How IT department functions are transforming the education sector

By Robert Half on 6 August 2021

While 2020 saw many school children and university students rapidly switch to online learning, the experiences of the pandemic have opened the minds of both students and institutions to alternative ways of learning which are so effective and versatile, they’re likely to find relevance in a post-COVID world.

A report by PwC suggests that learning experiences during the pandemic and continued digitisation could have huge implications for the overall higher education model . Specifically, developing remote learning capabilities beyond a contingency measure could see some institutions permanently offering combined online and face-to-face education models while others might target the mass market through completely online courses.

Such are the consequences that the role of IT department functions is having greater impact on the education sector, particularly when it comes to driving innovation and addressing challenges. And recruiting a talented tech team will be key to ensuring IT departments evolve with the times and continue to serve the needs of the education sector in the future.

IT department functions are transitioning from support to innovation

It’s fair to say that traditional IT department functions in the education sector are still evolving, which until now have been largely based around the idea that IT teams simply maintain technology infrastructure and provide users with everyday support.

While institutions have been jolted into re-imagining their strategic goals and objectives around innovation, traditional technologies are also rapidly making way for game-changing new tech such as cloud computing, fast Wi-Fi and mobile data, and collaborative applications.

Transitioning IT department functions from support services to robust tech teams that help improve education through creative and innovative solutions should be a top priority for education providers – and for this to happen, identifying and onboarding the right tech skills will be crucial. With remote digital learning arguably one of the biggest breakthroughs for institutions in the pandemic era, there are several other ways that IT department functions are helping to transform the education sector:

1. Advanced reporting capabilities

Like commercial enterprises, universities and schools must collate performance-related information and generate reports for stakeholders – processes that can be streamlined with the support of Business Intelligence roles.

With such vast amounts of data to handle, from enrolment applications and student attendance through to assessment results, automated IT solutions can reduce administrative record-keeping tasks while making it easier and quicker to generate reports on key indicators.

2. Enhanced day-to-day management

Educational institutions are hives of activity with many moving parts which can be hard to keep track of.

With the support of knowledgeable Desktop Support specialists, advanced IT platforms can help students, parents and teachers gain more transparency and control over activities by notifying users of annual or monthly events and assessments, timetabling information, upcoming and current assignments, project deadlines and updates, holidays, and staff leave.

3. Supporting assignments and assessments with technology

Traditionally, student assessments have been created with a one-size-fits-all approach because of the highly manual nature in which questions and marking criteria were collated and designed. But modern technology can help teachers create bespoke tests for students to evaluate or strengthen their knowledge in specific areas.

Learning Management System (LMS) Administrators can help develop and implement online assessment tools which integrate with course syllabuses and engage sophisticated algorithms to generate unlimited question types with automated marking capabilities. With regular testing, these tools could also use data to identify areas of weakness in students’ learning and automatically refocus assessments to build knowledge.

4. Software to supplement face-to-face learning

In the past, learning outside the classroom was typically limited to reading and completing exercises from books, but technology is broadening the type of educational activities available to students at home.

For example, talented Application Support staff can rollout multi-channel learning experiences to engage students through video or even online games or apps – especially for the early year groups.

5. Personalised learning platform

Education providers can get the best out of individual students by using tools that understand everyone learns in different ways.

With the right innovation and support of LMS Administrators, tech solutions could be deployed to ensure students meet set goals and objectives while giving more choice around how they’re achieved, the pace of studies, and how competencies are assessed. An study which tested an online personalised project-based learning (PBL) curriculum found participating students, on average, exceeded national standards across several key disciplines.

6. Experiential learning through simulation and real-life modelling

The quality of education might be vastly improved by recruiting Learning Designers who are capable of developing more experiential learning activities that safely immerse students in simulated real-life scenarios. For example, interactive virtual labs that respond to human input and show how chemicals react together will allow students to conduct experiments faster and without the risks.

It also saves institutions the time and costs associated with preparing for complex lab work. Experiential learning activities could also give students much clearer and more memorable insights into scientific processes compared to illustrations in a textbook.

The impact of IT departments on the education sector

The opportunities for technology to transform the education sector are potentially limitless.

Consequently, IT department functions are set to transition from support services, taking centre-stage as the powerhouse of creative ideas and innovation to enhance learning experiences and improve operations. Thus onboarding IT staff with the right soft skills and up-to-date technical capabilities will be essential to the future success and performance of education institutions.

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