New Cloud-Based Solution Provides Advanced Integration of Student Information, Gradebook, Learning Management and Analytics Systems for K12 Schools
Jupiter Ed announced today Jupiter iO, a next-generation all-in-one cloud solution that encompasses the company’s existing product line. The new solution leverages the company’s ongoing investment in its highly affordable, scalable and reliable cloud-based solutions for the K12 market.
Cloud solutions are allowing IT departments to adjust their strategies away from cumbersome, site-based disparate technology architectures to integrated, cloud-based solutions. Jupiter iO was built from the ground up for the cloud. Jupiter iO integrates the Student Information System, Learning Management System, Gradebook, and Data Analytics for K12 schools. These combined technologies give schools a turn-key total solution, unlike most solutions currently on the market that require schools to install different applications on different servers then try to integrate them together. “We are blown away. Jupiter iO addresses everything we needed and then some in one solution,” commented Steven Rubenstein, Beverly Hills Unified Schools, Beverly Hills, California.
— Glenn Kory
Creekside Middle School, CA
Schools spend months trying to find the best software for their needs — drafting a Request For Proposals (RFP), carefully evaluating several vendors, and watching hours of sales presentations. But in spite of all this careful scrutiny, schools are often surprised to find so many shortcomings in the software after they’ve made their purchase
Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona did a complete RFP review in 2008 and selected CrossPointe SIS. Although they evaluated each vendor thoroughly, it was only after they purchased and implemented the new system that they discovered it did not meet all the functional requirements as claimed. So the district sued CrossPointe for breach of contract, and implemented their 2nd choice SIS, reinstalling everything and retraining their whole staff.1
Ceres High School District in California thoroughly reviewed four SIS’s in 2007 and selected Infinite Campus. Yet once they purchased and implemented it, they discovered so many glitches and shortcomings that within a month most staff were wishing they could go back to their old system.
Modesto City Schools in California upgraded to PowerSchool SIS in 2010. The choice was made by administrators after a thorough review. But the teachers found it “frustrating” and “not intuitive”, and some refused to use it. Their tech staff had to spend overtime helping teachers one-on-one.2
Over the years, we’ve seen many RFP’s for SIS’s and gradebooks from school districts all over the country. Surprisingly, they make mostly the same mistakes. Here are six tips to ensure you really know what you’re getting:
1. Evaluate Specific Tasks
Sales pitches are cleverly designed to hide the weaknesses of the software, so don’t be a passive observer. Instead, prepare a list of specific tasks for each vendor to demonstrate. This may be based on the features required by your RFP, but put the focus more on tasks than features. Choose tasks that are usually repetitive or tedious, for both teachers and administrators. (Like learning objectives, the tasks should start with a verb.) Prepare a score sheet and a rubric scale for your evaluators to fill out during the demonstration, for example:
During the sales demonstration, take charge. Ask the vendor to demonstrate each task one by one in order, so your evaluators can fill out their score sheets. If you miss something, ask the vendor to repeat it.
2. Do a Hands-On Evaluation
Even after a thorough sales demonstration, there are still some things you need to try for yourself. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first, so do the same for your software. Ask your finalist vendors to provide you free trial accounts. (If they resist, they’re hiding something!) Prepare a score sheet to evaluate the “feel” of the software — the ease of use, navigation, and responsiveness. See the example below.
Also look for bugs! You’d think that such expensive software would be flawless, but surprisingly even the leading brands have major glitches. The sales rep will conceal those during the demo, so that’s why a hands-on evaluation is so important. If you find something wrong, contact the vendor for technical support, to see if it’s a bug or just an incorrect setting. That also let’s you evaluate the quality of their support.
3. Include End Users
The majority of end users for SIS’s and gradebooks are teachers, and yet most selection committees have only one or two token teachers, or none at all! Of course you mean well for your teachers, and maybe you were a teacher yourself in the past. But someone who must use the software everyday will surely notice more critical differences that you might overlook.
Understandably, teachers don’t have much time to sit on RFP committees, so at the very least, include teachers to evaluate the sales demos and hands-on trials. Ideally you should include 6 to 10 teachers to get a reliable representation. If you have too few teachers, their votes will have little effect, and they may feel outnumbered by non-users. We find that schools who include many teachers in their selection process are happiest with their decision, and when teachers are not well represented, administrators are forced to defend their decision.
4. Stick to What You Know
Why should nontechnical people have an equal say in evaluating your technical requirements? Your IT staff probably resent that. And likewise, why should the IT staff get to evaluate what features are useful for teachers and administrators? You’ll get much more reliable results if everyone stays in their own area of expertise:
1. Only IT staff should score the technical requirements.
2. Only Administrators should score the features for admins.
3. Only Teachers should score the features for teachers.
Also we recommend you weight all three areas — like 40% technical requirements, 30% admin features, 30% gradebook features — rather than just a sum of everyone’s scores. That helps compensate if there are too few teachers, etc.
5. Normalize Your Scores
When calculating the total score for each vendor based on the scores from each evaluator, don’t use a simple average. The problem we see often is that one evaluator will use a much wider score range, like 31 to 96, while everyone else’s range is more modest, like 62 to 85. A simple average effectively lets the one extremist outshout everyone else, since their range is maybe three times larger than everyone else’s.
The solution is to normalize everyone’s scores, i.e., to stretch their scores so their lowest is 0 and their highest is 100, so everyone has the same range. For example, if an evaluator has a range from 31 to 96, subtract 31 from all his/her scores. Now the highest score is 65, so multiply all his/her scores by 100/65. Do the same for each evaluator this way.
An alternative approach is to convert everyone’s scores to ranks, like 1st through 6th choice, then average the ranks, like an average rank of 2.3. (The disadvantage, however, is that you lose the relative differences, so that it doesn’t matter if two vendors are nearly tied for 1st and 2nd while all the rest are far behind.)
6. Include IT in Total Cost of Ownership
The time your IT staff spends supporting the software usually costs much more than the software itself, so be sure to count your IT salaries in the Total Cost of Ownership. For example, many districts hire a full-time IT person to run an SIS in their data center. Assuming their loaded salary is $70,000, and your district has 2,000 students, you would be spending $35 per student per year. The SIS itself typically costs $5 to $12 per student per year.
Don’t assume all software products require the same level of IT support and training. For example, if you’re comparing both cloud-hosted and on-site software, districts typically spend 1.0 FTE of IT time for an on-site system, but only 0.1 FTE for cloud-hosted. Assuming a loaded salary of $70,000, that’s a difference of $63,000 per year, or $189,000 over a three-year contract.
Even if you don’t expect to hire more IT staff, your new software will still take their time away from other responsibilities, so be sure to add IT time to your Total Cost of Ownership.
Use our FREE calculator to see your Total Cost of Ownership.
Who is Jupiter Ed? Jupiter Ed is the #1 web hosted grade book. We provide the TOTAL solution for a complete end-to-end solution. From LMS-to Gradebook-to SIS, Jupiter Ed has you covered. Jupiter Ed is the answer schools are looking for right now for the flipped classroom.
Check it out and let us know what you think.