For years, Elizabethton High School, located in northeastern Tennessee, endured a strenuous course request process for students. With limited staff to process 845 student course requests and staff having additional responsibilities, scheduling courses for students became a time-consuming and difficult process.
The high school relied on a scheduling process that involved school counselors distributing paper registration packets, registrars hand entering the information that came back, and finally recording all the students’ course numbers. Teresa Simcox, student information and data analyst at Elizabethton City Schools, experienced the inefficiencies and cumbersome work processes firsthand. “When you do anything manually, you know you’re going to have errors. Combine that with our school counselors being part-time testing coordinators and student advisers, our process for course requests was not ideal.”
As a district customer since 2014, Elizabethton High School decided to adopt Skyward’s Online Course Requests, a feature that was available within the Student Management Suite they had previously implemented. With Online Course Requests, student registration times decreased significantly, allowing staff to focus on other areas to drive student success.
"BEING ABLE TO USE THE ONLINE COURSE REQUESTS SAVED US A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF TIME."
As Elizabethton High School grew familiar with Skyward’s Online Course Requests feature, they began registering students online for the 2016-2017 school year. “Being able to use the Online Course Requests saved us a tremendous amount of time,” Simcox said. In fact, after implementing Skyward’s course requests feature, the staff’s greatest time commitment for registration was simply meeting incoming freshman and their families to communicate the requirements students needed to meet in four years and answer possible questions. Using Skyward allowed staff to enroll almost 70 freshman students at a time, freeing up valuable minutes for in-person meetings. “We really knocked it out,” explained Simcox.
Meanwhile, staff enrolled upperclassmen during school hours. According to Simcox, each grade consisted of
roughly 180 students, and with Online Course Requests, it took no more than three days to enroll an entire grade. Surprisingly, Elizabethton High School could have cut down even more of their enrollment time if they had full access to the room where they finalized classes with students. Overall, the initial results were promising. “I’d say we saved two months,” Simcox estimated. “It worked very, very well.”
Beyond improved efficiency, Elizabethton High School also benefited from increased student engagement. “Students were really interested in their planning,” explained Simcox. “They took a lot of pride and ownership in what they were going to be doing. It put them on an adult level in terms of making important decisions.”
Similarly, parents became more involved in the scheduling process. Considering only 20%
of U.S. parents are fully engaged with their child’s school, Elizabethton High School readily welcomed the positive changes the Online Course Requests produced. “It created a lot of awareness and interest in helping get their child on the right path toward a career,” Simcox said. “It seemed very important to them to have the time to sit down and help their kids.” Thanks to the online scheduling successes, Simcox acknowledged that parents have been increasingly supportive of the district’s transition to an online solution, alleviating concerns of future buy-in from their key stakeholders.
"THIS IS THE EASIEST YEAR I'VE HAD IN THE LAST 19 YEARS."
In addition, staff have been able to free up time for other tasks thanks to the efficiency Skyward has brought to their jobs. “It just couldn’t be any better. I mean the hours and hours of working nights, sometimes staying up until midnight entering requests in the past... It’s just a major timesaver, it’s unbelievable,” said Simcox. The efficiency and convenience of Skyward’s solution have greatly enhanced Elizabethton City Schools’ processes. “I just think Skyward was created to make your life easier. It does excellent reporting and it’s easy to use,” Simcox stated. “It makes your job a lot easier when you don’t have to fight with the program about your data.”
Overall, Elizabethton High School can sum up the experience of transitioning to Online Course Requests as a great success. Thanks to such a positive experience, Elizabethton City Schools is attempting to spread the word to other districts. Simcox believes that generating awareness about their own successes can help save districts from the long, inefficient processes Elizabethton High School once braved. “You have some counselors [in other schools] that still call their students into the office and pull out their four-year plan and sit there one-on-one and hand enter each kid,” said Simcox.
“Now, in two weeks we can have 845 students with their requests in.” Simcox would give districts considering a move to Skyward simple advice. “It would be the best decision they ever made,” Simcox stated. “I told Skyward’s CEO Cliff King this is the easiest year I’ve had in the last 19 years. All the information is in the program, it seamlessly transfers to the state, and all of my numbers work out just fine.”
With a seamless online course requests process in place, Elizabethton High School transformed the way parents and students engage with the school, eased the jobs of their staff, and optimized the efficiency of administrative processes.
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