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ERP Implementations In K-12 Space

by Aditi Gulati, Technology Head, Heritage Group of Schools October-2017

As per World Economic Forum, Global Insights Report on The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, “Today, we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, are all building on and amplifying one another and will result in the jobs for the next generation.” It is ironic that technology implementation in K12 space has been much slower than other industries, so it is important to understand what the roadblocks have been in the K-12 education space in terms of technology.

Limited Exposure to Transformational Technology: The school leaderships traditionally have had very limited exposure to the power of technology in transforming the schools functioning. Hence, the ERP systems are being used mostly for dumping data for attendance, statuary reporting and, to a certain extent, for report card generation, instead of using them as decision support systems.

Non-Existent Digital Ecosystem within Schools: Even though we are part of ‘Digital India’ with smart mobile devices and the Internet accessible to even the low-income groups in urban India, accessibility to the Internet is very limited within the school premises. Though this is slowly changing, the schools still shy away from expenditure on IT infrastructure. However, with more educators becoming entrepreneurs, the trend is slowly changing.

Limited Technical Skillset of Teachers: An average teacher in India is still very wary to use technology. The access of technology is limited to IT labs for teachers and administration departments for attendance reconciliation, fee collection, and other administrative purposes.

The stakeholder is evolving, and the change is inevitable due to multiple reasons. Parents, one of the key stakeholders in schools are demanding transparency of the academic data and processes, along with regular updates of the learning milestones, and safety and security in the school. At the same time, they want schools to empower the children by rendering technical skills. The school managements are being asked to submit multiple reports in various formats by the government and the boards, and they are now realizing the need for automating some of the processes and data inputs. The younger teachers joining the workforce thrive on instant messaging, presentations, YouTube links, and explore technology to assist their teaching and reduce some of the current administrative work.

As Technology is Progressing, multifold things are happening. The Internet and the storage is getting cheaper day by day. The educational technology including the ERP, the content-delivering software, the content itself is now available on the cloud on subscription models which eases the technical implementation of these products for there is no requirement of hardware and its maintenance. Also, the cloud-based systems keep innovating at their end, and the newer features are available for schools to use at quarterly basis or so. The ERP implementation should enable ‘One View of a Student’ for the schools, giving all stakeholders the access to all the data relevant at the click of a button. One click should give access to a student’s data to teachers, school management, and parents; this can be used for both academic and non-academic decision making.

There are some key principles one should keep in mind while selecting and implementing an ERP-

Best of Breed Solutions or a Complete Suite: As the diversity of technology use cases increase, say from managing student information to managing and tracking buses, from HR system for staff to learning portals and portfolio for students, from Library management to admissions processes and more, it becomes increasingly difficult for a single product or ERP vendor to provide in-depth functionalities in each of the areas. So, as per school requirements, the selection of the product and subsequent designing of the software architecture is completely dependent on the school’s ability and maturity to implement and integrate technology.

Technology to Aid Student Learning and School Culture: Stakeholders must understand that to improve student learning, the key is pedagogy and classroom culture. And when technology is used in service of these two, there is far greater value from technology investments. Unfortunately, many school systems invest in technology with no focus on changing pedagogy, like the expensive Akash tablet Experiment or the 100 million tablet experiment in New Jersey by Facebook.

ERPs as Decision Support Systems

To make an ERP implementation successful, it is important that the school management sees tangible output from implementation of this scale. The reports and dashboards that are required from the manage­ment should be identified before the implementation begins, for one to ensure that all essential data and pro­cesses are captured.

Design for the User: For the increasing use of the system by the user who may be a teacher, administrative staff, student or parent, combination of both stick and carrot approach needs to be taken. Some things that should be kept in mind while choosing or designing a system for the end user are user-friendly interfaces, anytime, anywhere access through apps, web portals and fast processing speed.

Technical Complexity vs. Value Gained: When we start automating, we tend to become greedy in wanting all processes and data reports to be automated at the click of a button; however, it’s important to be fully cognizant of the support and maintenance cost that accompanies automation. While deciding the scope of implementation, this trade off should be thought about and educating the stakeholder about the same is critical for making the implementation a long-term success.

These are exciting times for technology use in the K12 space and we hope to be able to soon create Digital Schools in the Digital India.