4 Ways School IT Can Support Education

4 Ways School IT Can Support Education

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.

Cybersecurity

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.

Remote Learning

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.

Smart Budgeting

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.

Closing

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.

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Is Outsourced IT Right for Your School District?

Is Outsourced IT Right for Your School District?

Classrooms have continued to digitize, and teaching methods have evolved along with them. Teachers can give lessons online, eBooks make studying portable, and software changes how students learn. As technology plays a growing role, 81% of teachers, 88% of principals, and 92% of administrators agree that digital learning tools provide great value to classrooms. Yet, 65% of administrators discontinued some learning tools due to a lack of student improvements.

Since effectiveness can vary, the impact of digitization depends on many factors. An analysis by McKinsey & Company suggests that teachers using technology lead to higher PISA scores than those who don’t. Students using the same devices saw the largest benefit from data projectors and internet-connected computers. In contrast, student tablet usage in classrooms resulted in scores declining.

That shows that technology is helpful for teachers, and some can benefit students too. To meet those needs, IT has become a core component in keeping classrooms connected digitally. With growing demands and limited budgets, school districts have been seeking the help of outsourced IT companies.

Losing Time to IT Issues

Many people tolerate IT issues throughout their day. Small things can add up over time, whether it’s a printer with an unstable network connection or software that responds slowly. On average, workers spend 22 minutes a day on IT-related issues, which can lead to a loss of over 90 hours a year. The impact on students is not well-studied. However, as technology is integrated into their workflow, IT problems can also disrupt their learning process.

Knowing When to Outsource IT

Many school districts operate on notoriously tight budgets. They rely on federal and state funding, local property taxes, tuition, and other means. As of 2019, 46.8% of contributions for public schools came from state governments. Another 45.4% came from local sources. Factors like inflation, the housing market, student populations, and staff hiring can also influence how far that goes.

Due to less predictable elements, school boards are often frugal with spending. That ensures funding doesn’t run out. That means resources are prioritized in the highest-need areas. Predicting future expenses isn’t easy, though. Staff complaints are a common sign of underlying IT issues, but that doesn’t always provide a tangible problem or solution.

To help, many IT outsourcing companies can provide an IT consultation as a starting point. Rather than relying on word-of-mouth, a specialist can do an objective analysis with practical input. They can also advise on impactful ways to use a limited budget and help discover wasted expenses. That gives schools an informed perspective on whether they would benefit from more IT services.

How Outsourced IT Can Help School Districts

Cost Savings: In-house IT teams are often left waiting for issues while being paid for their availability. Even though having on-call IT staff is helpful, it’s not always cost-effective for school districts. Outsourced IT makes specialists available on demand and at a lower cost. That frees up additional funding for other critical needs.

Helpdesk Support: An IT team is available as needed through a helpdesk. They can often fix quick requests through simple troubleshooting or virtual access to the device. When using a local provider, the company can send a specialist to help if they can’t solve it remotely.

Productivity: Dealing with routine IT issues can be stressful and distracting. Even if people are willing to tolerate them, it can make staff less efficient and unhappy. With students relying on technology, too, it can also impact their class performance.

Scalability: IT problems are rarely one-size-fits-all. That means the response needed to react to each issue can vary greatly. Something small may require only one person an hour or two. But, a disaster might need an entire team to pull an all-nighter to have it fixed by morning. Outsourced IT teams have larger staff pools to work with, allowing them to meet problems of any size.

Remote Learning: Most schools are now offering remote learning options. Doing so helps maintain a stable learning environment when students cannot attend in person. As such, it’s created extra device needs, network capabilities, and teacher skillsets.

IT Compliance: School districts manage valuable student data. That ranges from recordkeeping to personal identifying information. Maintaining IT compliance is essential to keeping student and staff data safe. It also helps prevent districts from legal and financial consequences from mishandling.

Staff Training: A learning curve comes with new software, hardware, or policy changes. IT companies can give simple training guides, one-sheets, FAQS, and other resources to help smooth the process. Besides solving IT problems, helpdesk support can also answer routine user questions.

Technology Upgrades: There are many aspects to how upgrades are handled. Upgrading too soon can waste money, while waiting too long can lead to lost productivity. The goal is to find a balance between affordable cost and long-term reliability. As experts in the field, an outsourced IT company can help with that process.

Choosing The Right Outsourced IT Company

It’s important to be thoughtful when choosing an outsourced IT company. Before reaching out, it’s worth preparing a list of questions to ensure they align with the scale and needs. Here are some examples of what to ask:

  • How much experience do you have with schools?
  • Do you provide both on-site and remote IT services?
  • What kind of IT compliance are you qualified to handle?
  • Is fully outsourced IT an offered service?
  • During what hours is the helpdesk available?
  • Do you offer any guarantees for your IT services?
  • What kind of cybersecurity can be implemented?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have enough staff to serve our needs?
  • Can the cost of services be aligned with a set budget?

Corporate websites can answer many questions, but direct contact is usually the best way to get more information. Doing so can provide insight into their services, give an initial cost estimate, and may include some early suggestions.

Closing

Even though students and teachers are embracing digitization, there are still many challenges. School districts must integrate different systems, software, devices, and accounts seamlessly. The transition has created a different learning culture and offers many advantages through convenience.

Teaching strategies will continue to change as some older methods don’t translate to a digital setting. IT trends are constantly changing, too, with the adaptive learning market projected to reach $9 billion by 2028. As schools try different mixes of learning tools and teaching strategies, technologies will better cater to the needs of each student.

To take on those challenges, finding the right technology partner is essential. Companies like ITonDemand offer fully outsourced IT services, giving them the flexibility to meet the daily challenges of running a school district. They can also share insight into proven solutions that have worked for other schools. With demanding needs and strict guidelines, outsourcing is a great way to get the most IT services and value out of a limited budget.

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