Digitalization in schools and educational institutions has been neglected. This was made very clear by the Corona pandemic and the home schooling that accompanied it. From one moment to the next, classes had to go digital: Assignments were emailed, discussions were held via videoconferencing, and completed homework had to be uploaded to a school server. So digitalization in the classroom had to be done in a rush, which left its mark. Quite a few students, parents and teachers have felt overwhelmed and have criticized the inadequate technical equipment at schools.
In Germany, the federal and state governments are in the process of making 500 million euros available for school digitalization as part of the DigitalPakt Schule. So far, the budget has been used to provide students who did not have a laptop with one at home. In order to continue using the budget efficiently, digitalization concepts are to be developed.
So, what exactly can be done to successfully drive digitalization in schools and better support students in home schooling? The following five tips will help on the way to a digitalized school.
1. Train staff, make specialists available.
The supervision of technology in schools is criticized in many cases. Often, one teacher takes care of IT in parallel with teaching and is not at all able to cover all needs. Schools can contain over 1,000 students and should therefore have an IT environment that is akin to a business’. The CIO’s job should not be done on the side, but should be done full-time by a trained person in order to create effective and professional structures.
2. Conduct current state and needs analysis among students, parents and teachers
Before making new purchases related to IT, an analysis should first be conducted among students, teachers and parents. What goals do they have with regard to the use of technology? What exactly are their needs? What already works well, and where are the weak points? How savvy are the students, teachers and parents with regard to IT? And most importantly, how well equipped are they at home?
3. Defining IT support services
Based on the analysis, a strategy tailored to user needs should be created, including hiring specialist staff and determining appropriate tools for providing support. All processes should be planned in accordance with ITIL. ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library and is a framework for implementing ITSM (IT Service Management).
A strategy tailored to user needs should be created, including hiring specialist staff and determining appropriate tools for providing support.
4. Finding a suitable ITSM solution
To provide students, parents and teachers with fast and efficient support while home schooling, ITSM solutions should be carefully selected and include the following components:
- Cloud-based: If the solution is cloud-based – that is, provided as rental software and managed in external data centers – everyone can easily access it from anywhere. It also eliminates a lot of internal man hours as hosting and maintenance of the software is handled by the service provider.
- The ability to create custom notifications (tickets) keeps things running smoothly on all sides and keeps both help desk staff and users up-to-date. Students, parents, and teachers can quickly see when their request can be resolved with one click into the system.
- Multiple communication channels (multi-channel) such as email, chat, phone, social media, etc. ensure that everyone can choose their preferred communication channel – based on age and preferences – and that communication with IT support is seamless.
- In the self-service portal, students, parents and teachers can get information on how to solve simple problems themselves without having to contact IT. This is a good learning experience and motivates students when they can solve a problem themselves. FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) and a knowledge base also provide good initial support.
5. Security should be a top priority when it comes to digitalization in schools.
IT security not only plays a role in companies where money is at stake. In schools and educational institutions, data is also sensitive and should be given the highest level of protection. That’s why the security aspect should play a key role in selecting the right system.
Schools, just like companies, must comply with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and high penalties are handed out if they violate the regulation. Therefore, compliance with the GDPR should be a mandatory criterion in the selection process. With regard to IT security, certain criteria should also be considered, for example, the manufacturer should provide regular updates so that no security gaps occur.
6. Training for users
The best ITSM solution is only efficient if everyone can use it. After a decision has been made in favor of a solution, it is worthwhile to provide comprehensive communication to students, parents and teachers as well as training for all users. In a joint training session, the IT specialist can do a live demo, have training tasks solved and answer any questions.
An incentive to go full throttle for digitalization could also be prizes awarded to schools, such as the Fischer Group of Companies offers the Martin Gerbert High School. The partnership allows the school to host virtual events in which student-led projects are guided by professionals which motivates the students and is a lot of fun. Here, at least, there was a good substitute for the face-to-face meetings that were not allowed to take place due to the pandemic.
And which school will receive the next digitalization award? Hopefully all of them sooner rather than later. What questions do you have about brining digitalization and ITSM into the classroom?