Administrative Tools Are the New K-12 Ed Tech Battleground

education technology

By Chris Pennell
Futuresource Consulting

As the number of electronic devices in use across North American schools continues to proliferate, K-12 curriculum leaders and IT decision makers are turning to administrative tools to manage data assets, track progress and provide support. A new end user study from Futuresource Consulting explores the impact of these tools, the current and projected ownership, key issues faced and the scope of the opportunity for vendors operating in the education space.

The New Challenge of Measuring Ed Tech Impact

“As the device and platform supply side continues to innovate, curriculum leaders and IT decision makers are still wrestling with ways to measure impact and ROI,” says Chris Pennell, principal analyst at Futuresource Consulting. “It’s a challenge that is widely accepted and understood. Student information systems are being harnessed to manage data assets, analytical tools are tracking student progress and device management software is being implemented to support the increasing number of electronic devices in use in learning spaces. There’s no doubt that we’re entering a new phase of planned investment, made more challenging due to the number of vendors and multitude of options offered to schools.”

The Futuresource study was conducted during June and July 2020, when Ed Tech was already being accelerated and COVID-19 had exposed issues within existing collaboration solutions. Based on interviews with curriculum leaders across 401 school districts, and IT decision makers across 415 school districts, this is the final report in the Ed Tech Voice series of six.

Student Information Systems Proliferate

The study found that Student Information Systems (SIS) are in use across all schools and districts, with more than half the respondents using multiple SIS solutions. And while curriculum leaders reported that they are generally satisfied with their current SIS, nearly half said that their existing solutions do not entirely meet their needs, with data management and storage the biggest challenge. As removing the need for manual data processing is often a core part of the business case for investing in an SIS, this finding is a key concern which needs to be investigated by the industry.

Testing and Accountability Lead the Charge

When it comes to analytic tools, testing and accountability reporting are the main drivers behind uptake. They play an integral role in helping schools to improve educational decision making, by analyzing test results to provide information on the performance of both students and staff. However, one in three districts reported that they do not currently analyze the data that they collect as part of their reporting requirements.

Vendor Opportunities in Asset Management Software

Asset management software is also coming to the fore, driven by the growth in connected devices. That is despite K-12 education not normally being considered an asset intensive sector, with 46% of schools now planning to introduce a solution. This presents a lucrative opportunity for vendors, although 40% of districts reported that classroom device management was the main feature of interest, suggesting schools are perhaps not making the most of their investments.

A New World of Single Sign-On

“With the proliferation of all these on-premise and cloud-based applications, staff and students are beginning to struggle to remember their access credentials,” said Pennell. “This is placing even more pressure on IT support teams. Watch out for a step change, as IT teams begin to implement Single-Sign-On solutions in response to this challenge.”