10 Questions to ask when evaluating an Instructional Materials Product
When it comes to selecting an Instructional Materials Management system for your district, making an informed decision is crucial. To ensure that you choose the right solution that meets your district’s specific needs, it is essential to ask the right questions. These are 10 insightful questions that will guide you in evaluating an Instructional Materials Management solution, enabling you to make an informed choice that aligns perfectly with your district’s requirements. By considering these questions, you can confidently navigate the selection process and find the ideal solution that will enhance your district’s instructional materials management.
Is the solution designed specifically for the K-12 educational environment?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: A provider familiar with K-12 understands your needs and challenges and will offer you features and functionality specifically designed to match the requirements of managing print and digital instructional materials across buildings, staff members, and students. The provider should also understand administrative oversight needs, providing you with reporting capabilities across all locations so you can plan and budget for the future. Because they understand you have limited staff resources, your provider should offer specific technology to automate and improve processes to make it easy for your staff to perform their daily tasks.
Does the solution provide automated workflows to add new inventory, transfer inventory, and return surplus back to the warehouse?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: A solution designed specifically to manage instructional materials offers tailored functionality to minimize user requirements and provide efficient process transparency. This makes it easier for your staff to integrate the solution into their daily responsibilities. A solution that incorporates an inventory-by-quantity methodology, allows districts to easily add, transfer, and dispose of any number of textbooks across sites without scanning each individual item. Just think about how much time your staff could save by moving thousands of books in the application simply by clicking a single button.
What is the process to perform an inventory audit?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: When performing time-sensitive inventory audits, some instructional materials management solutions will not require each individual item be scanned to perform the audit. Scanning can be a tedious procedure that keeps districts from tracking and managing inventory with the limited time and resources available. A system that performs streamlined audits will give your district an accurate view of inventory across your schools and allow you to update instructional material records based on the audit’s results.
What warehouse capabilities does the solution offer?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: A solution that incorporates an inventory-by-quantity methodology allows a district to easily fulfill campus needs without scanning each individual item. Consider how much time your warehouse staff would save receiving a batch of new materials and distributing those to each school, by simply recording the quantity of each title. Warehouse staff can produce time-saving documentation used to identify the bin location of titles stored in the warehouse and show proof of delivery to campuses. The district office can quickly remove inventory from a campus without scanning when materials go out of adoption or in the event of campus construction or school closings.
How is inventory tracked to students/staff and is there a way to track student damages and textbook losses?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: It is critical for accountability to have the capability to identify each individual book and its current “owner” by the unique barcode number. This link means that when materials are returned, the actual “owner” is given credit even if the book was handed in by another individual.
Additionally, labeling and scanning instructional materials using unique barcodes will enable approved users to easily automate an otherwise time-consuming, manual process. This functionality will give users an accurate representation of how materials are being utilized. This functionality allows the campus to enact accountability policies for instructional materials issued to students. It also provides a comprehensive historical view of all losses recorded, charges issued, payments made, and outstanding obligations to provide clear communication to students and their parents.
Will schools have the options to track the assignment of class sets of titles to teachers by quantity?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: There are many scenarios where tracking instructional materials by a unique barcode is more of a hindrance than help. When working with class sets, as many schools do, there’s not always added value in knowing the barcode number of each book. In these cases, it is more efficient to manage inventory by quantity count assigned to a teacher, rather than by barcode number. Plus, you can transfer class sets between teachers quickly if one leaves the school district or campus.
At the district level, what inventory oversight will you have of title quantities across the district?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: Knowing exactly what instructional materials are required across your district is crucial for both student success and accurate budgeting and forecasting. Having to collect inventory data and student enrollment information from separate systems across the district makes these decisions progressively harder. A single, centralized solution that gives access to what each campus owns and enrollment information, allows you to have confidence in your purchasing decisions.
Can users create customized reports by title, school, inventory status (available, in use, lost) with excel export options?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: The ability to customize reports allows users to have complete flexibility in how they would like to view current inventory, as well as what future inventory levels look like. For true inventory process management, a solution should have the capability to provide campus specific and district-wide reports. Exporting these details to excel enables users to further customize the communication of this information.
Is it possible to link course enrollment data from the student information system with textbooks/instructional material inventory data?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: There are opportunities to increase the accuracy of inventory information accessible by district and school level staff simply by interfacing with your student information system (SIS). With accurate inventory counts and an integration with your student information system, Inventory fulfillment response times can be reduced through reporting that provides real-time student eligibility for items based on course enrollment. Each school has a clear view of what items are necessary for courses taught in their building.
Can users enter and track supplemental items (i.e. ancillary, consumables, CDs manipulative items, resource kits, calculator, etc.)?
WHY YOU WANT TO KNOW: A solution should track instructional material components, such as multi-book sets, kit components, and workbooks. Any item considered an instructional material can be managed on its own or associated with a primary title, which allows for greater oversight and individual accountability. These items can be assigned to staff and students, ordered, and audited the same way as a traditional print or digital material. In order to inform schools about how to fulfill their needs, districts can create policies indicating what a school can order as an individual item or only as a part of a set. If a solution offers the flexibility to choose whether to barcode label those items, there is also an opportunity for time and cost savings if the supplemental materials aren’t uniquely assigned to a student or teacher.
When deciding what is the best instructional materials management solution for your district, the stakes are high in terms of both money and time. While the primary objective is to foster student success, asking these 10 questions can help you ensure you chose the best solution for your district’s unique needs.