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February 13, 2018

6 min

Dr. Jessica Spallino

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Building Online Courses and a Fully Integrated SIS & LMS

Fully Integrated K-12 System from Lead Generation to Transcript Delivery

Developing a comprehensive system that delivers seamless integration from lead generation, to student enrollment and student information, to delivery of state reports and standard aligned content has been built on the foundation of a long career in the educational systems and content delivery space.

Experience in Digital Learning

As a curriculum director of a small school with the latitude to explore new learning modalities and personalized content, I was able to jump right into the latest online tools and curriculum and in some cases, be the first to implement them into our unique program. These valuable years were spent on learning about non-traditional forms of curriculum and instructional delivery, piloting them, and refining as we went.

After many years of implementing online and blended programs, utilizing a variety of new tools, curriculum, and systems, I gained additional valuable experience by working for an international curriculum company that specialized in online curriculum built for online, blended, and seat based programs. Here, I learned not only about the latest and greatest online tools, but I also learned more about the customer perspective of the product and was able to identify many different types of needs from a variety of models, perspectives, and demographics. These years heightened my awareness of the real needs of customers and what they actually need to help student be successful.

From there, I met Method Schools and Smartfox Co-founder, who had unique and sophisticated experience in educational marketing and business and together we built Method Schools and now, Smartfox. Method Schools has offered a wealth of diverse experience in building our own brand and model with failures and success on a daily basis. Through diligent work and an obsessive commitment to our vision, we’ve built unique online and blended programs that we continue to experiment with and refine.

Collaboration with a Variety of Stakeholders

Through online and experiential learning, students experience an education unlike most of it’s kind. Throughout the years, even when it has not been popular to be a charter school, we have developed hundreds of relationships with schools and districts throughout our operating regions by collaborating to serve thousands of students from the traditional school setting. This has enabled us to achieve the following:

  • Understand the needs of students beyond our usual service scope
  • Recognize the challenges schools and districts face in serving thousands of students of varied abilities and backgrounds
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders including teachers, counselors, registrars, administrators, students, and parents from hundred of schools and districts, in developing an overall system that accommodates them all
  • Receive ongoing feedback on a large scale of our internal systems, tools, and content with opportunities to refine from year to year
  • Enhance our customer service approach and awareness of the needs of all stakeholders

Our collaboration with hundreds of school and districts in serving thousands of students has been a rewarding end beneficial experience for Method Schools, but has not come without it’s set of challenges. In having to scale our lead generation, enrollment, student information, content delivery, and transcript generation systems to serve thousands of students, we ran into integration and service issues due to using different vendor platforms for each step of the process.

Pain Points of Scaling with Multiple Vendors

We were using different vendors for lead generation and enrollment, student information, and LMS and curriculum. We quickly identified four main pain points in serving thousands of students from hundreds of locations using fragmented programs. These pain points ultimately impacted all stakeholders from school’s registrar’s to students and parents:

  • Lack of program integration obstructed the ability to automate enrollment across systems and caused devastating delays in content and service delivery
  • The inability to scale became more detrimental to the organization as the awareness of our product grew and demand continued to increase
  • Insufficient creative control over the systems and content prevented us from delivering a product that was personalized for our customers’ needs
  • Inability to deliver the level of customer service we were accustomed to providing and spent most of our time compensating for issues that were out of our control

Due to these primary pain points and a growing demand for our product, we were compelled to create our own solution to the growing problem. We found ourselves in an extraordinarily unique and advantageous position to recruit substantial input and feedback through our numerous relationships with schools and districts and to develop a comprehensive system from lead generation to course delivery in order to better serve students.

Stakeholder Input

We were able to collaborate in various capacities with diverse groups of stakeholders, offering a vast range of skills, perspectives and backgrounds. Stakeholders during this ongoing process include:

  • Method Schools’ teachers, students, parents and leadership
  • Counselors, teachers, students, parents and leadership from over 200 collaborating schools
  • Experts in software development
  • Experts in curriculum writing and core subject areas

We have found that the collective feedback and input has created an overall system that is not only built for our specific customer in mind, but also built in part by those exact customers.

Applicable to a Variety of Models

Method Schools serves students within three different types of educational models: seat-based, blended, and online. The comprehensive system we have built and continue to refine successfully serves students in each model as outlined below:

  • Seat-based: Students work in the online courses while on site as part of a rotational schedule that provides an environment where students can work at their own pace and receive data-driven and personalized instructional support and extended learning opportunities
  • Blended: Students work in the online courses while on site and while at home at their own pace and receives data-driven and personalized instructional support and extended learning opportunities while on site and while at home
  • Online: Students work in the online courses while at home at their own pace and receives data-driven and personalized instructional support and extended learning opportunities virtually or may come on site for additional support

At Method Schools, we have found that our comprehensive system effectively serves students of all models and allows for ultimate customization to any educational setting. The system’s foundational functions have enabled our organization to integrate the following functionalities:

integration graphic for blog.png

This basic integration has allowed for automation and therefore an ability to scale enrollments in a way we were not able to do while relying on four different programs that did not have APIs. Our system not only allows for seamless integration internally, but includes an API and can integrate with just about any other program that has an API as well.


Once the system was built to allow for integration amongst functionalities was built, we were able to focus on enhancements to the systems for better content delivery and overall support. These enhancements include:

  • Mobile friendly across all functionalities
  • Ability to customize any functionality within the system to customize for any user setting
  • Customization of any course to suit each users’ needs
  • Creation of rich, standard based content UC and NCAA approved
  • Personalized content based on student performance
  • Enhanced tools- adaptation, mobile friendly, customization, real time
  • Integration of systems, automation, scale, personalization and customization


We continue to refine our overall system to better serve all of our stakeholders and have found that we can better serve everyone with this powerful tool. We look forward to continuing to make it as personalized and efficient as possible to impact student success and our organization’s overall growth.


To further personalize learning, check out our customizable and mobile-friendly online curriculum. Built by curriculum pros at Method Schools, we call it SmartFox. High quality, low cost, and, as mentioned, built by a school, not a vendor. In 2018, we're adding projects to our online courses. Not only will our courses be infused with projects and hands-on learning extensions, but schools can purchase and modify our online courses and add their own projects.


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