Education has always leaned on the technology and tools available at the time. Candle-lit projectors were once a classroom innovation, and personal computers used to be a $20,000 luxury that most people didn’t own. What was previously only found in schools and businesses is now widely affordable. Tablets and smartphones have become commonplace, while 92% of households have at least one type of computer. Technology has been a major factor in modern education, creating a new era for school IT.
Staff and students alike are now integrating more devices into their workflow and daily lives. Higher mixed-use situations have led to more IT challenges, as different compatibility, device specs, and usage conditions can cause unexpected issues. As a result, the role and cost of school IT has also continued to grow. Since it’s become a vital part of a stable learning environment, schools are leaning on their IT teams to support them in more ways.
Most schools are offering remote education options, which has created new challenges with cybersecurity. Students can access digital classrooms through many different devices, none of which are guaranteed to be secure off campus. As of August 2022, nearly 80% of malware encounters happened to the education industry. In a distant second, only 9.5% occurred in retail and consumer goods.
While students and staff can take steps like two-factor authentication, those are reliant on the user. For younger students especially, good cybersecurity habits aren’t something that can be taught or understood overnight. That has shifted the cybersecurity burden onto school staff and their IT teams, where different methods can help:
- IT compliance
- Next-generation firewalls (NGFW)
- Threat monitoring
- Email protection
- Spam filtering
- Ransomware protection
- Staff cybersecurity training
As with any type of security, nothing is fully guaranteed. Cyber threats will continue to adapt, making data and system defense an ongoing battle. Schools can maintain a mixture of cybersecurity strategies, track potential threats, and minimize the chance of a costly breach by having an adaptable IT staff.
The covid-19 pandemic gave school districts insight into what large-scale remote learning would look like. Not only is a computer used for doing basic homework tasks, but it can also act as a portable classroom with online video chat, collaboration tools, and easy access to teaching staff. During a survey period of 12 weeks during mid-2020, 99% of households reported that classes were being taught remotely or changed in some other way. While schools have shifted back to in-person courses, the role of technology has completely changed.
Most school districts maintain remote learning capabilities even if they aren’t actively used. School IT teams are heavily involved with keeping those systems up-to-date and functional by troubleshooting any issues. Students can access course information or reach out to a teacher during non-school hours due to having a stable online infrastructure. Some teachers still offer online homework submission, which is convenient for the student and reduces the chance of an assignment being misplaced.
On-Demand IT Support
With so many interconnecting parts of an online school environment, the complexity of problems is also increasing. Some issues are broader or easier to fix, while others are so specific they might impact only one student in a particular device at a certain location. It requires experienced and specialized IT staff to handle every type of scenario. Failure to solve these issues often leads to negative consequences for staff or students.
That’s why school IT support has become a core part of education. Whether using an in-house team or outsourced support, having a contact line will give everyone easy access to experts who are involved with the IT infrastructure. Regardless of the need, the less time people spend on IT issues, the more time they can focus on what’s important: education.
Budget limits have long been one of the greatest obstacles for schools. The solution is not as simple as asking teachers to take on more students or increasing funding through new local taxes. Large classrooms can be more difficult to manage, providing less individualized attention and leading to lower student achievement. Tax increases can secure extra funds but can be a burden on the community and don’t guarantee efficient spending. That’s left school districts looking at other areas to trim costs without asking for more money or reducing the quality of education.
Maintaining an in-house IT team can be expensive and inefficient.
However, on-call availability is often necessary as issues can be frequent, unpredictable, and vary in size. Since IT needs are rarely static, the flexibility of IT outsourcing offers a lot of value. Outsourced services can scale with day-to-day needs, offering schools a lower base cost compared to traditional in-house teams.
Technology is another area school IT teams can help with budgeting. A broad range of ed-tech options can vary in price, features, and overall value. Without proper planning and knowledge, it’s easy to waste money through unneeded purchases, getting the wrong specs, replacing equipment too early, or poor integration. An experienced IT team can assess the needs of a school and develop an upgrade plan to help them get the most out of a limited budget.
Technology usage continues to change over time. With ed-tech usage nearly tripling compared to 2017, school IT continues to be a key part of supporting education. New threats have led to a greater need for cybersecurity, while flexible IT teams allow for quicker responses. Budgets may continue to run tight, but there are many strategies to help keep costs down without sacrificing education quality. Remote learning has also given a glimpse into a digital future where teachers can interact with their classrooms over long distances.
IT needs have also continued to grow in other industries as the 2021 MSP market value reached $161 billion in the U.S. alone. Even though IT supports schools in many essential ways, it doesn’t have to be a money sink, either. Managed service providers like ITonDemand offer school IT support with flexible capabilities, allowing school districts to get the best value for handling their day-to-day IT challenges.