Beginning in 2015, Collingwood’s leadership identified a need to upgrade its student information system in order to meet the increasing demands of its staff, students, and parents. Veracross provided solutions to increase both admin and user experience.
About Collingwood School
A coeducational day school located on two campuses in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Collingwood’s innovative approach to teaching and learning utilizes a “Four Strand” approach — academics, athletics, arts, and service — to deliver a collaborative, relevant, and pioneering education as it prepares graduates to join the global community as critical thinkers who are resilient, socially conscious, and prepared to make the most of their opportunities.
Beginning in 2015, Collingwood’s leadership identified a need to upgrade its student information system (SIS) in order to meet the increasing demands of its staff, students,and parents. The school understood the user experience of their current SIS was negatively impacting their ability to pursue their mission and identified issues in the following areas with their existing SIS provider:
- Parent Relations: The SIS did not provide online payment processing and would not sync records across academic, billing, and advancement software, resulting in inaccurate demographic information sent to parents and antiquated financial interactions with the school. Collingwood had built an intranet to communicate with their families, and while this home-grown portal was effective, it was entirely reliant on the internal talent of a programmer on staff and was not a sustainable solution.
- Admissions and Marketing: The SIS did not have an integrated marketing solution for the admissions office, with all enrollment and recruitment data kept in spreadsheets. This meant that the admissions team had to manually enter information into their SIS once students were accepted.
- It/Internal Operations: The SIS charged extra for services beyond the “base” package.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, Collingwood committed to a yearlong exploratory process to identify a new SIS that would serve the school’s needs. Led by Strategic Specialist Maria Trolese and Director of Technology Dylan Tetrault, the Collingwood team began the task of identifying, evaluating, vetting, and, ultimately, choosing a new SIS. In a crowded marketplace, price point often serves as the differentiator for schools choosing an SIS provider. Though cost would ultimately be a factor in the final decision, Collingwood’s board of trustees charged the exploratory team to carefully evaluate each SIS based on merit.
In order to holistically explore the most effective SIS provider, Collingwood’s exploratory team expanded to include representatives from admissions, communications, advancement, student billing/finance, teaching faculty from both junior and upper schools, and IT. They were individuals who “lived” in the SIS system, not simply the heads of each department.
The committee launched the following process to find their new SIS provider:
- Generate list of comprehensive “needs” and “wants” from each department
- Craft an RFP and engage four providers (Blackbaud K12, PowerSchool, Veracross, and a small, local provider called MySchool)
- Develop a standard evaluation form based on RFP demands
- Using sandbox environments provided by each SIS, experiment as different users with varying workflows
- Divide into two subcommittees to evaluate academic (LMS, scheduling, grading, and student records) and business (admissions, communications, advancement, and finance/student billing) aspects of each system
- Talk with references for each product
- Review and synthesize findings into a comprehensive report
- Present two finalists and their cost-blind findings to the board of trustees and senior leadership
- Make the final decision based on recommendations from the committee
The Veracross Solution
When Collingwood School chose Veracross as their new SIS provider, they prioritized findings to their original pain points: customer service, integration, and the user experience. Veracross was the only SIS that ultimately met and exceeded the needs of each department.
The entire Veracross business model operates within a framework of service. Each customer interaction funnels through their technical support team or a dedicated account manager, resulting in lasting relationships and a deep working knowledge of each school’s unique challenges. As Collingwood researched references for each SIS provider, they quickly found satisfied Veracross customers around the globe. With a 97% customer retention rate, Veracross not only serves its customers but seeks to learn from them as well. In a software market too often driven by cost-reduction and shareholder profits, Veracross has a customer-centric business model.
We believe in our product, but we would be foolish to think our product is perfect. That is why we so deeply value the relationships we develop with our customers. They are the best R&D team we could ask for. They let us know what works, what could be improved, and how we need to evolve. We are nimble enough to be able to listen to our customers and then work to improve our product accordingly. The trust we develop through this process is invaluable to both parties.
The Collingwood Perspective
The long-term relationship we have the opportunity to build with our account manager, Austin, is more than simply customer service; it is as if we have a new team member in our IT Department. The time Austin spends troubleshooting, brainstorming, and helping us maximize our use of Veracross is a value-add to Collingwood we never could have anticipated. He knows our school unlike any vendor has ever cared to know our school.
Veracross knows that talking about integration and actually integrating data are not the same. As Collingwood explored each SIS provider’s integration claims, they quickly realized the difference between superficial integration and a truly integrated service. The Veracross solution allows all departments within the school to access and leverage the same data. Knowing the complexity of independent schools and varying needs required of each department, Veracross developed a dynamic interface allowing users to access data needed with a click of a button. During the exploratory cost analysis, Collingwood found that despite Veracross’ higher upfront price, the strong data integration actually saved schools money over time.
We take pride in the seamless integration of data within our software and in our ability to integrate with third party providers. Whether it is through Magnus Health, Finalsite, or any of the dozen other providers who share an API with us, our goal remains the same: reduce barriers to data access for our schools. We believe it is our responsibility to ensure you have access to the information you want, when and how you want it.
A family’s investment in an independent school often represents a tremendous financial outlay, second only to housing. They increasingly expect an online experience comparable to what they find with the Amazons, Apples, and Googles of the world that have elevated expectations for accessing information and making online transactions. Collingwood understood that the user experience of parents, students, and employees had a significant impact on customer satisfaction, and ultimately, customer retention. In a competitive market, schools cannot afford to compromise the customer experience and schools that choose to invest in the intuitive solution provided by Veracross ensure that they are investing in their families’ experience.
The Veracross Perspective
I consistently hear from my schools that one of the unforeseen benefits of the Veracross solution is the satisfaction of parents and students with our software. If our product can help reduce unnecessary friction between our customers (schools) and their customers (families), both parties can focus their energy on what really matters: educating young people.
The Collingwood Perspective
Whether it is signing an enrollment contract, completing a tuition payment, or interfacing with teachers, parents expect an intuitive experience that mirrors the rest of their life. Veracross provides the experience parents desire, while leveraging institutional data across departments to create a seamless interface for parents.
Veracross and Collingwood today
Collingwood transitioned to Veracross during the 2018-2019 academic year by first migrating student records, admissions, and student billing information from their legacy system. Because of time constraints, Collingwood did not transition their LMS to Veracross for the 2018-2019 school year but are in the process of building teacher task forces to adopt it for the 2020-2021 academic year.