers that will be fulfilling. For students to get a better idea of what type of job they would enjoy, they need to gain experience in various fields. It is also important for students to learn how to sell their strengths in the best way possible, to potential employers. Career services are the perfect resource for career guidance, resume building, internships, job opportunities, and salary expectations. If students learn to identify their needs early on in their studies, they can start making the right decisions sooner, achieving their goals faster. 

Provide hands-on vocational training

“It’s not about picking a career at that young age but it’s about exposing students to the options available to them and the pathways that lead to those jobs. That’s the key to integrating career planning from day one.” 

While a formal education will always be the main focus for higher learning institutions, it is important to expose students to multiple skills before they enter the workforce. This should not just be part of their qualification requirements, adding credits to modules to tick off, but also about gaining knowledge from real-life situations. Yes, students can follow a syllabus and complete hands-on tasks to pass, but learning from day-to-day experiences should be a stand-alone exercise with no credit awards. Career planning at an early age is extremely important, so students are exposed to what suits them and what doesn’t. 

 Help students develop their career narratives

“We need to help students craft their story so that they are able to articulate their skills and how these could transfer to a job.” 

CV’s are important, but being able to elaborate on what those bulleted items on a CV in an interview situation are crucial. Students should know how to share more about their work experiences, explain what skills they’ve developed and how they can apply those skills to the position they are applying for. A candidate should be able to tell their own personal story, explaining where they come from and where they see themselves in five years. 

Symplicity CSM can help career centers at higher institutions achieve these goals. Symplicity CSM offers the tools to connect skilled students with potential employers. It further gives departments the ability f to ‘talk’ to each other and ultimately helps students find value and relevance in their studies and increases the employment success rate of institutions.  

Want to understand how Symplicity CSM can work for your institution? Get in touch with us for a demonstration.