For many Australian teachers, the transition to remote and flexible learning last year was an exhausting, confusing and debilitating experience.
However, principals, teachers, students and parents defied the odds and proved their resilience, adaptability and courage in the face of overwhelming challenges. What’s more, the government’s COVID-Safe guidelines managed to flatten the curve and see the resumption of face-to-face classes in Australian schools.
While Australia has done well to bring COVID-19 under control, one expert warns a false sense of security presents one of the biggest risks facing schools post COVID-19.
Iain Finlayson, Managing Director of Libraries and Education at Civica, says that if schools are to future-proof themselves from disruption, they must take proactive steps to shore up their IT systems – the backbone of their operations.
“If schools take their focus off of their IT systems, they risk losing remote access to system data which is essential for compiling key compliance reports such as data for the Census,” Finlayson told The Educator.
“They also run the risk of not being able to conduct core administrative tasks such as billing or engage with students via remote learning due to inadequate learning management systems”.
Finlayson noted several ways in which schools can mitigate these issues. One of them, he says is by considering cloud technology, which can provide access to applications and workloads from any location, at a lower cost of ownership, and with greater security and privacy.
“These systems will be more resilient, flexible, accessible and future proof,” Finlayson told The Educator.
“For education professionals, cloud also provides flexibility in teaching, learning and managing school administration and finances more effectively”.
Another key consideration for schools, says Finlayson, is prioritising compliance.
“To ensure more effective building and compliance management during changing regulations, education providers should review their current compliance processes and investigate opportunities to implement higher quality asset and estate technology solutions,” he said.
“It is also important that schools develop their hybrid working skills, as hybrid schooling is likely to remain a reality for many educational professionals well into 2021”.
Finlayson also highlighted the importance of professional development for staff and students to support remote and in person learning, saying this is essential if schools are to continue working effectively, collaborating and utilising time, their skills and technology effectively.
Schools’ heavy reliance on technology during the remote learning period demonstrated the importance of interoperability – a factor which can ease the administrative burden for busy schools.
“Open systems offer easier integration and reduce the risk of being locked into costly technology,” Finlayson said.
“This also allows education providers to upgrade to more innovative solutions and continue to evolve their services to the benefit of their community”.
Moving forward, Finlayson says schools should continue to digitise engagement to ensure they remain administratively efficient.
“Digital solutions provide greater engagement for caregivers, students and teachers with greater capability for self-service, self-directed learning and administrative support,” he said.
“Online enrolment and enquiry processes can also improve retention and the ability to capture new students”.