Learning Analytics

SIS Review: Aspen – Great for Large School Systems

My first review of various SISes is that of Aspen by Follett.  When Highlands Community Charter School recently was looking to switch to a new SIS, Aspen was in our top 3 choices, and only barely lost out to PowerSchool.  During our review process, I had the chance to look at a sandbox system (demo) of their product for about a week, and we asked a lot of questions to their sales rep, Dylan Holcomb.   As a matter of disclosure, I should note that Dylan was a friend from high school, but I think this review is fairly objective, as there are clearly things I don’t like about the product, along with many things I really like.  I have written about Aspen previously also.

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Thought of the Day: “Probability theory is telling us something about the way our own minds operate”

I have started to read the book Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, by the late E. T. Jaynes.  From what I understand so far, I think there is a high plausibility that it will help me have a more unified and deeper understanding of probability (and hence statistics).   In reading the preface, he makes some interesting observations about probability and human thinking, and it seems quite apropos, and relevant to the recent advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, such as the recent match of Go.

A quote from the book that particularly struck me was the following:

… it is clear that probability theory is telling us something about the way our own minds operate when we form intuitive judgments, of which we may not have been consciously aware. Some may feel uncomfortable at these revelations; others may see in them useful tools for psychological, sociological, or legal research.

My Review of the Aspen SIS from Follett based Upon a Short Demo

Yesterday, I saw a demo of the Aspen SIS from Follett.  For full disclosure, Dylan Holcomb, the Sales Consultant who came out, was a friend of mine from high school, but honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be an SIS that we would be interested in, especially because the price tag is high for the size of school that Highlands Community Charter currently is.  But, after seeing how Aspen works, and how they addressed my blog article about the 3 features that SIS providers are missing, it is on our school’s radar as a potential. Here is a quick review of what I was impressed with, and what things I still think they could do better.

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Three Missing Features in Most Student Information Systems (SIS)

There is a paradox:  Humanity’s most developed organizations and systems are based upon what is learned in our education systems; yet, the field of education lags behind nearly all others.  One such area I have seen, is how feature-poor Student Information Systems (SIS) are.  Despite such systems being case studies in many database books, most of these systems do not use any data science methods to improve operations.  Specifically, I have usually not seen active security, predictive analytics, nor even resource optimization as features.  Here is why these are important to have, and my invitation for SIS providers to come into the 21st century.

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