When it comes to today’s higher education institutions, adopting modern technologies has become incredibly important. Prior to the pandemic, schools, colleges, and institutions were already embracing technology solutions to deliver a higher-quality education experience to their students. Now, however, they've shifted their tech priorities to also account for offsite learning.
Although educational institutions of all kinds have shifted to online classes, they are still facing a multitude of challenges daily. When students and faculty are all logging into courses from different locations, schools inevitably have less control and they can’t do much about it.
To minimize negative impacts at your institution, you must find the right solution. This post will provide some insightful suggestions when it comes to adopting technology at schools.
We’ll discuss 6 critical tech upgrades worth considering that won't suck up your entire budget. But before we get to that, let's talk about the common challenges faced by educators.
Common Technical Challenges for Schools
Here are some of the technological challenges that are often faced by schools.
Lack of Professional Development
For teachers and lecturers willing to add new-age technology to their classrooms, there’s a lack of support for professional development that might enable them to maximize their new technology. Even tech-savvy teachers require proper training and in-product enablement to ensure that they can actually get value out of new technical systems.
Resistance to Change
Learning new technology can be daunting, which is why some teachers, administrators, and students are reluctant to learn about new technologies. Some teachers may feel that it is outside of their job descriptions to learn new tech, while administrators and students are usually skeptical that new solutions will add any value.
Different Teaching Standards
In today’s tech-driven world, lecture-and-test models of learning fail to challenge students to practice or take on informal learning. Informal learning is found more often in non-traditional classroom settings that provide an blend of didactic and interactive learning, including approaches that may embrace multimedia as part of their standard curricula.
Students Who Lack Equipment
Accessing the right tools is a basic prerequisite to be connected to the internet. This is one of the major challenges for some schools. Some students can lack the basic tools they need, which puts them at risk for falling behind their peers in digital learning environments. Some learners are also stuck using pieces of equipment that are outdated or not working properly.
When everyone is working outside the school’s usual IT systems, there are inherently more online security threats. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of organizational disorientation since the world suddenly shifted to a completely digital era. Students and staff are more vulnerable to get scammed by these criminals without proper guidance.
Failure to Deliver Formative Assessments
For educational practice and change, testing has always been an important driver, which is why teachers are sometimes perceived as “teaching for the test.” As society's view of education has changed, current testing methods have been reconsidered. The ways that new technologies enable different learning patterns have complicated matters for teachers, as they must understand them first before explaining them to their students.
Technological Challenges by Schooling Level
Teachers and students have varying needs at different levels of education.
When it comes to primary education, there are many technological devices involved. Students might need audio recording devices, printers, scientific calculators for math, or computers with advanced multimedia capabilities. However, schools are trying their best to find ways for students to access laptops and other tools like webcams, headsets, and more.
In a high school, the workload is larger and the need for internet access increases dramatically above that in elementary school. Students sometimes suffer from an inferior internet connection and lack of guidance regarding technical topics. High school is where a mid-range laptop can begin to look like a good investment for a student, as a single laptop can unify all of the smaller devices they use into one device.
Community college/trade schools
Students can typically connect to Wi-Fi nearly anywhere on campus, although community colleges occasionally experience network outages. The scenario changes, however, when students are at home. There could be multiple reasons behind tech gaps at the college level. Some students might be sharing a single connection with many roommates or family members, which could lead to poor internet speed. Some students might not be able to afford Wi-Fi in their own homes at all.
Videoconferencing technology has become a necessity as classes have started moving online. Although they have licenses, many videoconferencing tools restrict their services to a set number of users. This can create barriers for large learning groups.
Traditional four-year college
There are dedicated IT departments in colleges and universities to combat issues related to technology. But since remote learning became the norm, regular troubleshooting with students, faculty, and staff has become much harder. A small IT department cannot go to anybody’s home to sort out their queries related to the internet or an app.
6 Cost-Effective Tech Upgrades for Schools
To get the most out of your modernization efforts, consider these high-impact technologies:
1. Better Microphones
No other technology upgrade you adopt will matter if students can’t hear what the lecturer is saying. Make sure you provide a dedicated sound system to students that can accommodate a single, static speaker or presenter moving around the room. For online learning, ensure that the lecturer's voice comes through clearly and that students can speak to each other via video and voice chat.
2. Laser Projectors
Perfect for small classrooms and study areas, laser projectors are a good tech upgrade for schools that still have in-person learning in place. They can run for an average of 16,000 to 20,000 hours, which may ultimately minimize the time, cost, and inconvenience of bulb replacement.
3. Interactive Learning Tools
Incorporating interactive tools like smart boards may significantly help students to engage directly with the subject matter. These tools may feature image capture, touch screens, and content sharing with personal devices, or webcams and video conferencing that enable students and teachers to interact remotely. Virtual laboratories and 3D printing can also facilitate new approaches to learning, but these are higher-end options.
4. Wireless Presentation
There’s no arguing with the fact that today's students can be more easily reached via their smartphones. Wireless presentation enables more interactivity and collaboration both within the classroom and between remote learners. Wireless presentation tools may substantially enhance students’ experience when taking online classes and give them a more tangible connection to the material.
5. Cloud Migration
By storing minimal resources on a local computer's hard drive, cloud computing takes advantage of applications and file storage that reside on the Internet. One of the best things about cloud computing is that you can work on any project anywhere, regardless of the device you are using.
Moreover, cloud migration lets you save significant amounts of money. Web-based applications like Google Apps for Education can be infused with a comprehensive set of features for teachers and students and are compatible with commercial programs.
6. Automatic Lecture Recording
Recording lectures and allowing students to listen to them later lets them learn at their own convenience. As an institution, you should focus on improving the quality and accessibility of your recordings by purchasing 360-degree cameras that can follow a speaker and adopting a system that automatically uploads newly recorded lectures.
Maximizing ROI of Individual Solutions
Cost-effectiveness is more than "cheapness." To determine the likely impact of different solutions, consider multiple criteria:
Track spending closely
It’s incredibly important for you to keep an eye on how many funds are being spent on technology to reduce class sizes, train teachers, and add lab equipment. Always remember that good technology budgets must showcase how every dollar spent directly or indirectly improves educational opportunities for students.
Catalog student requirements
If you're only using a computer to write papers and access the Internet, then you might not need a high-end desktop.
Do you need a 10-megapixel camera if all the images produced will be uploaded at a low resolution? Do you need a large hard drive or a CD/DVD drive if you are using the Internet for all file and application storage?
Assessing where upgrades are truly necessary can help to guide your spending.
Take advantage of open source software
If you want to save a good deal of money on technology, make sure you focus on open source technologies and prebuilt modules that companies like Crowdbotics provide. There's a great deal of high-quality software that's now available at no cost.
No more spending on outdated technologies
If you want your school or institution to perform well, then you must prioritize your investment in advanced technologies. It’s time to bid adieu to technologies like cassette tape players, filmstrips, 16mm film projectors, and opaque projectors, to name a few.
Provide sufficient training
Teachers and students can't be expected to have success with a new learning system if they aren't properly educated about using that system. The upfront investment more than justifies itself over time, as teachers who are comfortable with certain technologies will become loyal to those technologies and maximize their use.
Subscription or per-seat costs
To ensure maximum savings, educational institutions must track their subscription or per-seat costs for various software solutions. Since the pandemic has forced everyone to stay at home and take online classes, you must check how much has been invested on a per-student basis to provide various services. This would help you get a better idea of your costs per student.
The more complex setup and maintenance that a solution requires, the more corresponding overhead you'll have to dedicate to keeping it functional. Prioritize lightweight, turnkey products where possible.
Compatibility across products/solutions
There’s no denying that different students learn differently. To support all students, schools and institutions must implement technology that help teachers to meet the needs of every student, including those with physical disabilities, impaired vision or hearing, and other obstacles.
Accessibility for all students/teachers/admins
When all students can fully participate in the learning experience, the learning community as a whole benefits. Cloud solutions that are accessible via multiple devices can help every student learn, be inspired, and achieve their full potential. This also simplifies operations for administrators.
Regulatory compliance such as FERPA
Saving money is great, but schools must not compromise their data security. FERPA is a set of regulations that keeps student records secure and private while only giving them access to their own records. Educational institutions that retain educational records must give comprehensive control of these records to the students they concern. Crowdbotics specializes in building FERPA-compliant apps, and you can learn more about it here.
Tracking the Impact of a Newly Adopted Tech Solution
When evaluating implemented technology, there are a series of questions you must ask:
- How quickly the technology impact teaching and learning?
- Who is accountable for collecting ongoing data to assess its effectiveness?
- Has it been fully implemented and maintained?
- Are students and teachers readily using this technology?
- How are we calculating fiscal ROI on this particular solution?
- What is the key indicator of success for each component of the technology plan?
- Are your bottom-line success metrics improving as an organization?
- Are students receiving a better overall experience?
Crowdbotics for Education
If you are looking for a professional team that can provide your school or college with cost-effective tech solutions, you’ve reached the correct destination.
Crowdbotics is a leading tech-driven platform that offers managed app development for the education sector. Our experiences crew of PMs and developers can work with your school's current IT team or take over the entire implementation for you. Get in touch with us to share your priorities and received a detailed estimate today!