If you’re an elementary school teacher, high school teacher, or college professor, you probably all have one thing in common: you spend enough out-of-pocket money. Money to be sure all your students have #2 pencils. Money to keep your classroom stocked with boxes of ultra-soft tissues. So what teacher wouldn’t be 6 kinds of psyched to learn about a software that’s uniquely designed for them and absolutely free?
OpenSIS is a user-friendly, web-based student information system and management software that can be used by private, charter and public schools, colleges, universities, and other educational facilities. Comparable to Powerschool, it was ranked one of the Top 55 Open Source Apps Transforming Education for Administration and it has 4.5 out of 5 stars on SourceForge. It’s currently used by the South Carolina State Department of Education, South Plains College, and Georgia Christian University, amongst many more well known institutions. It’s latest version, 6.0, was just released this past summer.
Here are just a few reasons why you should start your next semester off with OpenSIS.
Incredible Number of Features
OpenSIS gives their commercial competitors a run for their money. Its free version comes equipped with a huge number of useful features. In addition to keeping track of contact information, medical records, attendance, schedules, goals, and grades, here are a few of the program’s capabilities that really stand out.
Polished Appearance: Nobody likes using a program that’s unrefined, clunky, lagging, or just plain ugly, especially if you plan to use it all day, everyday throughout the course of a year. OpenSIS doesn’t just have a neat and polished appearance, it has customization options so that the program looks how you want it to look. You can even remove features you don’t use for a clearer, more personalized experience.
Files: OpenSIS offers the ability to upload documents to each student’s record so that you’re not limited to just the set categories the software offers. You could add writing samples, copies of correspondences, and photos, amongst limitless other options.
Comments: In addition to being able to upload files, OpenSIS also offers a significant amount of freedom by adding a comments section to each student’s name. The comments section is broken down into segments that include the comment, the date, and the name of the person who entered the information.
Parent Portal: You can stop paying for those expensive services like EdLine. OpenSIS also includes a free portal where parents can check on their child’s grades, class rank, attendance, and disciplinary record. Parents are also able to use the portal to access the class calendar, send messages to teachers, and make changes to their own personal information.
Ripples (Pro Version Only): Ripples is an education-based social media platform. A micro-blogging service described as being similar to Twitter, it’s contained to teachers, students, parents, and members of the administration. Ripples can be used to hold conversations in real time, making it useful for implementing technology while you host discussions in the classroom, or for answering questions on homework after school.
Teacher Web Pages (Pro Version Only): The OpenSIS pro version also offers a classroom portal and teacher web page. An interactive site that can be used by teachers, students and parents, the software suggests that teachers use it to display a syllabus and supply list, post homework assignments, make announcements, and more.
Easy Com (Pro Version Only): Designed like an emergency communication device, this feature allows you to send important messages ASAP like weather alerts, school closings, class cancelations and more. You can send the messages to all subscribers, including students, parents, administrators and other teachers, or you can send them to specific groups of subscribers, like “Physics 101 9AM.” Subscribers have the option to choose which messages they want to receive, or they can opt out of messages completely.
Plenty of Support Options
OpenSIS offers multiple layers of support for its users, beginning with the “Free Support Portal” available on their website. The Free Support Portal includes information on about a hundred different topics, with questions that include everything from “How do I add/drop a student on OpenSIS?” to “How can teachers change their passwords?” Answers to these questions aren’t just written out in text. They include screenshots with markings and clear directions. Free support also includes answers to “trending questions;” however, this feature doesn’t appear to get much use.
In addition to the free, basic support, OpenSIS offers A-La-Carte support, which lets users purchase things like an hour of tech support by phone ($85), an hour of tech support with remote access ($150), and an hour of training ($150). If you want to skip the installation process and get right to work, you can also purchase the setup and configuration ($500).
For those who expect to need a lot of help throughout the year, annual support contracts are available. These contracts include additional benefits like unlimited phone and email support, access to an after-hours crisis line, and the ability to Skype the Help Desk. Plans are available at bronze, silver and gold tiers and are priced based on a consumer’s specific needs.
Because OpenSIS has a large community of users, many of whom are vocal online, new users may find that they can also receive help from the more experienced ones.
OpenSIS also offers a free multi-lingual version of the program; however it hasn’t been updated since 5.3. According to the company’s Twitter page, this version supports 49 different languages, which is the highest number of languages out of any student information systems program to date.
If you’re still unsure about whether or not OpenSIS is a good fit for your needs, you can check out their awesome demo. The developers that stand behind this product, OS4Ed, have gone out of their way to create a realistic, interactive user experience where you can test out almost all of the features available in the free version.