Education Sector IT Managers: What are Your Peers Working on?

Written by: Martin Jones @ LAN3 | March 29, 2017

As Ferris Bueller famously said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’

As in life, as in work—and IT in the world of education is no exception. As a result, you may sometimes wonder how your peers in other institutions are dealing with the pressure to ‘keep up’ with new technology and increased expectations.

If you don’t get too many opportunities to do that ‘looking around’ in order to answer that question, we have recently released a report which may be of interest. The ‘State of Networking in Education Report 2017’ offers a snapshot of IT in education, and provides insight into the challenges and opportunities currently being dealt with by your peers.

Education sector IT managers

The report draws on data from a survey conducted in late 2016. The survey included directors, senior IT managers and IT staff from over 90 different education establishments including some of the UK's leading universities, colleges and schools.

In this blog I’ve picked out five key findings or quotes from the report, to give you a flavour of the type of insights it provides.

1. An increasing number of (non-IT) managers in the education sector are realising that the cloud is an enabler, and are losing their fear of it. That is a positive development in terms of reducing costs, increasing reliability and ease of maintenance.

This trend is making it easier for IT managers to persuade other managers that cloud-based solutions are the way forward. Those surveyed were asked to pick their top three work priorities; both cloud hosted services and cloud application security appeared in the top three.

2. 71% of IT professionals struggle to convince senior staff of the benefits of a network upgrade. This indicates that other managers are not necessarily grasping the fact that the basics need to be in place in order for other IT improvements to take place.

This result is up from 55% last year—another indication of the budgetary pressures that many institutions are facing. Also linked is the finding that other senior managers often value tangible assets over hidden assets—74% of respondents agreed with the statement “The importance of a network upgrade is often undervalued by senior staff members who would prefer to see more tangible results of expense (e.g. new devices, online resources)".  

3. A significant minority cannot yet comply with the Prevent strategy

Prevent is part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy. Its aim is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. One focus of Prevent is working with sectors, including the education sector, where there are risks of radicalisation.

The survey data we collected shows that 24% of institutions cannot currently produce a report showing a historical timeline of an individual’s activity, as required by the Prevent strategy. 13% of institutions are not currently able to filter keywords (another essential element of Prevent).

4. For many, a question mark hangs over security

The report findings indicate a widespread lack of confidence in many current IT security measures. The vast majority of respondents—almost 80%—rate their own security arrangements as ‘somewhat secure’. Given the proliferation of ransomware attacks across the education sector over recent years, this finding is likely to raise a few eyebrows.

The education sector is not usually perceived to be particularly under threat from cyberattacks—but that is not bourne out by experience within the sector. Given that many institutions hold private data which could be lost to cybercriminals, security should be a priority.

5. The use of IT for teaching and learning is mixed

Overall, 56% of respondents state that IT is only ‘somewhat integrated’ into learning at their institution.

However, the situation across different parts of the sector does vary. Over half of all respondents from independent schools, secondary schools and colleges agreed with the statement: ‘“The long-term benefits of using learning technology are being overlooked due to more immediate priorities and needs.” In comparison, less than a quarter of primary schools and universities agreed with this statement, which shows that those parts of the sector are confident in their use of technology for learning.

Update: Have your say for 2018

Is your school struggling with IT integration? Have you found the right balance between hardware and network readiness? Put your hand up for the 2018 report and have your say.

The survey collects responses from top educational providers across the UK, resulting in a full report.

Take 10 minutes to contribute your opinion to the report, scheduled for release in early 2018, and gain insights into the challenges faced by education organisations throughout the UK, as reported by the organisations themselves. Use these insights to inform key IT decisions for 2018, improving the state of IT for your education organisation and the pupils it benefits.

State of IT in Education

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