5 Ways A Suite Solution Can Help Your Entire K-12 District Thrive
In K-12 education, an “egg-crate school” is one where teachers and departments operate separately, much like how eggs in a crate are kept apart from each other.
Egg-crate schools and districts miss out on sharing resources and ideas that can give teachers, administrators, and families tools to help students succeed.
Egg-crate technology — or software programs that don’t communicate with each other — is often to blame. When data doesn’t flow between applications in real time (and staff have to re-enter it from system to system), K-12 employees waste time, make more mistakes, and struggle to get a complete view of the information they need to make decisions.
These disconnected programs also create security risks and IT headaches, since users have to juggle multiple accounts and passwords. (69 percent of workers waste upward of 60 minutes a day “navigating between apps.”)
That’s why some districts have turned to an education technology solution suite: a one-stop shop that houses programs for registration, finance, HR, assessment, attendance, and more — all in one place, working together with one account, and from one vendor.
Unified education technology can save time, increase employee productivity, and close security gaps. It also gives your departments more up-to-date, accurate, and complete information to cut down on workload and data errors.
From the back office to the classroom to the home, here’s a look at five ways a solution suite can help your district thrive.
#1 – Saves Teachers Time and Helps Students in the Classroom
Say you’re a teacher who uses one software system for grading and building your class page, but another to administer assessments. You’d be forced to manually re-enter the results for each student from the assessment program into the grading system. That sort of time-consuming task is a big reason why studies show only 42 percent of a teacher’s workday — which averages 10 hours, 40 minutes — is actually spent teaching in the classroom. A K-12 edtech solution suite that brings programs for gradebook, assessment, attendance, and learning together in one place eliminates that extra work.
Unified education technology also gives educators better insight into student and class-wide trends. This big-picture view can help evaluate learning gaps, identify strengths, and design strategies to improve each student’s performance with more tailored instruction.
And when this information is available in real time, teachers can identify warning signs and make changes sooner, including possibly looping in special education resources. Administrators can also use this information as the basis for comparison with other schools in the district and to create best practices to help students grow.
#2 – Improves Back Office Efficiency
Studies show that staffing costs consume around 80-85 percent of most district budgets, so it’s important to be efficient in personnel management. But that can be hard to do when accurate projections aren’t available.
A solution suite addresses that issue by giving decision-makers the accurate, up-to-date information they need to budget (and handle tasks like accounting, purchasing, assets, payables, and inventory) — without special data exports or separate uploads. The real-time flow of information from application to application within a suite — like head counts from a registration program into the budgeting system — makes it all possible.
For example, before implementing a unified finance/HR/ERP software product, West Des Moines Community Schools in Iowa couldn’t create a detailed line item budget until October, four months after the fiscal year began. Now that the district has the HR/business information it needs in one spot, it has a detailed line item budget in place from day one.
#3 – Boosts Family Engagement
Study after study shows that family involvement in a child’s education is critical for student success. A solution suite brings parents closer to learning with better communication, real-time information, and a more complete view of their child’s performance.
Unified education technology powers features like a fully integrated calendar (that shows activities, announcements, assignments, notes, and events), as well as push-button notifications and regular email updates.
And when information flows from an assessment or learning program into a gradebook solution — and then to a parent portal, which is often part of a district’s student information system — families get complete access to their student’s progress. Parents stay up to date on content and assignments, grades, disciplinary reports, and attendance.
The availability of this information is also a big reason why a solution suite can reduce the time teachers spend on parent communications by 20 percent. On the other hand, districts that use separate software programs to keep families in the loop — one for grading, one for classroom content/learning management, and another for online registration, for example — may have multiple logins and different page layouts, which can create confusion.
#4 – Reduces the IT Burden
97 percent of educators agree that having all classroom applications unified in one place would allow them to spend less time on administrative activities and more time on education in the classroom.1
A solution suite meets that need with one login, one account, and one location for users to access their programs. It also offers centralized actions, search, reporting, and a consistent user experience and interfaces across applications.
Increased security is another benefit: There’s less possibility of a breach or information exposure risk when there are fewer accounts to juggle, fewer places where personal data is stored, and centralized account management.
When IT doesn’t have to spend time on infrastructure, upgrades, and security vulnerabilities, the department can use its resources in more productive ways. According to Gartner research, 91 percent of IT staff time is spent on software maintenance rather than innovation.
A well-built suite can also help districts by unlocking a treasure trove of third-party educational applications for fee collection, digital content, nutritional services, and much more. A suite that is compatible with those programs can give districts even more tools to help staff and students.
#5 – Lowers the Cost of Ownership
Just as mechanics can save money by purchasing one large toolkit instead of separate wrenches, screwdrivers, and hammers, a suite of software applications can cost less than buying each program individually.
The cost savings often go beyond the upfront expense, too:
- Pay for just one implementation for one solution suite
- Save on supplies and printing costs when everything is housed in one, online location
- Cut costs that stem from reporting errors and poor budgeting projections
- Extend the life of the product with continued suite improvements so you don’t have to replace the technology in a few years
- Reduce training and support expenses by partnering with a single vendor
Data storage also plays a role. Rather than hosting student information on different servers, all with their own maintenance and security costs, solution suite vendors may offer a single cloud-based hosting solution. This can save money and eliminate the need to manage data across so many programs.
Throw Away the Egg Crate and Thrive
We all want the best for students, and when you knock down barriers to learning, your district has a better chance of accomplishing its goals.
Get more information on how your district can benefit from unified education technology by checking out our resource page for K-12 tech directors. You’ll get access to informative webinars, white papers, and case studies that share real-world examples of how technology has helped schools and districts succeed.