6 Questions to Ask When Choosing Higher Ed Software

January 18, 2023

Purchasing academic software for your institution is a big decision, one that will impact your students and staff for years to come. Asking the right questions can save many headaches down the road and help you to better compare your options. Here are a few important questions to get you started as a savvy software buyer.

How easy is the migration process?

There are many moving pieces to a software migration. How long will the build out take? Will it require my staff to do any data entry? Is there a start-up fee? How involved do we need to be in the process? When choosing a software supplier, it is important to consider if the migration will require a major lift from your staff. When you choose a provider with a free build-out and content migration, the process is quite painless. Clean Catalog, for instance, can launch a new catalog site within 6 weeks and allows your staff to be only as involved as they’d like to be.

Can the software be customized to meet our specific needs?

No two higher ed institutions are alike, meaning they each come with their own set of pain points and needs when it comes to academic software. Unfortunately, many big name platforms treat their software as one-size-fits all. Finding a software provider that offers free unlimited customizations, both functionally and design-wise, will result in a better end product.

Is there an API integration?

Your institution likely uses a combination of different software offerings, such as a LMS, SIS, scheduling platform, and more. When you introduce a new piece of software to your arsenal, it’s important that it integrates well with your existing platforms. This is where API comes in. API essentially allows one piece of software to communicate and sync with your other software, eliminating the need for double data entry. When choosing software for your course catalog, curriculum, or syllabi, software with API capabilities will save your staff many admin hours.

Does the software meet modern web standards?

Migrating to new software is a big commitment and you want to be sure your new software is savvy enough that it won’t be outdated in just a few years. For starters, your software should have load times well under 1 second, be easily navigated, and have responsive site designs to fit all screen sizes. Your site should also be widely accessible and fully WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. This will not only benefit the students accessing your site, but will help meet requirements for accreditation and boost SEO (search engine optimization). Finally, your site content should adhere to SEO best practices to ensure it is visible on search engines and easily found online.

What security features are in place?

As your IT team knows, security should always be a priority when choosing software, never an afterthought. At a minimum, any software platform you choose should have SSL (Single Sign-On) and HTTPS across all pages or catalogs. Your provider should also be releasing security updates on a regular basis to protect against ever-evolving security threats online. Granular permissions and two-factor authentication are other security features that are helpful in preventing any staff accounts from being compromised. A great rule of thumb is to loop in your IT team to address security concerns and ensure any potential software provider can meet those needs.

What support will our team be offered?

At every step of the process, your platform provider should offer tech support and be available to field questions as your staff navigates the new software. Be sure your provider won’t go MIA after your new catalog or curriculum site launches, but instead considers themself a partner in your institution’s long term success. Ask whether training demos will be offered for your staff and how much tech support you will receive after launching. Ensuring your provider offers ongoing support will be a key to your catalog’s success.

To learn more about how top academic software providers compare, check out this course catalog comparison guide. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions about Clean Catalog software or would like to schedule a live demo to learn more.