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The new affordable IT future for schools

Chris Stewart-Smith
07/08/2019 09:38

Just a few reasons why Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the perfect solution for schools, along with ways that resellers can actively engage, lead the conversation and help educational establishments succeed.

Money within education has always been limited, but tight budgets are now becoming squeezed even more. Schools are having to take desperate measures, and teachers are picking up the slack. At the same time, 82% of parents want schools to do more when it comes to keeping them informed about their children’s progress. There is a real appetite for active participation and greater engagement from parents, teachers and students alike.

We’ve thoughts of just a few reasons why Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the perfect solution for schools, along with ways that resellers can actively engage, lead the conversation and help educational establishments succeed.

The opportunities for enabling and advancing education through technology is a topic close to my heart. Although my professional background is business transformation, many years ago I trained to be a school teacher. 

It’s true that money is a limiting factor in schools today. The good news is despite initial investment being sometimes significant, Microsoft Dynamics 365 can work out highly affordable for the vast majority of establishments. When the value versus outlay is demonstrated, it becomes an enabler and cost-saver rather than a budget slayer. It allows budget holders to spend more intelligently. With Microsoft Dynamics 365, IT resellers can provide an affordable solution. Schools can do more, engage more and make a bigger impact with the money they have available.

The school funding challenge

Accounting for inflation, schools have as much money as they did back in 2009. As the number of pupils has increased by 9%, schools are effectively having to educate 700,000 new pupils with no extra money. Teachers are driving the school bus, buying their own resources, cleaning classrooms at the end of the day and, in some schools, the curriculum is getting narrower, with music, drama and sport often being cut. For teachers, there is much less time and far more to do. And that’s where Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help.

Communications in education 

According to a parental engagement whitepaper, as of October 2018, the most popular format of parent communication and engagement within schools is sharing information through the school website and through electronic newsletters. Email and text messaging services have also both become a frequent method of communication, taking the joint second position. Social media also features heavily, and many schools are also considering introducing an app. Most schools also still put emphasis on face-to-face meetings as a frequent way of communicating to stakeholders of all kinds. 

The opportunity

Much of the current focus in education is about information sharing, integration and involvement. Bringing parents, pupils and industry into school life has become a priority.

Integration and information sharing are at the heart of Microsoft Dynamics 365. Essentially, it’s a database. But it’s a database with infinite possibilities of how, where, and why it can be used. And when it’s purchased on a CSP (cloud service provision), it’s a flexible database that can expand and contract as requirements change. 

Enter the portal 

With a simple database and a handful of licenses, the school will also receive a portal, free of charge. There’s no cost for the number of people that access the portal from the outside, schools only pay for licenses for those people who need to administer the portal from within the school.

A prime example of this is industry placements and work experience. There could be hundreds of companies that a school wants to connect with. They would only need to pay for one portal to connect with all these different companies and industries. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a hugely inexpensive and effective way of connecting. Regardless of the number of companies that are interacting with the system, the cost remains the same. It can all be run from a single portal licence. As Microsoft Dynamics 365 licences can be switched on and off whenever required, portals are perfectly suited to the cyclical nature of industry placements.

Similarly, a homework system portal could be created. Homework diaries, sheets of assignments, a mass of emails could be a thing of the past. Teachers could create assignments on a portal, which pupils would then be notified of and tasked to complete. They could upload their homework to the portal (enabling teachers to note and monitor late submissions). Pupils can find all their submissions in one place for future reference, teachers could view the submissions, mark them and send comments or requests back to the pupil. It wouldn’t be designed to replace that human interaction, but it could easily streamline the process to help both parties save time and give greater clarity. In addition to the streamlined communications between pupil and teacher, taking it a step further, parents could be given access to be able to see their children's progress. Could end of term reports become a thing of the past? 

All these real world applications may sound complex to an end user but a simple portal-based solution for homework is relatively cheap to deploy within Dynamics and very light on licensing costs. Licensing on Dynamics works very much on an economy of scale. There are also very cheap solutions available for users who only need view only access (the parents for example). But when you factor in the scalability and the efficiency savings for end users; a single portal will meet the needs of thousands (or tens of thousands) of parents, pupils and external people – its providing significant improvement for marginal outlay.

These are just two ways that Microsoft Dynamics 365 can transform the school environment for very little outlay. 

Built for education, designed for easy coding

The Dynamics 365 Higher-Education Accelerator, has been created so that resellers can help schools develop frameworks that are relevant to:
•    Coursework
•    Extracurricular activities
•    Previous education
•    Test scores
•    Courses 
•    Registration status
•    Areas of interest

Analytics are available for completed courses, student performance, instructor effectiveness and course feedback too. What’s more, these can be used out-of-the-box or enhanced and tailored to individual establishment’s needs.

It’s all part of Microsoft’s Power Platform, where educators work with simple ’wizard-style workflows, which don’t need a developer to make changes in order to achieve dramatic results. This is another strong feature that will allow resellers to tap into the education market. Microsoft have made it incredibly easy with Dynamics 365. Unique solutions can be built in a matter of a few days, and business issues that cause paperwork backlogs can be a problem of the past.

It’s true that money is a limited factor in schools today, but special education pricing makes Microsoft Dynamics 365 very affordable, for the vast majority of educational establishments. With the speed that changes can be implemented, and the low code aspect of development work, resellers can make a tangible difference to the future of schools.

If resellers already have education customers that are using Dynamics 365, the opportunities for growing the benefits are phenomenal. There are so many options for the platform to expand out into other areas and influence success. The limitations of Dynamics are the limitations of the user’s imagination.

Consider having these conversations about Microsoft Dynamics 365 with your customers in the education vertical. If you feel you need more information or support, get in touch and Westcoast Cloud can help.

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