Pennsylvania District Finds Modern Technology in New SIS

Cumberland Valley School District
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Case Studies > Pennsylvania District Finds Modern Technology in New SIS

New solution allows Cumberland Valley School District to enjoy self-paced training, integration, and customization.

In a fast-paced world where the possibilities of technology are ever-increasing, being stuck with outdated software can hinder results.

Cumberland Valley School District in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, about two hours west of Philadelphia, was faced with an obsolete SIS that was holding their district back.

Chris Smith, the director of technology and innovation at Cumberland Valley School District, oversaw much of the district’s move to a new SIS that aligned better with their long-term district goals, such as bringing their student-related data up to date and within one centralized location. That SIS turned out to be Skyward’s Qmlativ Education Management System.

"Prioritization allowed us to set realistic expectations on where staff were in the grand scheme of the implementation process."

Out with the old, in with the new

Prior to implementing Skyward, Cumberland Valley struggled with an antiquated system that had limited usability.

“The design was clunky and not very user-friendly,” said Smith.

Particularly, this system’s database wasn’t interactive or customizable, and the district didn’t have direct access to their database and couldn’t use their data in any functional way. There was also no online form function, which the district desperately needed.

Additionally, training staff on the old system was very difficult.

“A lot of hand-holding had to take place,” said Smith. “There was nothing self-paced.”

When the district started looking for a new SIS, finding software that managed their district’s changing needs was top of mind. District leaders knew they needed a system that was easy to learn, worked well with other systems, and was customizable. This is where Qmlativ stood out and became the system of choice for the district.

Staff involvement: key to success

The district’s goal was to have their new software in use by the 2019-2020 school year. The process for implementing Qmlativ at Cumberland Valley took about two years to get everything up and running.

Along with support from Skyward, the district organized the process by creating different stakeholder groups by job role, with specific actions for each group. By breaking up groups this way, group leaders took charge to get their sections up to speed, rather than leaving one person to do everything.

“Secretaries were leading other secretaries and so forth, instead of me telling them about my expectations from the backend,” said Smith. “We had detailed roll-out plans with expectations for our staff. Tasks were split into ‘required’ and ‘recommended,’ which we still continue today.”

To manage stakeholder expectations further, the district weighted which needs were highest priority and which ones would need to wait for updates.

“Prioritization allowed us to set realistic expectations on where staff were in the grand scheme of the implementation process,” said Smith.

The district also used tools within Skyward to train staff.

“The Professional Development Center was the most valuable resource for training our staff,” said Smith. “The ability to customize training to your job description and learn on your own time was essential, especially with our large staff count and amount of staff role changes.”

Additionally, staff were given early access to the Qmlativ training database, allowing them to go in and play with the system even before it was fully implemented.

“As for teaching staff, they had the opportunity to use the PDC on their own time, or attend face-to-face training held at our district,” said Smith.

Once all staff were trained in Qmlativ, the district was ready to start taking advantage of some of Qmlativ’s key features.

"Our goal was to have a system serve as a one-stop-shop for all of our student-related data."

Playing nice with other systems

When Cumberland Valley was looking for a new SIS, they knew they wanted a system that integrated well with others.

“Our goal was to have a system serve as a one-stop-shop for all of our student-related data,” said Smith.

Ultimately, the plan at Cumberland Valley was to implement universal applications and software that all district stakeholders could use. Since Qmlativ integrates with over 50 business partners, the district wanted to make the most of this opportunity.

“We learned that we could move more and more processes into Skyward, which improves our workflow with staff,” said Smith.

When asked what the most important quality of education technology is today, Smith stated that interoperability is key.

“No one software will be able to have everything that you need, so playing nice with others is key,” said Smith. “Furthermore, users need to be able to choose those other systems, rather than being given a short list of possibilities.”

In the future, Cumberland Valley looks forward to integrating as many systems into Qmlativ as possible.

“We currently have 18 integrated systems, and are looking forward to adding even more,” said Smith.

Your software, your way

In today’s world, nearly everything from your cellphone screen to your shoelaces can be customized. So, why is edtech often a one-size-fits-all approach? According to Smith, the district’s overall favorite feature of Qmlativ, which they were missing in their previous software, is the customization ability.

“The customization that we have with Qmlativ is fantastic,” said Smith. “The ability to create custom fields and insert them in multiple places gives us a lot more control.”

Although customization was something that the district knew they wanted when looking for a new SIS, Cumberland Valley was blown away by the options available in Qmlativ.

“We ended up customizing our system more than we originally thought, especially when gathering information from our stakeholders,” said Smith. “In addition, manipulating data and not having to export everything as a report or spreadsheet to use it is substantial.”

While Cumberland Valley is pleased with their Qmlativ system, some district users have requested feature upgrades to make it more user-friendly for their job duties. Although Cumberland Valley plans on continuing to update their system, they are pleased with the work-arounds available in the meantime.

“Even if Qmlativ doesn’t have a specific solution to that need, we can add custom fields to make it as close as possible, which has been beneficial,” said Smith. “For example, we would love to include the phonetic spelling of kids’ names someday, but it can be added as a custom field for parents to fill out for now,” explained Smith.

"The customization that we have with Qmlativ is fantastic!"

In the future, Cumberland Valley looks forward to making their Qmlativ system even more of an all-inclusive area for their student-related data.

“We look forward to more customization and third-party implementation opportunities,” said Smith. “We will gather as many products as we can to work with Qmlativ.”

District leaders also look forward to continuing to train staff in the PDC and creating online forms with Qmlativ to avoid multiple form types.

For other districts considering the switch to Qmlativ, Smith recommends being strategic and making sure that district leaders leave enough time to implement the software.

“You’re not going to be able to implement all of the features you want all at once, so giving yourself enough time to plan out what you really need in the beginning is important,” said Smith. “Although you won’t get everything you want immediately, plan and expect those additional features to come in the future. Be sure to keep stakeholders updated as well.”

Once implemented, Smith suggests taking the time to explore other features that you don’t have yet in your system, being sure to think about what you are missing in your district and what could be added or addressed later.

“Implementing Qmlativ is a huge lift,” said Smith. “It’s a big undertaking— and don’t go into it thinking otherwise— but it is worth the effort to get the things you want in your software.”

Additionally, Smith advises tapping Skyward’s user base for support, even for areas where you thought it might not exist.

“One thing that we found to be of tremendous value about Skyward was the large user base that they have across the country,” said Smith. “Between state user groups and the national user conference, there are a ton of opportunities for networking, solving problems, discovering new features, and more.”

“Overall, we are very pleased with our Qmlativ system and are looking forward to additional positive experiences.”

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