IT Academic Solutions

IT Solutions for Academic Institutions: Not Your Mother’s Homework Assignment

Managing education technology services today presents unique challenges best served by thoughtful leadership and wise experience.

You remember the glory days of doing school homework don’t you? When –as a college student and even in high school- your teacher sends you home with an assignment and you spend hours in the library, researching topics for that paper due on Friday – with encyclopedias? You may also have tapped your parents’ brains for some knowledge, right? Well … in today’s classroom, students still get homework, they still ask their parents for help and they also have an almost outrageous amount of ways to research, investigate, experience and learn from their assignments.

And it’s all due (pun intended) to new and improved IT services for academic institutions.

IT Solutions for K-12 vs. Higher Education

When you look at the K-12 market in terms of technology in the hands of students, whether they’re five, 13 or 17 years old, schools are implementing security measures and controls to:

  • protect the student’s privacy, so no personally identifiable information gets out to improper channels
  • protect the student from being exposed to those improper channels that surround them, whether they’re using their own device or one that’s issued by the school
  • monitor the student’s use of the technology, avoiding distractions during class, such as social media, email, etc.

K-12 institutions tend to invest in the technology and issue it to students for use during the school year, then have the students return it at the end of the term, because it remains the property of the school. The devices themselves are often equipped with specific applications and are located in classrooms that give the students limited or specific access to websites and other digital resources recommended for a particular grade level, so they’re only accessing information that’s appropriate.

When you consider that a college student by most definitions of the law is considered an adult:

  • They can use whatever device they want
  • They can subscribe to services and download apps
  • They can buy software
  • They can move data to a cloud

Colleges and universities tend to exert less control than K-12 institutions, affording students the freedom of making a personal investment in technology rather than a university investment. In the more focused, vocational-type academia that use e-learning environments, oftentimes the student is issued a laptop equipped with a curriculum as opposed to issuing a stack of books; however, the laptop is considered a tool that the student owns, takes care of and decides whether to keep or sell when they graduate.

Generally, security measures that protect personal identity and health information are the norm, such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations for students in med school and FRPA (Faculty Report of Professional Activity) and other federal laws that apply to information availability through the college environment.

The Technology Sweet Spot for Schools

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Many schools are realizing that a student’s success is influenced most significantly during the middle school years. This is where schools are investing in technology for support, launching programs that give their middle school students every opportunity to explore new ways to look at and consume information, and to be creative. This is happening in both public and private schools, across demographics. If the school administration has the funding to continue this support into the high school years, they greenlight it.

What’s In The Budget?

For schools and institutions of higher learning, an investment in and support of technology is typically a portion of the overall operating budget, vying for dollars along with facilities, staff, training and more. For instance, if a school has not invested in hardware in a while, the need to plan and prepare for a refresh of end user computing moves to the top of the priority list.

If they’ve been on a good refresh cycle with their technology within three years, the next technology priority becomes the data center:

  • How are their servers working?
  • Have they completely virtualized?
  • Have they consolidated to the maximum amount capable?
  • Can they get better return on their investment for their servers?

Once the data center is optimized, they often look at the state of their network. With the increasing use of WiFi, expectations of both the student body and faculty are high –they’re not just connecting a laptop anymore, they’re also connecting a tablet, a phone, an X-Box or a PlayStation in their apartment or dorm- and it’s a much more dense wireless environment. The need to upgrade a network past the one-to-one relationship is something schools are grappling with right now.

The Advantage of Academic Advisory Boards

Enterprising members of the IT services community will sit on a software company’s or an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partner’s academic advisory board, helping to construct programs, and licensing programs in particular, that would meet the needs of the academic market in terms of budgetary requirements while providing the majority of students with access to leading-edge tools.

In turn, many colleges and universities have customer advisory boards that focus on developing fundraising strategies for their technology needs, so that they are prepared for students to learn using technology rather than more traditional classroom environments. Oftentimes, a school’s need goes far beyond what the budget allows, thus necessitating a search for donation-based funding a new facility or data center or hardware or faculty training, which can result in a complete change in the way they deliver education to their students. An IT services board member can convey feedback from the market on future products and program development, potential benefactors as well as any operational challenges that may be inhibiting success.

Choosing an IT Partner

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The academic market can be especially competitive. Schools, colleges and universities are vying for customers –otherwise known as students- just as fiercely as other types of business. They want to know what’s working for their competition and how to make their product –otherwise known as education- attractive to the decision-makers: students and their parents.

Choosing a partner with expansive experience in education technology services is a value, especially to those who are new to education; partners who will investigate a comprehensive line of questioning such as:

  • How do you manage software deployment as well as ownership, management and eventual retrieval for a student, faculty or staff member?
  • Where do you draw the line between the institution’s devices and the student’s devices?
  • How do you manage security across those gaps?

The answers to these types of questions will drive the types of services developed specially for a school’s inherent need. If you are interested in learning more about customized education technology services, and how they can benefit your learning institution, call Bell Techlogix as 888-612-8261.