Digital technology has drastically changed our daily lives, and as a result, the way in which we teach and learn. That’s why it’s important for the UK education sector to modify its processes to adapt to new tools, using technology to redefine the learning process and create new opportunities for educators and students alike.
What is Educational Digital Transformation?
Put simply, digital transformation (DX) is the term used to describe the solutions and technology used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching and learning delivery.
Over the last couple of decades, technology has become crucial at enhancing the student experience, supporting student progression and improving the quality of teaching and learning methods.
It’s important to know that DX isn’t just about updating existing technology. It also involves adapting processes to incorporate technology for better results- after all, there’s no point implementing the latest tech if it doesn’t serve a purpose.
For example, new tech could be implemented in aid of supporting teaching methods, reducing teacher workload, improving attainment or delivering an enhanced overall experience for both the student and education institution.
How Has the Education Sector Digitally Transformed?
Since the start of the 21st century, education has transformed significantly, however, the most prominent recent changes were sparked by the onset of COVID-19, when students were unable to physically attend classes.
In order to carry on teaching, many educational institutions used video call software to host remote classes which students could attend by using technology such as laptops and webcams.
Following on from this, the Department for Education published a report exploring ‘digital maturity’ in schools. This looked at the relationship between schools’ digital maturity and attainment.
‘Digital maturity’ was divided into three pillars: technology, capability and strategy.
According to the report, only 9% of the 650 schools surveyed were classed as digitally mature. 31% had “a few fundamentals in place” but had “low digital maturity”, while 60% were found to be somewhere in the middle.
How Can Schools Become More Digitally Mature?
In order to further transform schools to make them more digitally mature, the PPT framework can be implemented.
What is the PPT Framework?
People do the work.
Processes make this work more efficient.
Technology helps people do their tasks and automates processes.
This framework can be compared to a three-legged stool. If one leg is shorter or longer, the whole stool loses its balance and becomes wobbly.
The same can be said for PPT.
With the influx of new technology and the rapidly changing technological landscape, schools must up-skill their people and modify processes in order to adapt to the new tools.
The balance of PPT must be maintained in order for it to work as effectively as possible. We cannot just throw new technology and fancy tools into the mix and expect it to solve all problems.
Technology in education is only as effective as the processes utilising it and the people who handle it.
How Can PPT Digitally Transform the Education Sector?
The people, teams and hands that weird the technology are a leg, without which no school could stand on.
That’s why it’s essential to onboard people with the right skills, knowledge and attitude, define their role and up-skill them with the proper training to assist them.
By onboarding the right people, defining their role and responsibilities and providing them with the necessary training can help schools to leverage the power of digital transformation.
Developing easy-to-understand processes provides clarity in school functioning systems and the clearer the process, the easier it is for the staff (the People) to manage expectations and understand which steps they must follow in order to reach the desired outcome.
In our experience at the DMS Digital Group, we have found that the processes are the true differentiator between good schools and great schools.
Once these processes have been defined, staff can receive the essential training to help them understand the specifics and scope of their roles.
You can never overstate the importance of great tech and tools in building future-ready schools. However, it is also important to note that technology is not a cure-all for problems.
In order to be as effective as possible, schools need to make sure that it works with their processes and that the people handling it have the correct training.
Once a school’s objectives have been articulated, processes defined and staff trained, the technology can catalyse the school’s growth.
How to Get Started in Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation in education begins with an assessment of what your school needs and where there are opportunities for success.
You need to establish exactly how staff are working with existing technologies, what is already working well and where improvements need to be made. Once this has been established, you can make informed decisions to affect positive change.
Things to Consider
Form a Working Group
Create a group that represents all perspectives, including pupils and parents and listen to your stakeholders. This can help when it comes to setting realistic goals and objectives, establishing priorities and making sure change is effective.
Once systems are in place, make sure to ask for regular feedback and work on improving any areas where people are struggling or where certain measures aren’t working.
Carry Out Surveys
In 2020, 43% of teachers described themselves as ‘not confident’ using the technology provided by their school. However, in a report published in January 2022, there were a number of unexpected positives that emerged after the pandemic when online learning was the primary method of teaching.
By conducting regular surveys to see how your staff are coping with the technology, you can identify experts and those who need a bit more help. By identifying the experts, you know who can offer support to those struggling.
Ultimately, the more you can build staff confidence, the better your strategy will work, and it’s crucial to know where the gaps are.
Survey Staff Workload
Consider how long staff spend on activities other than teaching and break this time down into a full working week. Was there too much time spent? Too little? And what outcome did it have on students?
Can technology help to automate these processes?
Review Your Document/Admin/Finance Processes
Reviewing and documenting all aspects of the data journey within your school will allow you to fully understand and map out where current digital technologies are utilised and understand the flow of data.
By identifying gaps where technology could be implemented to further improve efficiencies, you can gain the maximum benefit from any investment, helping to further the digital transformation journey.
Review Contracts and Service Level Agreements
Developing a full picture of your commitments and the services you pay for should be a key consideration when creating a plan for digital transformation.
Knowing your current outlay and when your contracts end or renew will help give you timeframes to incorporate in your planning. For example, if you know a contract is coming to an end, you could conduct a survey to see how well the specific technology has aided the school.
If feedback suggests the technology isn’t offering much assistance, you should think about whether you wish to renew it or not.
Audit Your Existing Hardware, Software and Subscriptions
Identify areas for standardisation, redeployment, decommissioning and investment.
From there, you can develop a set of requirements and decide what you want to keep and what you want to throw out. This can help you to build a budget and timetable for upcoming changes.
Ensure You Have EdTech Foundations in Place
A key to a successful digital transformation is having a consistent platform to support your strategy, implementing fast and resilient internet and network infrastructure and safeguarding your data system and students.
Assess Your School Wi-Fi Network
In most modern educational institutions, wireless connectivity is just as essential as pen and paper. Installing reliable, secure and convenient WiFI gives teachers access to a much wider range of resources to promote more effective learning and development.
The Department for Education has recently issued new technology standards for this that all schools should consider.
Assess Your School ICT Infrastructure
Understanding the physical and technical components of your school network will help you to provide a high quality digital service.
Your IT support team should be able to give you a current overview and highlight any areas that require attention. Here you should also consider any service contracts that work well and any that cause frustration.
Audit Your School’s Physical and Virtual Spaces
Determine whether the spaces, both physical and virtual, available to your school are being used as effectively as they could be.
Review the current technological use to help construct your overall visit and plan for the future. Determining your ‘as is’ state can help you go a long way to developing your ideal ‘to be’ position and will for a baseline to develop from.
How Can I Start Digital Transformation in My School?
Digital transformation isn’t as simple as moving your server to the cloud and improving your Wi-Fi range.
Digital transformation begins with a strategy- a review of where you want to go and why. Your strategy requires timescales, plans for change management, support for your staff, communication with stakeholders and so on.
Communication is a vital part of the strategy, as digital transformation is just as much a culture shift as a material one, and you’ll need to build a strong case for change and generate plenty of enthusiasm in order to achieve the most effective outcome.
Plan Your Journey
All journeys begin with a plan, including your digital transformation journey. You’ll need a plan that is well communicated and has buy-in from all of your key stakeholders.
Your plan needs to be far reaching, in that it ties into your overall vision, but is also consumable and broken down into manageable and achievable milestones that each have their own set of goals and objectives. These should be clearly set out in your DX journey roadmap.
It’s also important to allow for some flexibility within your plan. Make sure to schedule regular review points to help you stay on track and evaluate any factors that could potentially affect your plan, such as enhancements in technology or changes in governmental directives.
Utilise any data you collected during the assessment of your school’s current position, such as feedback given by your staff, as a key part of your planning process. This can help you to understand your ‘as is’ position from important members of the school community, allowing you to analyse and prioritise these areas, scoping within year 1, 2, 3 etc.
Defining your ‘to be’ position within the context of each area- be that strategy, infrastructure or digital capabilities- are key steps in the process of developing your overarching plan.
Don’t Skimp on Chance Management
Spending time embedding behaviour and working with staff is the way transformation sticks. Your strategy must allow time to put effort into change management and CPD. As a rule of thumb, we recommend that 20% of your project should be allocated to this.
The success or failure of your DX strategy relies on the engagement of your whole school community and the empowerment of all stakeholders to leverage technology in exciting and innovative ways.
Stay Aligned with Your Overall School Vision
You shouldn’t be starting from scratch when it comes to creating your transformation plan. It should evolve from your strategic priorities and the needs and wants of your users. The importance of involving stakeholders in the strategic process cannot be overstated.
Utilise Public Sector Frameworks
Introducing KCS Procurement Services
Established back in 1902 as an education stores department, KCS Group is an expert in education. Comprising of KCS Procurement Services and KCS Education, KCS Procurement Services is a market leading provider of fully-compliant, national frameworks that are created with schools in mind and according to Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
Their mission is to deliver innovative transformation through their frameworks and services offering a wide range of solutions to help schools run smarter, not harder.
Why Use Frameworks?
Frameworks provide easy access to engaging a Public Contracts Regulations 2015 compliant supply chain.
The aim is to keep procurement simple, saving schools time and money. In a market of multiple frameworks, school decision makers must understand which work best for their activity and using frameworks has many benefits that will help schools procure goods and services in a compliant way.
Benefits of KCS Procurement Services Frameworks
Direct award capability, giving you a quick, easy and compliant route to procurement.
Further competition available, allowing you to re-open competition within frameworks, removing the need for a full tender exercise or lengthy supplier evaluation each time you have a requirement, saving time and costs associated with procurement exercises.
Benefit from trusted, expert advice from the qualified framework team.
All frameworks are free to access by public sector bodies.
KCS frameworks are fully compliant with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The terms and conditions are safe and designed to protect you.
Benefit from aggregated spend and lower pricing based on the value of the overall contract, even on low spend orders.
Frameworks are managed and monitored by KCS Procurement Services on behalf of customers.
Select a Digital Transformation Partner
Many schools attempt to keep technology and IT in house, either trying to do it themselves or assigning a member of staff that wears the ‘IT hat’, but why?
You wouldn’t trust someone who is not a doctor to diagnose health issues. Or trust someone who wasn’t an architect to design your building. Or a non-pilot to fly a plane- so why attempt to design, implement and support technology for your school when it is a field you aren’t entirely familiar with?
What to Look for in a DX Partner
As the speed of business and technology increases, and as knowledge spreads, it is becoming easier every day for the ‘average Joe’ to set up an online business offering technology service and support at substandard levels, driving industries into price wars.
These companies simply don’t have the edge, niche, experience or top offering, but will succeed in landing clients thanks to their low prices.
The technology companies to consider are the ones that aren’t affected by the above competition hustle- ones that don’t drop prices and instead continue to do it the right way.
Use the following steps to help you find a top DX partner:
Are They Proactive or Reactive?
If the company you’re meeting with has a more ‘break-fix’ reactive strategy, you will find yourself suffering from a lack of support and outdated technology.
With a proactive managed approach, you can experience the full advantages of a managed service, resulting in better service delivery, improved up-time and more efficient processes.
Vendor Partners & Vendor Management
Ask who their partners are and how relationships and processes with vendors work. Do they keep ‘good company’ within the industry?
Do They Add Value to Your School?
What can they offer to you and your school that goes above and beyond and how can they add value to your school? Ask these questions, delve into the subject and probe for answers.
If you’re after the cheapest solution on the market, you’re not going to receive the best service. See if they will compete on pricing, but be wary if they drastically drop their prices as this could be a red flag for the future of their business.
The saying goes ‘communication is key’ but when it comes to your relationship with your digital transformation partner, communication is KING.
Without constant communication, updates, calls and meetings, the relationship has the potential to break down, leading to an ineffective strategy. If the direction of the school shifts, the transformation partner needs to be made aware, so they can ensure the technology is used to assist the transition.
Find out how your DX partner intends to communicate with you and keep you in the loop.
Take a look at what the industry accreditations are for specific technology and check to see if any accreditations they have are relevant. Do they have quality standards, such as ISO 9001? Are they a member of government bodies? Have they been awarded any frameworks?
Do They Talk in Jargon or Real Business Terms?
Your time is crucial, so it’s important that it isn’t spent translating technical jargon. Make sure your DX partner talks to you in plain English and discusses school outcomes, not just tech specs and tech performance reports.
Don’t assume they know what they’re talking about just because they’ve listed off a lot of technical terms. Make sure they explain what the solution is and how it will work for you. After all, implementing a new technology solution is the easy part, the tricky bit is having that tech support your school and keeping it relevant.
Ensure your technology partner works with you to create a 3-5 year roadmap that aligns with your school’s goals.