How IT Automation Can Benefit Your School: Build Efficiency While Staying in Budget

IT departments in elementary and secondary schools have many challenges unique to their environments. One fundamental issue is that these districts are locally funded, and budgets rarely increase by more than a meager percentage point or two.

Despite that, changes in educational approaches and the demands of parents and tech-savvy students mean that schools are constantly pressed to adopt cutting-edge technologies.

Technology has transformed learning, and nowhere is this more evident than in the work that students produce. Even primary school students create papers in Word, craft PowerPoint presentations, Photoshop pictures, and edit videos using Final Cut.

Meanwhile, many schools issue laptops or tablets to students, teachers use digital whiteboards, and computer labs do their best to implement the latest in hardware and software – often using virtualization to do so.

The increase in device buying and implementation is so these schools can achieve the ideal — a 1-to-1 student-to-computer ratio. And IT must secure, manage, and track all of these machines.

Budgets Shrink as Work Grows

School budgets the world over are generally tight, and the United States is no exception. According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), most US states offer less money per student than they did before the recession of 2008.

“Some states are still cutting eight years after the recession took hold. These cuts weaken schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs,” the Center found.

Meanwhile The Consortium for School Networking (COSN) released a study on school spending. Less than a third of schools polled, 30%, had a budget increase. However, over half, 54%, don’t have the resources to “meet overall expectations of the school board/district leaders.”

Finally, 70% are facing static or declining IT budgets.

K-12 Technical Insight from Project RED

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) created Project RED to understand how technology is improving education.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • “Proper implementation of technology is linked to education success.
  • Properly implemented technology saves money.
  • 1-to-1 schools that properly implement technology outperform all other
  • schools, including all other 1-to-1 schools.
  • A school principal’s ability to lead is critical to the success of an implementation effort
  • Technology-transformed intervention improves learning.
  • Online collaboration increases learning productivity and student engagement.
  • Daily use of technology delivers the best return on investment (ROI)”.

These advances can’t be accomplished without commitment or funding. “Ubiquitous technology programs face difficult financial and philosophical challenges in today’s economic climate, in which superintendents and school boards must often cut programs and lay off teachers. In an era of high-stakes test scores and teacher accountability, it can be difficult to motivate teachers and administrators to move to more student-centered learning. And because the benefits of a ubiquitous educational technology program are realized over several years, many schools opt for short-term fixes and stopgap measures,” Project RED argued.

Educational IT Challenges, Including the Race to Innovate

Education IT pros face a number of challenges, according to The Center for Digital Education. Chief among them, as of 2015, are:

Top Educational IT Challenges

(According to data from The Center for Digital Education, 2015)
Hiring and retaining qualified staff
Optimizing the use of technology
Developing IT funding models
Improving student outcomes
Demonstrating the business value of IT
Increasing the capacity for managing change
Providing user support
Developing security policies for mobile and cloud
Developing an enterprise IT architecture
Balancing agility, openness, and security

Why You Need an IT Automation Revolution

Did you know that the majority of the time spent by K-12 IT pros is around administrative and low-level technology issues, i.e. grunt work? What the real IT aces would rather be doing is adding value through innovation.

The problem: K-12 IT pros have two problems – keeping all systems and the network humming along, and doing so cheaply with a tight staff. Just as important, all these systems must be secured against malware, date leakage, and hacker incursions.

The answer: Technology and bold thinking are the keys to these bogged-down computer professionals’ prayers. Here are some technologies that give education IT departments the huge efficiency gains and dramatic cost cutting they require.

  • Remote monitoring and management
  • IT Automation
  • Asset discovery
  • Managed/cloud-based security
  • Network performance
  • Network discovery, continuous
  • Ability to track assets, rationalize software licenses and save money

Acing the Security Test

One of the toughest problems, and the biggest consumer of IT time, is security.

Problem: Security in K-12 is a total Hydra, a many-headed monster to be sure. Users are ever changing, device types are many, and the varied user base can’t be expected to be expert in security. Worse, your young tech-savvy users may be the biggest threat.

And there is not nearly enough IT staff to protect the network and often need outside help. “The vast majority of K-12 districts, especially smaller districts, do not have a full-time chief security officer, so they rely heavily on their ISPs and security vendors to fill this role,” said The Center for Digital Education’s 2015 Market Forecast. “This is a critical concern, and schools are looking for more solutions in student data and privacy.”

The same study found that only 1 out of 3 educators are very confident in the state of their security.

K-12 has another unique problem – students are pretty technical, and crafty. This may be the ultimate insider threat where students hack into systems, release viruses and spyware, and steal data.

The answer: Security can’t be perfected on a manual basis. Anti-virus deployments and updates, and especially patches, must be fully automated so you are fully protected. Remediation should be automated as well.

The result? Deep protection with little money or IT time spent.

Introducing Kaseya VSA

IT automation solves the vexing issues of IT being bogged down in minutia – and more.

With IT automation software, such as Kaseya VSA, K-12 IT staffers spend a fraction of the time it would normally take to:

  • Install patches
  • Update computers
  • Produce inventories and audits of networks and devices
  • Fix problems using remote control
  • Remotely monitor and manage the network and devices
  • Manage mobile devices
  • Create and run a service desk
  • Manage backup and recovery
  • Do analytics and reporting

As you can see, automating all these functions is a massive time saver. And having devices fully up to date makes the entire network secure.

Summary and Next Steps

K-12 IT pros can take the lead on transforming how they run operations, and at the same time help revolutionize education. This groundwork can be laid with a healthy dose of IT automation.

Fine out how IT Automation works by downloading our eBook “Automate Everything – the Time-Strapped IT Pros Guide to Getting More Done”.

Then learn how Kaseya VSA can support your IT Automation revolution clicking Automate Everything – Time-Strapped IT Pro’s Guide to Getting More Done here.

dougbarney

Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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