Teaching tech; education lagging behind in replenishment

It’s a necessary investment, but it’s a major one, and getting it right is critical – educational technology, that is. Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, discusses tech in schools – outdated systems and timely upgrades – and considers how a new generation of IT managers is making their money go further

Tech advances promise to reshape the tools and methods educators use and have the potential to shape the very future of how humans learn to communicate and process information. To this end, large sums of money are being spent on education tech. In fact, Edtech UK estimates the global education technology sector could be worth £129bn by 2020 and, in the UK alone, schools are spending upwards of £900m a year on education technology.

But these large figures hide harsh realities in the current state of computing devices used in many classrooms, lecture theatres and education institutions. Spiceworks recently conducted international research on the lifespan of technology in the workplace and found that education lags behind in tech replenishment, holding on to hardware the longest of any sector surveyed.

Nearly half (45%) of education organisations typically use desktops for seven or more years – compared to the 24% average across all industries – and 27% use their laptops for seven or more years. Additionally, among organisations in education, 77% use desk ‘phones and 77% use fax machines for longer than seven years.

Big goals but budget tech

Moreover, in many educational institutions, there aren’t big plans to replace ageing computing devices. Hardware failure, cited by 40% of survey respondents, is the main prompt for organisations in education to replace existing hardware, meaning many schools will use technology for as long as possible, until it eventually fails.

This hesitance to upgrade and replace older devices indicates that price sensitivity is a key issue for IT buyers in schools and colleges so, naturally, many organisations will want to stretch their budgets and choose more reliable computing devices that can stand the test of time.

A recent study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicates the amount of spending per pupil in England’s schools has dropped eight per cent since 2010. Our research supports this finding across many different device types. When purchasing new laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones, we found that organisations in education favour budget-friendly devices over new, higher-end systems.

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This preference only differs when it comes to servers — which often support mission-critical services that students, teachers and administrators rely on — where 60% of buyers purchased higher-end servers compared to 28% who favoured cheaper machines, with only 12% opting for refurbished units.

Bridging the gap

It’s clear that organisations in the education sector are trying to squeeze as much value out of their hardware as they can, often using tech longer than they ought to, even after extended warranties expire. Not only that, these organisations are only replacing machines when they become unusable.

However, this penny pinching might come at a cost. Nearly half of those surveyed felt that older devices cause employees to feel negatively about their employers (46%) as well leading to lower levels of productivity (44%).

So when might educational institutions lagging behind in tech-replenishment bridge the gap between the appetite for more current tech, and the ageing hardware often used in practice?

Research shows that the age of the people calling the shots influences how they feel about keeping devices current. When comparing feedback from members of different generations we found that younger IT professionals are less confident about the longevity of their devices than their older counterparts. Additionally, younger decision-makers believe it’s better, and more cost effective in the long run, to invest in higher-end devices over those that are simply budget-friendly.

Schools, colleges and universities are our future. In today’s age of digital natives younger generations will expect to have seamless access to the same types of advanced technology they use in their personal lives everywhere else.

Despite allocating large sums to IT spending education, many schools are using antiquated hardware. Thankfully, younger IT managers increasingly see the importance of investing in newer tech and understand the potential which technology has to better educate future generations.

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