State of The States: Education’s 2022 State of Affairs

Maureen Wentworth

By Maureen Wentworth, manager of strategic partnerships, Ed-Fi.

Last year flew by in the blink of an eye. We had some things to get excited about like unprecedented federal funding, tiptoeing back into offices, and limited in person convenings. We also faced some challenges and anxieties . . . like unprecedented federal funding, tiptoeing back into offices, and limited in person convenings.

With 2022 off to an eerily familiar start in some ways, we find ourselves better positioned to take on the challenges ahead. As a community, we’ve responded in big and small ways to the unprecedented need for data and technology to meet the needs of our students and educators.

We’ve identified three prevailing themes that state education agencies should keep in mind while mapping out priorities in this new year.

The urgency to modernize our data systems is again on display in 2022.

Over the course of the last year, about $190 billion in federal support was allocated through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and to be spent within the next two to three years. The Data Quality Campaign reports that “over half of all states’ ESSER plans proposed using these funds to strengthen data systems or promote effective data use “and 29 state plans describe state efforts to create new education data systems or modernize existing ones.”

We have seen firsthand the commitment to systems modernization in the strength and growth of the Ed-Fi Community. The year 2021 saw new projects and pilots launching in eleven states, and seven statewide implementations leading the way to new use cases and expanded opportunities for connected data.

In 2022, states will continue to push the Ed-Fi data model to support efforts in early childhood education, graduation pathways, educator preparation, and expanded analytics capabilities. The SEA Modernization Starter Kit, will help jump start efforts for states looking to implement real time data collection while leveraging the Ed-Fi Data Model and open-source technology tools that support students across their states.

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Modern Campus Adds Chief People Officer Jessica Phinn

Jessica Phinn

Modern Campus, a leading engagement platform for higher education, announced the appointment of Jessica Phinn as chief people officer. In this newly created role, Phinn will lead all aspects of human resources, from recruitment through onboarding, employee engagement and beyond. The announcement aligns with the wider focus of Modern Campus continuing its terrific growth, maximizing the potential of its over 400 team members to transform the higher education industry.

Phinn joins Modern Campus with a wealth of experience across more than 20 years of progressive human resources leadership at multiple large organizations, including Pepsi Bottling Group and Loblaw. Before joining Modern Campus, Phinn held the position of senior vice president, people and engagement at Nelson Education, Canada’s leading K-12 education company.

“Maintaining our rapid growth requires creativity and passion at every level of the organization,” said Brian Kibby, chief executive officer at Modern Campus. “Bringing in Jessica as Modern Campus’s Chief People Officer positions us to continue our exponential growth by harnessing the talent and engagement of every member of our team. Her leadership will enable us to create a truly welcoming environment for everyone who’s joined Modern Campus recently through acquisition, while continuing our tradition of excellence in building a workplace that rewards and nurtures leaders.”

“Modern Campus has a well-earned reputation as a beacon for top edtech talent, and because of this and the highly engaged leadership team, it is a role that I found to be extremely compatible and one that I simply couldn’t pass up,” Phinn said. “I’m a firm believer that employees are truly a company’s most valuable asset, and with this I found a perfect match in Modern Campus. I am truly excited to join the organization and engage with all my new colleagues as they continue on their growth trajectory.”

Phinn holds a Bachelor of Human Resources Management from York University and is a certified human resources leader (CHRL).

The rapid growth of Modern Campus is due in part to welcoming five new companies in the past 12 months. The company acquired interactive campus map and virtual tour provider nuCloud in early 2021, followed by academic catalog and curriculum management provider DIGARC, and student engagement and development leader Presence. In January of this year, Modern Campus announced its acquisitions of leading higher education text-messaging provider Signal Vine and Augusoft, a leader in enrollment management for continuing education and corporate education programs.

Modern Campus partnered with Partners in Publishing on this executive search.

Managing A Successful BYOD Program For Education: 5 Rules and Recommendations

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

Many workplaces and educational institutions have been operating in a high-risk, digital environment due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. More schools are considering implementing a bring=your-own device (BYOD) program as a result.

However, school administrators, parents and teachers have some concerns regarding students bringing in their own devices.

Adopting a BYOD program may not be feasible for all schools — whether it’s a lack of resources or poor understanding of how technology can be used in classrooms. Education professionals must learn the ins and outs of a BYOD program before implementing one.

What Is a BYOD Program?

A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program allows students to bring their personal devices into the classroom for educational purposes. These programs are gaining popularity in educational institutions nationwide, and the trend will likely continue.

The Deer Park Independent School District in Texas is a good example. Chief technology officer Kari Rhame Murphy says that the transition to BYOD was surprisingly easy, but only because she and her team spent two years planning for it.

Aside from just schools, it’s not surprising that more employers adopt BYOD programs to benefit their employees. Consider all the people working from home — is it easier to let them use a personal device or issue one from an organization?

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A New, Strategic Role For Institutional IT: Delivering Student-Centricity

Amrit Ahluwalia

By Amrit Ahluwalia, director of strategic insights, Modern Campus.

Historically, education IT professionals have supported their respective colleges and universities from the behind the scenes. They’ve provided and maintained the critical infrastructure that allowed their institutions to serve learners, largely in the shadows, maintaining everything from server racks to campus Wi-Fi, to the printers in the library.

Of course, leading technology is no longer a “nice-to-have” for any business, and higher education is no different. Arguably, the technological infrastructure is as critical to helping set learners’ expectations of the institution as programming itself.

So, for the modern education IT professional, the most important topic they should be focused on is the student experience—both inside and outside the classroom.

By modernizing the digital experience being used to engage learners, IT professionals can help their respective institutions make massive strides to becoming environments better suited to the expectations of the modern learner, no matter their age.

Everyone today is first and foremost a digital consumer; they use Netflix, Amazon and Uber on a daily basis. Modern colleges and universities need to ensure students are able to access critical institutional information, resources and administrative tools when and where they want.

This means creating a secure environment that allows students to log into a portal to access receipts, request (and pay for!) transcripts and perform other bureaucratic and administrative tasks that are usually performed by front-line staff. It also means creating environments that automate adaptive communications, ensuring that learners are receiving relevant messaging from the institution through their preferred channels at the right time.

What’s more, IT has a role to play in supporting the delivery of high-quality academic experiences. That’s not to say the CIO will be teaching classes, of course. But it does mean creating an infrastructure that allows program catalogs—which are generally PDFs uploaded to the website—to be digitized and updated from a single location. It also means creating workflow structures that allow program approval processes to be automated and simplified, so that everyone from the program chair to the accreditation body is in the loop when something changes.

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Instructure Explores Pandemic’s Impact On U.S. Schools with New Research On The State of K-12 Education

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have released new data that explores how the pandemic has impacted K-12 education and identifies six key trends moving forward for U.S. schools. Positive shifts include teachers and parents becoming more open to new ways to teach and learn, and finding value in technology to stay connected. Student engagement became the leading metric of student success, with 92% of educators calling it the most important factor. The data also underscores challenges in areas like equity, with low income households more than twice as likely to report difficulty in helping their children remain engaged.

“Our school communities persevered through incredibly challenging dynamics this past year, but overall we came through it more adaptive, open to new approaches and deeply focused on student engagement,” said Trenton Goble, VP of K-12 Strategy at Instructure. ”At the same time, there is a lot of hard work ahead. About half of educators and parents feel students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19. We know technology will remain pivotal, as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”

The research revealed six key trends that parents and educators across the country feel are important to teaching and learning in K-12 education.

  1. Investing in teachers = investing in student success.

High-quality teaching continues to be recognized as the leading factor contributing to student success, and investing in immersive professional development is critical to supporting teacher preparedness, building and deepening skill sets, and promoting teacher efficacy.

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The Problem With Device Management In Schools and How To Solve It

Denis O’Shea

By Denis O’Shea, founder, Mobile Mentor.

If you had asked me a couple of years ago about what common challenges schools face from an IT perspective, I would have said a lack of device inventory and restrictive budgets. This isn’t the case anymore. The pandemic brought swift and necessary change to the way schools approach technology. When in-person learning became impossible, school administrators were forced to invest in technology to pivot to remote learning.

When COVID-19 hit, schools started supplying their students and educators with devices that made remote learning possible. They bought tablets and laptops in staggering numbers and shipped truckloads of devices to schools to provision and distribute. This generated a new set of challenges related to the management and security of devices.

IT teams at schools struggled to effectively manage the flood of new devices due to lack of time, lack of resources, or both. The result was that best practices were missed as the school environment was extended to the homes of millions of students and faculty.  At the same time, cyber threats exploded and schools started to get hacked in record numbers. To date, our educational institutions remain one of the largest targets that exist for cybercriminals.

Now that hybrid and remote learning has become the new norm, schools must address the issues that came along with the procurement of large fleets of devices. They can begin by taking a critical look at their inventory management practices, identity infrastructure, and security of the devices.

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How Does Your Campus Communicate? (And How Can It Improve?)

Paul Singlewire

By Paul Shain, president and CEO, Singlewire Software.

Communicating with everyone on campus can be challenging. It might seem easy to send out a mass email or text message for regular updates, but when it comes to sharing critical information during a crisis, neither of these methods on their own is very effective.

Campuses are large and people are spread out. It’s difficult to ensure that everyone will receive a message, much less receive at the same time. Most campuses have other communication tools in place, but the more tools a campus needs to manage, the longer it can take to get a message out.

That’s why many campuses are turning to mass notification systems to quickly share information and automate safety plans. A complete mass notification system will help a campus enhance its safety and communication by leveraging every available communication channel to deliver a message during an emergency.

Mass notification systems that can connect to mobile devices as well as devices on campus such as desk phones, IP speakers, desktop computer and digital signage can be much more effective in getting information in front of people than relying on text messages or emails alone. That’s because this approach can leverage intrusive audio in addition to text and visual cue like blinking lights. This helps interrupt ongoing activities to grab people’s attention and alert them to what is happening. It also helps reach areas of campus that might have poor cell phone reception or classrooms where cell phones may be put away or on silent. This makes messages more immediate and emphasizes the urgency of the situation.

Campuses can also take advantage of consistent messaging going out across all channels by building and recording notifications in advance. On large campuses this can be especially helpful as social media and word of mouth rumors can sometimes outpace the flow of information from official sources. Creating one source of truth give people on campus a reliable place to turn to for information during a crisis.

The other area campuses can benefit is in automation. Safety plans are multifaceted processes that involve different people performing various tasks to achieve a successful outcome. But even well thought out plans can be overly complicated leading to steps being missed which can put people at risk. With the proper configuration, a single button push on a panic button, mobile app, or mouse can launch notifications to all the devices on campus.

Notifications can also be automated by connecting to different Internet of Things devices. AED cabinets, water sensors, gunshot detectors and motion sensors on security cameras can all be configured to trigger notifications when activated. This ability extends into monitoring systems as well like the National Weather Service to receive automatic alerts when severe weather approaches, early earthquake warning systems, and even phone systems to know when 911 has been dialed from a campus phone.

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Modern Campus Acquires Augusoft

Modern Campus has acquired Augusoft, an enrollment management solution for continuing and corporate education programs. The acquisition extends the Modern Campus customer base to nearly 2,000 colleges and universities across North America and allows the company to further advance and improve the delivery of continuing education while engaging modern learners for life.

With enrollment for traditional two- and four-year programs declining across most campuses, higher education institutions are investing in continuing, professional, and workforce education to fuel enrollment growth while delivering on their institutional mission to expand learning experiences, reach diverse populations, and create employment opportunities.

Modern Campus’s Destiny One product is the recognized leader in non-traditional student management, with a broad set of offerings that enable colleges and universities to thrive in continuing, online, and professional education. With Augusoft and its flagship Lumens product, Modern Campus now offers the most robust set of capabilities including products, services, and partnerships to serve the complete needs of non-traditional learners.

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Marpai Pursues Education Market with AI-Powered Health Plan Services To Improve Outcomes and Reduce Costs for School Districts

Marpai, Inc., a deep learning technology company transforming third-party administration in the self-funded health insurance market, is establishing a center of excellence in the education  market to provide premium health plan services to school districts across the country. Recently, Marpai began serving four school districts in Texas, representing 39 schools, including Region 14 Education Service Center, Abilene Independent School District, Crowley Independent School District, and Pearland Independent School District.
Edmundo Gonzalez

“School systems want to provide the best healthcare for their members and also deliver great value,” said Edmundo Gonzalez, CEO of Marpai. “We believe that our technology can make it easier for educators and their families to avoid costly health events, access top quality care and maintain annual exams which make for healthier members and a better health plan bottom line. We are committed to working with unions and brokers to serve more school systems around the country, as our educators deserve this kind of premium healthcare experience.”

Synolo, a leading provider of benefit plans for the education market, and the U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group (USEBSG) worked together with Marpai to bring Marpai to Texas educators. “We believe that Marpai’s proactive approach to healthcare mirrors Texas schools’ commitment to providing the best healthcare options to ensure employees and their families remain healthy,” said Dan Robinson, President and CEO of Synolo. “Marpai’s technology platform points members to top quality providers and affordable healthcare services in their area which can make a real difference, especially when someone needs to find a new doctor.”
Marpai is an AI-powered TPA (third party administrator) alternative serving self-funded health plans with premium services that can help to drive member health up and health plan costs down. Marpai uses proprietary deep learning models to help predict near-term health states so members can work with clinical care guides to prevent or reduce costly events. Marpai also guides members to in-network providers (ranked in the top 10 percent based on quality), offers onscreen telehealth, and delivers appointment reminders that keep members on track for annual exams, screenings and vaccinations.
“We chose Marpai for the Texas school districts because we believe that it provides the support people need to get ahead of health issues, avoid big medical bills and stay healthy,” said Rick Niles, Texas Managing Director at U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group (USEBSG). “These school districts now have the ability to access to the best healthcare available, and it ends up costing everyone less.”

Instructure Explores Pandemic’s Impact on U.S. Schools with New Research On the State of K-12 Education

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have released new data that explores how the pandemic has impacted K-12 education and identifies six key trends moving forward for U.S. schools. Positive shifts include teachers and parents becoming more open to new ways to teach and learn, and finding value in technology to stay connected.

Student engagement became the leading metric of student success, with 92% of educators calling it the most important factor. The data also underscores challenges in areas like equity, with low-income households more than twice as likely to report difficulty in helping their children remain engaged.

“Our school communities persevered through incredibly challenging dynamics this past year, but overall we came through it more adaptive, open to new approaches and deeply focused on student engagement,” said Trenton Goble, VP of K-12 Strategy at Instructure. ”At the same time, there is a lot of hard work ahead. About half of educators and parents feel students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19. We know technology will remain pivotal, as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”

The research revealed six key trends that parents and educators across the country feel are important to teaching and learning in K-12 education.

Continue Reading