The principle’s office: Revisiting the fundamentals of IT in education

Richard Kempsey Brennan Content Writer Linkedin Profile
The principle’s office: Revisiting the fundamentals of IT in education

As technology has taken root in the classroom, so too has the infrastructure needed to support it. But are educational institutions getting the fundamental building blocks right?

Be it the abacus, the adoption of the radio in remote learning, or the pocket calculator, technology has always gone hand-in-hand with learning.

But it’s the democratisation of computers coupled with the adoption of the internet (and all the technological advancements they’ve unleashed) that have yanked education forward so far so quickly.

As modern technology has taken root in the classroom, so has the infrastructure required to support it. Even a rudimentary list of the core components – admin, communications, compliance, learning, management, security – shows just how interlinked and indispensable technology is in today’s educational settings.

With so many facets to consider, it’s vital that the key principles underpinning sound IT investments aren’t forgotten. But what are some of the elementary considerations? We take a look.

A for Always On, Always Improving

School hours and university schedules represent a small fraction of total technology availability. The core business processes are far bigger than many imagine. Choosing an experienced, responsive, and well-resourced IT operator that excels in daily service delivery is a given.

But looking beyond the baseline is where a true partner can deliver real value. Simon Keen, a Brennan IT Manager, and the Managed Services Team Lead at St. Brendan’s College in Yeppoon, explains. “A lot of what we do in the downtime, especially holidays, is not only working on the projects that keep the lights on, but developing the strategic initiatives that align with school goals. Having regular conversations with a school to work on those is integral. The environment is always evolving, and if those challenges aren’t managed, it can become a slippery slope.”

D for Data Developments

With data and analytics set to play a growing role in educational delivery, understanding how data is generated, stored, secured, and retrieved will become education’s next big challenge. “A lot of institutions that have grappled with their IT infrastructure over the past decade or so have now ticked that box,” believes Simon Keen. “Now the main focus is enhancing the teaching and learning experience to make it even more engaging for students.”

With a move to the cloud, online collaboration tools and learning management systems are gaining traction, as is a renewed focus on centralising systems to better leverage data. “Teachers armed with the right data can lead to better learning outcomes for students,” explains Simon.

It’s a view shared by Max Diamond, Brennan’s education industry advocate and Queensland State Manager. “Things like open education analytics – leveraging data to unlock student performance insights which in turn help personalised learning pathways – is a perfect example. Predictive analytics can evaluate student progress in, say, year 4, 5 and 6, then recommend the steps that need to be taken to stop them dropping off in year 7, 8, or beyond. Institutions that manage data efficiently can make really effective decisions.”

E for Expertise and Exposure

Technology proficiency is one piece of the puzzle. Understanding how technology fits into education settings is where true expertise is required. “Resourcing IT providers with educational exposure – those who understand the sector inside and out – is where superior outcomes are derived,” explains Simon. Another upside seasoned partners can bring to the table are real-world examples of where IT is being utilised well, and ideas on where to improve.

I for Integration driving Improvements

From infrastructure architecture and device management through to security and application support, schools turn to IT providers for help in managing often very disparate needs. It’s the providers who can seamlessly knit these diverse components together who will create the biggest impact for end-users.

“If I’m a teacher conducting parent-teacher interviews,” explains Max. “I want to be able to see my students’ progress over the last four years. A deeper integration of technology into these kinds of administrative tasks will continue to improve efficiencies and really reshape teaching and learning experiences.”

The upsides don’t stop with teachers. Other big integration use cases include schools looking to streamline administrative tasks, process enrolments, manage grading, and improve communication.

R for Results

Be it employment opportunities or economic improvements, educational efficacy is always pegged to societal outcomes. Gearing technology to those outcomes is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. And while emerging technologies like AI and machine learning are exciting, acquiring them without proper consideration of their role in improving classroom learning can lead to mixed student outcomes. For truly effective integration, educators should ask how technology in every form can support or increase student engagement, productivity, and learning outcomes.

S for Strategic Partnering

In contrast to the corporate world, it could be argued IT investments in education have unfolded organically. Piecemeal purchases and constrained budgets meant long-term strategic thinking was often bumped down the to-do list. But schools are now increasingly looking to change that. “They want a plan in place,” explains Simon. “And they’re looking for guidance on how to create then implement it, using input from partners with proven experience in the sector. The appetite for strategic advice is growing, and I think schools find a lot of value in that.”

U for Unique Selling Proposition

With year-12 completion rates falling, bachelor’s degree enrolments slumping, and universities struggling to remain profitable, might technology have a role to play as a drawcard? Max thinks it can. But it starts by asking the right questions: “How do you differentiate your course or university from the competition? What’s the value of a degree from a particular university when students stream most of it anyway? The need for immersive audio-visual experiences, capturing content, and serving it to students on their terms demands incredibly robust systems. But delivering it well, and consistently, can only help support the value proposition of an institution.”

The technological advances of the past 20 years have completely reshaped the educational sector and will continue to do so. But the point and purpose of education – to unleash creativity, stimulate critical thinking, and arm individuals with the skills and confidence to lead rich and productive lives – will always remain a constant. Aligning technology considerations with those principles is the lesson we can’t afford to forget.

With tried-and-true experience across the education sector, and trusted by more than 1400 companies, Brennan are Australia’s leading systems integrator and outsourced IT partner. Visit our website for more.

Join us on social

Get in touch

Tell us what you need help with, and we’ll send the right expert your way.