Streamlining IT for the next generation of EdTech - ANME Blog

Streamlining IT for the next generation of EdTech

Posted on: 26th Apr 2022 by: Gareth Harle

Over the last 10 years, we have seen an explosion of services and platforms available to the education sector. Everything from homework trackers and seating planners to parental engagement platforms. We’ve grown out of our traditional VLE, full of Word Documents and PowerPoint presentations. Now we’re firmly in the realm of video conferencing lessons, online parents’ evenings, and live-streaming school events. Who would have thought it?


Education has always been unique in that, unlike large enterprise or multinational companies, we don’t typically build our own platforms. There’s no custom business software built specifically to our individual institutional requirements. IT and school leaders must choose a solution from the ever-expanding market of products and services. We end up with many systems and platforms that each have a specific purpose. But for each of these systems, our IT Teams must evaluate, procure, implement, test, deploy and maintain these products and do all of this with small teams, a limited budget and increasingly tight deadlines.


The scope of our IT infrastructure has become much more comprehensive. The resources to manage and develop these infrastructures have mainly remained the same. IT support teams have become stretched, and often when staff leave, we have struggled to replace them. Our cyber security has become weaker due to the range of systems, and thus the increased target for potential attackers and, most importantly, the quality of our user experience has often reduced.


We often stereotype that the younger generation is far more tech-savvy than we are. Children today are growing up in a world of technology with a more inherent ability to adapt to multiple platforms, accounts, and complex digital systems.


The truth is that this isn’t always the case. I discovered during the pandemic that students are skilled in Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, but some/an alarming number struggle to understand the concept of logging into a laptop, using office productivity tools and accessing their online courses.


It feels like we’ve lost sight of the purpose of our technology. We’ve spent the last 10 years putting system after system in place. Confusing our users and making a headache for our support teams.


Maybe now is the time to scale it back.


I’ve just finished a four-year term as IT Manager for a mid-sized FE College in North Lincolnshire. When I look back over my time at the College, I’m reminded that our most significant achievements were the things we removed. I would think about all the things we had implemented in previous roles, such as an online booking room system, online seating plans, a parent portal, a VLE, and an online student reward system.


Over the last four years, we have reduced our online learning platforms from three to one, pushing as much data to this new single platform as possible. We wanted to ensure that teaching staff and students only needed two systems open to get 99% of their work done. Our teachers use the learning platform in one tab and the web-based MIS system in another, and the systems are the same for our students. Our chosen learning platform is set up to record videos of all lessons, enabling students to watch them again out of hours. This helps support any catch-up work. Our data systems are managed through shared spreadsheets unless held directly in our MIS and our user accounts synchronise between systems, so one login allows our users into both systems. Because our two main platforms are both web-based, we can quickly switch to remote working or a hybrid model as the world dictates.


This may come across as overly simplistic. We do, of course, have other applications and platforms that some staff use. Our finance team always needs a finance package. Our computing department has specialist software installed for their courses. The point here is to simplify the core systems that everyone needs. Systems that span the entire width of the organisation and make it run. Systems that allow people to communicate, collaborate and educate.


I must emphasise that the point isn’t to remove things of value. It’s to develop a holistic strategy that enables leaders to ask, “Why do we need this system?” or “Can we do this with tools we already have?”. The same two systems I’ve talked about are used to engage students right from the application stage all the way through to getting their exam results. The focus on these two core platforms has meant we can better secure, update, and develop them. We can choose hardware specifically designed for them to create a more seamless user experience. We can genuinely get technology out of the way and simplify our systems so our teachers can focus on teaching, our support teams can provide quality support, and our learners can learn. We can be free to innovate, and that is the future of EdTech.

Gareth Harle
ANME Member

Tags: Gareth Harle, EdExec,

Latest News

Next Event/Meeting

Latest Tweet

RT @jobs_in_schools: Closing Soon: Network Manager Lowton Warrington Greater Manchester #SchoolSupportJobs

1 day ago

Testimonials from Members & Partners

  • “Fantastic event, with interesting content and very well organised.”

    Alain Squiteri, Sales Director - InVentry

  • I thought the day was excellent. It was really good to have the companies there and invaluable for meeting and speaking with new contacts. I really hope this carries on as it was desperately needed in our field.

    Janet Cannell, Member

  • We’re really proud to be ANME’s platinum sponsor. It’s such a great platform for school network managers to get together and share ideas, plus it provides us the opportunity to speak directly to schools using our solutions and get their feedback and input into new features. Every event is always different, with fantastic speakers providing real insight and ideas on all things edtech.

    Al Kingsley, Group Managing Director, NetSupport Limited

  • ANME meetings provide valuable networking - being able to talk to other professionals doing the same role and understanding their approach and their context. This is a great way to challenge what you are doing in your own setting.

    Neil Limbrick, ANME Ambassador

  • A fantastic online resource of like-minded professionals that you can use to bounce ideas off, chat things through, get advice from. Invaluable.

    Ric Turner, Balshaws Church of England High School

  • The ANME is a priceless resource for anyone working in an IT support role in the education sector. The online forum is lively and informative and the regular meetings provide insight into new products and valuable networking opportunities with peers from other establishments. I've lost count of the number of valuable conversations and helpful tips that I've had since becoming a member. If you've not been to a meeting before then try to attend the next one in your area, you won't be disappointed.

    Dave Leonard, ANME Ambassador and ICT Manager at Matthew Moss High School

  • The ANME has been a great resource when you're a lone IT manager, now you have friends going through the same obstacles as you, with plenty of advice and guidance.

    Michael Frost, ANME Member & IT Network Manager at Parkwood Hall Co-operative Academy

  • Being part of the ANME is like being part of a large corporate IT department, there's always someone you can ask for advice

    Paul Gillon, ANME Member & Network Manager at West Hill School, Stalybridge

  • ANME is like having a team of IT experts at my fingertips. It helps me keep up to date with the latest trends in IT education.
    Rick and the ANME members have always helped when I've needed extra guidance to make great IT decisions

    Clifford Fernandes, ANME Member & IT Manager at Claremont High School

  • I attended my first ANME regional meeting recently which was great. It was Informative, relevant and useful! Unlike some meetings I attend where you get one or two useful nuggets of information, but other bits have been added to the agenda as fillers. Glad to be a member of this group of like-minded individuals.

    Adam Hall, ANME Member & IT Operations Manager at Four Oaks Learning Trust