Chattanooga-based Skoodat on Thursday released Skoodat Village, its cloud-based student management software, to the public.
The software is designed to appeal to smaller schools that need to link students, teachers and parents together using universal metrics that can be accessed through the private, secure social network.
"With cloud computing, I see no reason why smaller education organizations should be denied the kinds of capabilities formerly available only to the big districts and universities," said Ken McElrath, educator and Skoodat CEO.
The company said that of the more than 76,000 schools with less than 30 teachers, very few can afford to install and maintain "old-school" technologies, which require server rooms, technicians and extra space.
In addition, many stand-alone server builds are closed silos, McElrath said, meaning that different schools using different measuring sticks and different technologies can evaluate the same student very differently.
Hamilton County Schools is in the process of a $250,000 upgrade to replace many of its 20 physical servers with new machines, and what could be a months-long process to transfer student data to a more simplified system, officials said.
Kirk Kelly, director of accountability and testing for Hamilton County Schools, said the system relies currently on a hodgepodge of software from Pearson, Microsoft, SAP and IBM, covering different versions that save data in different formats.
"We got a ton of stuff that we use," Kelly said.
McElrath believes that by storing data in the cloud instead of locally, it would be possible to cut back on both staff and equipment expense. Hardware upgrades are handled at server farms, and software is upgraded automatically.
"Skoodat Village is designed to help any type of education organization get started in the cloud today, and even leapfrog the big guys, many of whom are stuck with inflexible, expensive and environmentally unsustainable technologies," McElrath said.
He's so sure that the software will catch on, he's offering free trials and 80 percent discounts to most nonprofit schools at skoodat.com, he said.