Not so long ago, technology at school meant weekly IT lessons, held in suites full of desktop computers. Today, this is almost a thing of the past. Technology isn't just a single lesson, it's a tool to support learning and engagement across all subjects, from science to French. Educational institutions need a fleet of capable, light mobile devices that support students throughout their day. But with technology innovation moving faster than ever, schools face the challenge of providing their students and staff with up-to-date technology on continually strained budgets. We look at three strategies schools are taking to make this possible.
BYOD schemes buoyed
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the policy of letting employees bring their own laptops into the office, hasn't gained the traction in business environments that was initially anticipated. However, it's an increasingly popular scheme in schools, allowing children to have access to more up to date tech regardless of tight budgets. Typically, parents will contribute towards a device when a student starts secondary school, with the pupil then using the device at home and at school. The technology vendor will then provide insurance, support and warranty for the scheme.
The approach is popular with parents who would be planning to provide their children with a laptop at home anyway, as the school shares some of the financial and practical burden.
However, it's important to consider the security implications of having devices running outside the school network, at home, where there's unlikely to be similarly robust network and web security. Many schools look to devices with in-built security capabilities which can allow IT administrators to ensure robust security standards and observability outside the school's firewalls.
Sweating technology assets
A few years ago, most schools refreshed their IT estates every two to three years, purchasing from amongst the cheapest devices available to keep initial outlay low, while still ensuring students had access to now essential technology. The approach appeals at the point of purchase but often results in higher total cost of ownership (TCO), due to poor reliability and excessive performance overhead. The entry level specifications and poor durability often force schools to replace these devices after just a couple of years.
Today, many schools are adopting a more forward-looking strategy. By buying higher-spec, more reliable and capable computers, they're able to go four to five years between refresh cycles. Performance jumps between CPU and SSD generations have lessened over the past few years, making forking out for high-end devices more appealing, while the reduced device turnover and failure rates also bring environmental benefits.
School IT budgets are tight, which makes it all the more important to think long-term and resist the temptation to skimp on quality. Schools should opt for a technology partner who can provide them with the reliability and quality that ensures investments see the best return in the long run. The accompanying support agreement is almost as important as the device itself. Reliability policies and full-service support availability are key to providing peace of mind should something go wrong and reveal the partner's level of faith in their own devices.
Cloud > product specs
Cloud computing is set to disrupt this current transition to more capable devices. Within the next 18 months we'll likely see the cloud-first strategy employed by many businesses begin to trickle down to the education space. There is still a strong case for plumping for high-end specs today, but that won't be the case further down the line as more computing workloads are offloaded onto the cloud.
With reduced demand on local hardware, there will no longer be a need for high-spec, expensive computers. Input devices, displays, and network technology will be prioritised over CPU and SSD speeds, as even lower end processors become ‘good enough' for education needs. Schools will eventually divert their budget away from on-premises devices towards the cloud-based subscription services that will host their learning activities.
An education in agility
The emerging trend from entry-level to high-end devices, and back again, highlights the need for schools to be agile in their approach to their purchasing decisions and IT strategies, in order to best allocate their limited budgets. Just as the best approach five years ago hasn't stood the test of time, so too will the next few years see another change in schools' tech investment strategies.
However, schools can guard against rapid technology change by selecting a partner who can adjust as they do, staying one step ahead of market needs to ensure budget is invested as smartly as possible - in what's needed both today and tomorrow.
Sponsored by Dynabook . Dynabook offers a range of partner schemes and devices to fit every school's needs, supporting their access to the latest technology despite budget limitations.