As K-12 school districts and higher-ed institutions attempt to hit the moving target of teaching through the pandemic, the education sector is straddled with many challenges. During this time, keeping the education system alive has been the top priority. As a result, investments in digital innovation have taken a back seat—unless they directly support online coursework or remote learning initiatives.
But this approach is now changing as digital innovations in how teachers reach and connect with students will continue well into 2022. These include advanced programs such as personalized learning, gamification, (1) assistive technology, augmented and virtual reality, and voice platforms. (2) Some educators are also applying AI-enabled automatic grading and even blockchain-stored student records. (3)
These advancements should bring new opportunities for improved teaching and enhanced learning. Forward-thinking, streamlined operations will improve the overall educational experience, including for those working in the back office at the school or throughout the district.
Technology Isn’t Magic
It’s essential, however, to remember that technology isn’t magic; it doesn’t just get dropped onto existing infrastructure and automatically shows up in classrooms. Advanced technologies don’t just start working for everyone in every way possible, all on their own. Programs need to be developed, deployed, configured, and managed so that teachers and students can use them without causing more headaches than value.
A resilient, scalable infrastructure must be in place for many innovations to function correctly. More specifically…high speed, always-on Internet access and robust, scalable cloud computing must be ubiquitous.
Available Money to Invest
The demands for these digital ambitions are driving an industry (educational services in the US) where revenue is expected to increase by 6% to $1.5 trillion in 2022. In contrast, revenue for this sector decreased by an average of 0.2% per year from 2017 to 2021. (4)
Programs that find their way into US public schools and higher-ed will likely do so due to government funds. These are primarily driven by state and local governments leveraging funds Congress has set aside.
For example, there’s approximately $13 billion of the $31 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund, which was signed into law in March 2020. There’s also the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), signed into law in December 2020. It provides an additional $54 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund).
Within a key objective of the ESSER II Fund plan, there is a focus on the risks associated with the use of technology and a directive to improve privacy protections for education data. As educators and their technology partners deploy digital innovations, they will need to address the federal mandate in the plan to protect controlled, unclassified information transmitted, processed, stored, and destroyed by any higher-ed institutions eligible for Title IV. The plan also addresses the need to protect controlled, unclassified information in nonfederal systems and organizations. (5)
Investing in Students and Teachers
The education sector also needs more skilled workers and must train them early. The future will require talented individuals with the skills to keep innovating and creating new teaching and learning experiences, especially those that need technical skills. (6)
Another key is to educate the educators. A key driver that can make this happen is a strategic objective of the U.S. Department of Education 2022 Annual Performance Plan. It includes a requirement to increase the number of teachers with additional certifications and training in high-demand areas. The objective also calls for teachers who can effectively prepare students for career pathways through high-quality career and technical education programs—by designing instruction to engage and provide students with opportunities to think critically and solve complex problems. Teachers also need to apply their learning in authentic and real-world settings, communicate and collaborate effectively, and develop academic mindsets. This includes leveraging project-based, work-based, and other experiential learning opportunities through the effective integration of technology. (7)
Some governments are taking action to educate on technical skills. For example, Ireland has a plan to increase the number of learners graduating with high-level ICT (Information, Communications, Technology) skills by more than 65% by the end of 2022. This number represents an additional 5,000 graduates, apprentices, and trainees who will be skilled in technologies vital to Ireland’s future growth. (8)
Until there is no longer a shortage of skilled workers, educational organizations will need to find a way to innovate within their means. This includes collaborating with technology and staffing partners when and where appropriate.
Cloud Migration Produces Solid Infrastructure Foundation
Consider the following use-case in the education sector as an example where a technology provider delivers value to over 2,000 schools in more than 80 countries. Finalsite, a global leader in SaaS web solutions and digital marketing for the education industry, wanted a modern back-end platform that could support its international footprint.
Standing in the way was the company’s legacy on-premises hardware, which kept with it a collection of high costs and the need to maintain a considerable staff time for routine administration. This offered Finalsite little room to support anticipated growth, but a complete rebuild would have cost millions of dollars. Finalsite migrated to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to solve this challenge, which gave them a robust infrastructure that offers scalability while also streamlining operating costs and management.
Playing a vital role in this project was Finalsite’s IT partner, Taos, which works with schools, universities, and the technology suppliers that support them to develop unique solutions that enable the best outcomes for teachers and students. Taos played a pivotal role in the migration’s success for Finalsite by taking a lift-and-shift approach that integrated the GCP infrastructure with the company’s existing technology while also minimizing business disruptions.
This saved many months of work. Finalsite also benefits from a solid infrastructure foundation that runs smoothly. And with the international reach of GCP, the company also has a platform to drive worldwide growth. This same mindset and operating model can be applied directly to any K-12 or higher-ed digital transformation project.
Contact Taos today for more information on how schools and their technology partners can transform educational experiences with advanced digital programs.
1 – Five Ed Tech Trends To Look Out For In 2022, Forbes, December 2021
2 – Future Education Technology: How Digital Trends Are Shaping Teaching, Maryville University, May 2019
3 – Top 10 Trends of Education Technology for the year 2022, ePravesh, October 2021
4 – Educational Services in the US – Market Size 2005–2027, IBISWorld, August 2021
5, 7 – FY 2022 Annual Performance Plan, U.S. Department of Education, May 2021
8 – Technology Skills 2022: Ireland’s Third ICT Skills Action Plan, Government of Ireland, February 2019