Everything you want to know about integrating Student Information Systems + Apple

Managing sensitive student data shouldn’t be an exercise in reinventing the wheel or a security incident waiting to happen. With Student Information Systems, educational organizations can centrally and securely manage and update this data while connecting with Apple School Manager to extend functionality to automate essential education management processes.

March 10 2023 by

Jesus Vigo

Student sitting at a desk surrounded by large card catalogs

All industries use management systems to centralize storing and updating information critical to their products, customers or processes. The education sector is no different in this respect, leaning on centralized database software, called Student Information Systems, or SIS for short, to contain copious amounts of data that make up student records that are frequently updated and follow each student throughout their education journey.

While incredibly useful for keeping track of changes to student records, SIS may also be leveraged to integrate with Apple School Manager (ASM) to streamline device assignments, such as:

  • 1:1 iPad deployment
  • Automate the creation of student/teacher classes
  • Synchronize classroom schedules
  • Facilitate connectivity with Apple Schoolwork
  • Enable communication with teacher devices

Before we dive into how to successfully integrate SIS and ASM, let’s define what exactly SIS is and how it works, along with a summary of some of the more useful versions available to simplify setup with your Apple ecosystem.

What is a student information system?

As touched upon prior, student information systems manage many forms of student data – ranging in sensitivity from public to private and possibly even regulated information – all data that is tied to the student’s record established from the day they are first enrolled.

This data is centralized, and the repository is accessed, updated and aggregated over the tenure of the student’s enrollment at that school. Larger school districts rely upon more robust SIS software so that student record management occurs independently from the school, instead, it is holistically managed by the school district, permitting records to follow the students as they transition from grade to grade and school to school while ensuring data is kept secure and compliant with regulations.

What does a student information system do?

SIS is the culmination of student records. Effectively including any information relevant to the students themselves. For example, personal information such as the student’s birthdate, social security number (in the US), home address, parent or guardian information and pertinent contact details are typically contained within their records.

From a scholarly perspective, any or all of the following bits of information may usually be found as part of the student’s ongoing record within the SIS:

  • Grade level
  • School(s) attended
  • Teachers assigned
  • Current class schedule
  • Course transcripts
  • Grades earned
  • Extracurricular activities participation
  • Testing or assessment scores
  • Attendance tracking
  • Medical information shared with the school
  • Varying exceptionalities
  • Individualized education plans (IEP)
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Other notable information used to address specific student needs

While certainly not exhaustive, the list above represents many of the crucial data bits that may be included within the student’s individual record and managed by the institution’s SIS software in order to provide the highest level of education to each student.

What are the most popular student information systems?

As with most technology-based tools, there are a plethora of choices when deciding on a student information system. A school-based assessment that itemizes their requirements and “nice to have” features is always a good step to take before conducting research on various products or moving forward to the trial phase.

The best product will ultimately be the solution that meets the needs of the institution in the most ways. In addendum to this, let’s not forget critical requirements that your solution may need to meet, such as:

  • scaling to meet the size and scope of your school or district
  • compliance with state, regional and/or national regulations
  • functionality and capability, like enterprise-level integration

With respect to the last bullet point above, individual schools may find a particular feature to be a steadfast requirement, such as the ability for SIS to also function as a Learning Management System (LMS), while school districts may instead rely on a separate solution to fulfill their LMS needs, instead placing greater weight on the interoperability of the SIS and how it can perform in concert with other mission-critical solutions to automate functions or SLA-based support for the product.

Recently, Gartner conducted a review of the best-of-breed SIS solutions for the K-12 sector. They considered a number of features and functionality to determine a rating for each product. Additionally, Gartner not only ranks the findings based on its research but also provides reviews from users to add color to how the solutions are defined.

How to connect Apple School Manager with SIS?

Connecting your instance of Apple School Manager to your institution’s SIS database is a fairly straightforward process. While the process is mostly the same across solutions, some require data to be downloaded from your SIS as specially formatted files which are then uploaded to Apple Schools Manager. Others rely on their Application Programming Interface (API) to securely import this data to ASM in a more integrated manner.

Depending on the support level of your SIS solution, one or more options may be available in order to more fully control access to sensitive student data or streamline the automation of the import process. Thankfully, Apple provides excellent documentation to aid you in connecting your student information system to Apple School Manager.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the supported features available to integrate Apple School Manager with your student information system, review the respective section contained within the Apple School Manager User Guide for the latest information and a detailed walkthrough on establishing a direct connection between ASM and your SIS solution.

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