School Administration Software for Smaller Language Schools
Dec 23, 2008 E-Learning/CALL 2263 Views
Common situation for all language schools world-wide
The involved organizational tasks of a language school are manifold and time-consuming. Many operational procedures, which are relevant for an accurate organization of a language vacation, already happen before the participants arrive. For this, a smooth and often international communication with the involved business partners is crucial: New bookings must be confirmed within agreed periods of time, booking changes must be documented and considered, invoices must be created and accommodation must be selected and confirmed in time. Finally, the participants' airport pick-up must be organized for their arrival day. All these issues are taken for granted from a professional language school.
Large vs. small language schools
Larger schools with their own IT-departments have school administration software in place. These systems support precisely the business processes of a language school and thus enable time and cost savings, next to an improved customer service. However, smaller (often privately owned) schools have little experience and many times only small budgets to introduce administration software in their schools.
But in particular for small schools the following is important: The need to consider administration staff as a limited resource and to use it as efficiently as possible is a challenge that does not -- and will not -- go away.
So what to do?
Make a check-list.
First you should analyze the business processes of your company. Dedicate some time to it and it will be well worth it. The following questions should be analyzed:
- What is the daily workload of my staff?
- Which of their activities are mainly routine jobs such as answering enquiries, writing confirmation letters, certificates or invoices?
- How much time does my staff spend per day on it?
- Could anything be automated and how much time would we then save?
- Do we check data consistency for all bookings?
- Are all operational procedures concerning a booking always recognized and fulfilled on time?
- Whenever an action has to be made or booking information has been changed, do we have a system in place to inform the responsible employee about it?
- Do we have standardized documents for communication with external business partners in place?
- Do my employees have a daily-updated "to-do-list" for bookings which require their attention?
- How do we monitor confirmation deadlines for booking on an ongoing basis?
These questions should have a high priority for every school administrator. Apart from the time and cost savings by reducing the workload of the employees, a professional software solution has a direct influence on the reputation of the school (besides academic matters).
The biggest challenge
The problem is that many administrators have never worked with school software before and therefore have never experienced the advantages behind those systems. Some believe that having MS Word and MS Excel is sufficient and just continue living with the difficulties and disadvantages of manually creating all documents on a daily basis.
The trick is to explore what kind of software is available for small and medium-sized schools. Introducing automatic work-flows within your school will get your investment back since your work will become easier with fewer mistakes, faster and in the end the customer service and the school's reputation will improve.
Here are a few things to get you started
Firstly, regard the introduction of school administration software as a strategy to increase productivity and improve customer satisfaction. It is not about just installing software. It means that you need to dedicate time to it and analyze your business processes. What areas would you like to see becoming more efficient and productive?
The best way is to start with the processing of bookings and the communication with partner agencies. Imagine a system where you enter a new booking and the system monitors the entire life-cycle of this booking. It tells you when to confirm the booking, checks data consistency at all times and prepares all necessary documents automatically. All relevant booking information is stored centrally and just a mouse-click away. Imagine how much time you or your staff would save, if the booking process is automated?
Next, you should consider whether you want to have additional functionalities included. Are the automatic and correct creation of invoices and the monitoring of payment of concern to you? Would you like to give your students access to their personal information via the internet before they arrive? Should the system prepare management statistics for you? This list is just to give you a small taste of what modern software can already provide. In the end you need to decide what kind of system is most beneficial to you.
Having a clear picture of what you want is crucial for the introduction of school administration software. A good advice is to do it step-by-step. Try to define mile-stones. For example start with the introduction of the booking engine first, then test it to see if it meets your requirements. Experience the benefits. Once you are convinced you can always add additional functionalities. This strategy enables you to start with a much smaller investment in the beginning and you will see results much sooner.
And finally, define your budget for IT and use it wisely. Consider all costs which will be involved. The purchase of software is only one part. Do not forget that the system must be maintained and you must train your employees to use it correctly and efficiently. My experience in 10 years of IT consulting is that most companies underestimate these costs and there is also one key factor for a successful introduction: Introducing new software means that the school management must have a clear picture of what they want, and should be involved from the beginning.