How to manage and pay for an expanded tech commitment
A recent survey of 200 K-12 district leaders revealed the following:
- More than 82% of those surveyed said reducing spending inefficiencies and maximizing the reach of their budget was their top priority
- Nearly 79% are prioritizing the need for better understanding of app and program usage
- And more than 77% said that visibility into app usage was their most important tech data metric, followed closely by student login activity
Couple these district priorities with the results of additional research:
- In the last year, the average number of educational tech tools per district nearly doubled
- 2/3 of district-purchased tech licenses went unused
- Twice as many unauthorized apps were downloaded to district devices as expected
- The surveyed districts collectively spent more than $37 million on unused licenses
Many schools and districts turned to emergency government funding sources to help pay for device acquisitions and tech enhancements dictated by the redirect to remote learning during the COVID pandemic. As students now begin to return to schools, how can districts manage to pay for their expanded and continuing tech commitment?
Determine Your Budgets
Hard data, including teacher usage rates, student engagement rates, costs per student, and levels of data privacy compliance, all point toward places where instructional and finance leaders can find efficiency gains and cost reduction opportunities when determining budgets. Also, some resources may have been adopted individually by teachers made aware of a flurry of free subscription offerings. New analytical tools can help district leaders and IT decision makers drill down to specific data that they previously didn’t have easy access to—data that can help them make informed choices about which tech acquisitions to keep or eliminate and determine just what their tech budgets should look like going forward.
Evaluate Your Tech Stack
There may be very good reasons to maintain your entire suite of newly acquired devices and a substantial number of the software subscriptions set up during the pandemic. For instance, even though the emphasis may primarily be placed on the needs of students physically returning to the classroom, it is possible and even likely that some districts will choose to maintain an enhanced or expanded distance learning capability and for whatever reason cannot resume regular in-person attendance. Determining which apps and subscriptions can be utilized across all learning settings, be they in-person, hybrid, or remote, seems like a reasonable place to begin analysis and can guide prioritization.
In addition, some applications might be critical for district operations or needed to analyze aspects of student performance, even if they are not favored by faculty and staff. Hard data regarding possible underusage of such applications may indicate critical professional development opportunities.
Get the Most Out of Your Funding
It is also important to keep in mind that various supplemental government funding streams have arisen as a result of the pandemic. The CARES Act passed by Congress in 2020 offers funds under few restrictions to states and schools regarding how they are spent in support of schools, districts, and students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through CARES and its subsidiary funds such as the ESSER grants and the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), schools and districts can apply such funding for a wide range of needs to address educational pandemic response—including tech purchases. And in December 2020, Congress extended funding to remain available through calendar 2021. Combined with possible cost savings resulting from eliminated redundant or unnecessary tech acquisitions, these sources can help districts support and sustain device and application use going forward.
Beyond fund sourcing, take advantage of discount offerings available from software and hardware providers. Consider purchasing multiple products; these could come in the form of full-suite products or product bundling discounts. And carefully consider multi-year subscriptions. If adoptions are normally multi-year items, extended subscriptions can result in significant per-year savings.
Data Visualization to Ensure Cost-Effectiveness
How exactly can school leaders capture key numbers to recognize the most effective elements of their tech spend and ensure data-driven decisions that will maximize ROI? Sophisticated, purpose-built yet affordable analytic software such as Lightspeed Digital Insight™ enable K-12 leaders to track and analyze their software purchases in precisely the ways outlined above and see the effectiveness of their investment. Such systems can provide districts with robust data on the efficacy of any tech tools they implement so they can make strategic decisions regarding their technology stacks and streamline substantive reporting to budgetary decision makers.
If you found this information helpful, download our FREE e-book Returning to Normal: What “Back to School” Really Means for IT Teams” for more on returning back to campus and adjusting digital learning plans to an in-person environment.