Modern technologies and automation tools are transforming industries of every kind at a dizzying pace — and the need to adopt such innovations in K-12 has become imperative. Today, educational leaders are leaning by necessity toward tech-based adaptations to create rich, productive learning environments. A well-rounded educational experience depends on ever-changing educational technology, and that comes with its own challenges.
IT challenges for K-12 Education
In the face of a worldwide pandemic, internet-based learning has increased more than ever, both contributing to and benefiting from the trend towards 1:1 computing. EdWeek Research Center reported that according to 90% of district-level surveys, every middle and high school student was being provided with a device for educational purposes in 2021. This means that the majority of these students have at least one device that needs to be managed and accounted for by the school, in addition to any devices used by the staff.
This explosion in the volume of devices explains why strategically managing high-value IT systems in K-12 is both crucial and arduous. IT asset management (ITAM) enables you to streamline three crucial processes — procurement, deployment, and maintenance — to ensure a stable learning experience for the students, and an efficient workflow for IT staffers.
Before learning more about how ITAM can help, let’s delve deeper into the IT and Ed-tech challenges schools face:
1. Financial losses due to poor cybersecurity:
Cyber security remains a pervasive issue in schools, and breaches can trigger losses running into millions of dollars. According to K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center research, at least 348 cyber security incidents were reported by public K-12 institutions during the 2019 academic calendar year alone. Considering the rise in cyber attacks, it is crucial that devices provided to staff and students come with built-in security capabilities, or use external software that provides additional security to protect your and your students’ valuable data.
One scenario: Ransomware attackers can hold hostage a school’s central IT network, to which potentially thousands of students connect their devices, and therefore compromise not only student data but any administrative information stored on the network. It is essential that schools make an extra effort not only to implement security measures, but to nurture a safe tech culture within the school’s information ecosystem.
Enhance Network Security With a Network Discovery Agent
This is where an ITAM comes into play: ITAM tools enable efficient mobile device management through integrations with network discovery software like Jamf, Intune and Google MDM. It allows you to remotely manage students’ devices, and protect their devices from malware or other unwanted software through blacklisting. An ITAM tool is equipped with a Network Discovery Agent to fetch data from the deployed devices, help scan for malware, and tell you if the devices are updated to account for security attacks. That helps you spot security holes, and remotely wipe unwanted software.
Moreover, encryption allows you to block unauthorized access to information stored on your devices, and through ITAM, you can track whether your devices have hardware or software encryption deployed. An ITAM tool will also run antivirus scans for you, helping you build a strong wall against cyber attacks.
2. Managing Massively Deployed Chromebooks:
Chromebooks are popular in K-12 school districts, especially with the rise in remote learning, as an efficient way to collaborate in online spaces. Whenever a new school year starts, IT departments are tasked with managing the mass deployment of Chromebooks. That means tracking their possession, usage, and lifecycle — all real challenges. Complicating security management, many students use their Chromebooks off-campus, putting FERPA compliance at risk.
Automate operations through Chromebook tracking and servicing
A well-developed ITAM tool makes it convenient for you to track every aspect of Chromebook deployment while ensuring their protection against cyber attacks. If your ITAM tool is integrated with Google Endpoint Management, you can remotely manage school-owned K-12 technology, block unauthorized access to school and student accounts, and wipe data from Chromebooks or student and staff profiles. By employing an ITAM tool, you can automate these tasks, so that your IT team can better manage Google Workspace. In a matter of seconds, you can pull up data from different accounts to create a master data sheet for all deployed Chromebooks.
A well-rounded ITAM tool comes with extensive service capabilities that enable you to set up a proactive maintenance regime for your Chromebooks, too. By checking the depreciation and lifecycle of each asset, you can extract its maximum value. You can carry out maintenance events (where you start, end or schedule maintenance for an asset); you can also define the nature of maintenance with every maintenance event, such as repair, warranty or standard. You can also add vendor information, and create tickets on Zendesk as well.
3. Reduced productivity due to device mismanagement:
Numerous schools in K-12 districts do not provide Chromebooks to students which necessitates maintenance of other commonly used devices. And even if Chromebooks are central to your district, efficient management of IT devices other than Chromebooks is also key to ensuring smooth school operations. K-12 devices in widespread use include high-value, expensive equipment like Macbooks, projectors and laptops. These need timely maintenance and repair to allow for blended learning. Without an IT asset management tool, it is challenging to keep updated records of all your assets, manage their lifecycle, and analyze school investment in the system. These K-12 IT challenges can cost your school district millions of dollars.
Streamline IT Asset Management Through Maintenance
With an ITAM tool, you can analyze a school’s need for new K-12 technology, like procurement of new MacBooks due to increased school enrollment. The system will allow you to streamline your procurement process, add vendor information, create purchase orders easily, and attach compliance checklists to be followed at the time of procurement. Duplicate purchases of assets and licenses can be avoided by cross-checking with the real-time records of your IT asset management software. To cater to the needs of staff and students, IT assets can also be provided based on user roles, such as whether the user is a teacher, student or a part of the administrative staff.
Furthermore, service and maintenance of these high-end IT assets is important to prevent disruptions in operations and learning. For example, a design instructor may not be able to conduct art classes if the license of a design app unexpectedly expires. Through an IT asset management software, you can send an item for servicing, or mark an expiring license for update, and maintain service records. That makes it easy to know what assets are in maintenance, pending or active state and have been selected for recurring maintenance. Also, the user will be notified if an asset has been serviced, making it convenient to track assets lifecycle, without taking the IT team’s time. You can also attach checklists or company issued device management manuals with an asset when it is sent for servicing so that all steps are followed.
4. Time consuming to manually Sync and Backup:
K-12 school data is crucial, since records include highly sensitive information such as enrollment numbers, course material, personally identifiable information (PII), and more. Daily syncs are critical for getting updated information on your hardware assets, usage of software assets, and more. Administrators require ample online storage to successfully collaborate and manually keep all your asset information updated and recorded in one place. They may find it difficult to manually carry out syncs and backups on their own every now and then. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to regulate manual syncs on a consistent schedule.
Save costs through automated Syncs and Backups
A robust ITAM tool backs up your data periodically by connecting to your Dropbox or OneDrive. It also regularly syncs with your integrated discovery software applications to fetch updated records. This helps retrieve data in case of a cyber attack or hardware failure resulting in data loss, and keeps all important information on a consolidated platform.. You can even sync your asset reports with OneDrive, therefore, streamlining your logistical tasks.
ITAM best practices for K-12
It is the constant need of K-12 schools to adopt new technologies, and regularly update the existing software. Keeping this in mind, here are some best practices for K-12 to manage IT assets:
- Well-designed strategies: K-12 districts need to have concrete strategies to respond to the increasing use of 1:1 computing in education. Sometimes schools are under-funded, too, so you need to maintain existing technological infrastructure to maximize its value.
- Shift to cloud-based ITAM tool: Augmented by IT asset management software, K-12 operations can be accelerated and tailored to deal with the growing IT challenges. A cloud-based system not only allows your school to securely manage important data, but helps you understand and analyze the condition of your IT assets to better manage them. Being able to access data from a consolidated cloud allows school staff and administrators to quickly execute several operational tasks without a delay.
- Data syncing: Schools need to stay aware of the changing technological landscape, so newer servers and other assets can be installed to support advanced educational software. ITAM software will help you comply with the changing environment by tracking your existing software and hardware, and sync with updates as needed. Syncs help you keep all data updated and secure so that it can be accessed even offline when required.
- Improved efficiency through automation: It can be cumbersome for schools to manually manage devices like Chromebooks, large quantities of IT peripherals, and other assets. With ITAM, you can keep device information in a central repository that is accessible to only authorized users.
The cornerstone of creating a holistic learning environment today is employing tools like IT asset management software to overcome K-12 challenges. By efficiently managing hardware and software, you can save money, avoid classroom disruptions, and sustain the use of high-value school assets.