Response from Spencer Dunford, general manager, SmartDeploy.
While K-12 and higher education have been affected differently, they’ve both seen significant impact in their daily tasks and overall IT strategy due to changes in workplace and IT workload. IT for education was generally well-defined and entailed tasks that could often be scheduled weeks, if not months in advance.
Just as most every school year followed a predictable start, end, and vacation days between, so too did IT projects within that environment. In many cases even the emergency project was limited in scope in this “old” model of IT in education. IT could plan on summer lab refreshes, on-premise devices, and projects planned out with weeks or months to prepare, for example. COVID-19 changed this.
IT had to make an immediate shift to support remote learning for students, training for teachers, and in many cases, coaching up parents too. Many of the initial changes were quick reactions to the changed requirements. Now a new year has begun with these new rules.
All the while, budgets have not changed. IT teams are being stretched and challenged. This has created incredible opportunities to adopt new technologies at a speed that would have been unthinkable in the past. But it also has pushed generalists into new specialties, and even the rare EDU IT specialist into unfamiliar realms of new technology.
IT at K-12 schools has had to shift strategy to find modern, flexible ways to manage remote students reliably and securely. With school back in session, there are more devices that need to be managed for K-12 schools. The usually homogeneous computer lab is now the wild west of internet connected devices of all kinds from any connection.
Whether students are fully remote or are learning in hybrid in-class and remote environments, the technical workload for IT has significantly increased and diversified due to the addition of remote computers and students now working from both home and school computers. To make matters more complicated, students are often connected by unsecured networks.
Colleges and universities have also seen increased workloads because of staff reductions. The Chronicle of Higher Education estimates that 50,904 employees have been impacted by layoffs, furloughs, and contracts not being renewed. Now, IT must update strategies and procedures to properly support the termination and decommissioning of remote employees and recapture of their data and hardware while reducing security risk and maintaining business continuity. IT tasks have increased while there are likely less people on the IT team.
As K-12 and higher ed schools continue to adapt to new environments, it’s crucial for IT to put an emphasis on security and reliability. This means embracing cloud service technologies and implementing modern processes and strategies to reduce vulnerabilities. With remote learning being normalized, IT is stretched thin with unexpected need to build and adapt to new endpoint management and security strategies. Therefore, it’s paramount that strategy and processes are secure, reliable, and efficient.