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Cloud-based systems and collaborative technologies key to school success

The use of the latest technology is paramount in ensuring Australia’s education sector continues to meet the learning needs of students, education technology experts say.

Speaking at a round-table discussion in Sydney on October 30, Jamie Davidson, ANZ regional sales manager at Jamf, said a recent survey conducted by Westpac indicated that 75 per cent of new jobs will require some STEM skill – showing the importance of technology in all schools.

The panel focused on technology trends and cyber-security in Australia’s schools, universities and the vocational education sector.

Davidson said the use of mobile technology to deliver rich, interactive learning experiences is helping schools and higher education providers differentiate themselves and improve learning outcomes for students.

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“If we want more Australians to achieve this success, STEM plays a big role in encouraging students to develop skills that they need to leap forward and to move the nation forward in this technology sector.

“Just purchasing iPads for classes is not going to cut it. Schools need to deploy those iPads with the content, apps and features that best support teachers to run their lessons,” said Davidson.

Frost and Sullivan Australia managing director Mark Dougan said education-technology is a huge sector, but often it falls off the radar.

“We are looking at a client base for edu-tech producers of about 15,000 institutions Australia-wide,” he said.

Changes in the way education providers can use technology include reducing dropout rates and improving student engagement, said Dougan.

Institutions are increasingly using ICT as a differentiator in a market that’s competitive and becoming even more so, he said.

“Institutions are investing in a range of applications, from learning management and student management systems through to business applications such as CRM and payroll which are customised to suit the unique requirements of the sector.”

Students’ requests are also changing as there is growth in online courses, learning management systems and virtual reality, he said.

“Students are increasingly demanding more customised courses.”

Tribal Group Australian managing director Peter Croft said frontline spending priorities often result in ICT projects being deferred, despite their potential to deliver efficiency gains.

But, schools need to update their technology use, including using cloud systems, he said.

“We’re finally seeing growing awareness among schools that going to the cloud offers significant advantages – doing so can reduce operational costs and remove the complications associated with managing platforms and systems internally.

“Schools need to deliver not just education outcomes they need to deliver financial outcomes,” said Croft.

“Schools do run as businesses and like any business they have an interest in containing costs, operating as efficiently as they can and delivering value for money to parents and students.

“They need to make sure they are providing a quality system and quality outcomes for students,” he said.

With cloud systems, schools can benefit from data analytics, said Croft.

“One of the drivers we see is organisations wanting to get data analytics to be more predictive about how they can change their offer and change their course content.”

Ricoh digital automation strategy and portfolio manager Damian Aivaliotis said activity based learning and group work are a feature of the higher education environment and technologies, which make it easier for students and educators to connect and collaborate with one another.

“Online and distance learning have become increasingly popular and need to be underpinned by workflow technologies which offer students a rich learning experience, irrespective of their location,” said Aivaliotis.

WatchGuard Technologies ANZ regional director Mark Sinclair said with hacking and phishing on the rise, schools need to take a rigorous approach to threats, be vigilant against attacks and privacy breaches and use tools and technologies strategically.

There are a lot of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ systems in education, but the risk of threats increases as students bring devices to school, he said.

Schools need to be aware of threats from the outside, but also coming from systems internally, said Sinclair.

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