Before you make any purchasing decisions on Classroom Management Software there are some questions you will have to ask yourself.
- What is your Initial and Ongoing budget?
- How to choose your classroom management software?
- What is your Reason for buying?
- What type of License will you need?
- What are the Technical Requirements?
- What Teacher Training is required
- What Support and Maintenance do you need?
- How will you run your pilot?
For a full list of features of Classroom Management Software look at the article What is Classroom Management Software to understand what it is before reading the rest of this article.
Initial and Ongoing Budget
It is easy to be impressed by the latest software but be careful on the up front and ongoing costs. Depending on the licensing model you choose above you may also have have a once off purchase with no ongoing fees or you may opt for a lower cost yearly renewal.
They may also ask if you want a support and maintenance contract included which we will talk about below. Always ask if there are any other fees and charges you should be aware of like foreign currency conversion or tax.
Choosing the software
When I am reviewing the software to choose I always take them all for a test drive and make sure the stake holders get to use it. At the end of the day the teachers will be using it daily and so will the students.
The IT department will also have to maintain it so you will want their two cents worth especially about the technical requirements below. Due to the nature of Classroom Management software you will either have to use virtual machines or have multiple devices for your test drive. You can ask your IT department what they have for you to demo the products on.
Reason for Buying
Before any purchase I always ask myself the following two questions. What real value will it add in the classroom? What is my personal real reason I want the software? It is very easy to get sold on the hype or just because you want the latest tech gadget or software but at the end of the day does it support your teaching in a way that it makes it easier, quicker or better for the teacher and students?
A quick talking sales person can often have you purchasing something you don’t know how to implement or use that sits in the corner of a training room or breaks shortly after the purchase. Do your due diligence and if you can’t be objective ask a friend or colleague.
With all the software above you will be asked how you would like to license which means you will need to know how you are going to use the software. Each supplier has different licensing models from a basic seat based version to a class and site license. Is the license based on named seats where you have to actually attribute a license to the physical person using the license or is it a shared pool of licenses.
Are you required to install a license server on your network or is it a fair use policy. Are you required to submit to license audits? The best thing is to always go in with a trial and see how effective the software is, how much support you get, and whether your teachers and students use it.
Once the trial is over then you can make the final decision on how you will then use it and which license suits you the best.
What are the IT requirements for you to install the software? This is often forgotten when purchasing and knowing whether your current IT infrastructure can support this purchase at the scale you wish to use it is very important.
This step often requires someone with the knowledge of your IT infrastructure or and IT staff member to be involved. Classroom Management Software requires a lot of network bandwidth depending on how you will use it. The most bandwidth heavy task is video streaming and screen sharing from one computer to multiple devices. Understanding the amount of network bandwidth you will need for this is very important.
Also how you will isolate this traffic into sub nets is also extremely important. Network bandwidth is just like sending water down a pipe and deciding on whether your pipes are big enough. The water in our scenario is the data we will be sending.
The sub nets are basically grouping computers together and making sure that the data in class room 1 stays only in class room 1. This is why you will need someone with some basic IT skills for these requirements. It is also why I always suggest a pilot of a single class prior to using it across your school, campus, institute or business.
While the student tools are quite straight forward and a quick example by a teacher should suffice. The initial training for your teachers and showing them exactly how you would like the software to be used is very important.
This should be broken down into a technical sessions where an E-Learning package or online training videos or webex is attended and then a procedural session with how you would like the software used in the class and what reporting you would like is done. You can run these with your own staff or with the support of the supplier.
They will often throw this in for free depending on what type of license and seats you purchase. Finally you may also need a Technical session for your IT staff to understand the back end of the software and what IT resources it will need and how to install and maintain the software as well.
Support and Maintenance
In an ideal world the software should be easy enough to use that you don’t need a support and maintenance contract but that is often not the case. Some of the common questions you need to ask about these contracts are.
Are upgrades part of this support contract and how will they be implemented? What are the hours of the support desk and how do I reach them to submit a case? What is the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the support desk and what is the escalation process? What is the renewal period and process?
Keep in mind that the support and maintenance contract is there for you to use so encourage your teachers to use it when stuck and make it easy for them to do so. Don’t just hide it away in your IT department as you are paying for it and you should use it and this is another pathway for your teachers to learn about the product. It also takes pressure off your IT teams.
Running a Pilot
A pilot is not the guy at the front of the plane. In IT jargon it is the trial classroom or initial install where you test to see if the software you have chosen is going to work at promised. Never buy a whole site license without doing a pilot of the software first.
And don’t use your most technically minded teacher, instead use the least technical teacher and class and see if it works for you. Be brutal and try and break it and don’t forget to test it with a full class size. This will test your computer infrastructure to see if it will handle the load.
I always have a chat with the IT guy and let him know you may need to call on him for some support as you are running your first classroom session.