Estimated reading time: 1 minute
Primary and secondary (K–12) education matters for all stakeholders. The success of publicly supported schooling is the bedrock on which thriving economies and societies are built. However, schools face significant challenges: shrinking budgets, increased demand, teacher shortages, educational equity, the digital divide, and the rapidly changing nature of work, to name a few. To survive, institutions must constantly find new ways to be more efficient and cost effective in delivering a world-class, twenty-first-century education.
Education leaders have to continually adapt and evolve academic and administrative practices to prepare for the future. And the classroom is at the center of this. But it can be difficult to gauge the benefits of new techniques and technologies when there are so many variables to student success. Curricula, class size, teacher quality, district funding, and family and community involvement all contribute to school improvement and student achievement.
But innovation extends beyond the classroom. Analyzing a school’s business and operational processes can yield dramatic efficiencies and cost savings, and show a demonstrable return on investment. Schools can then hire more teachers, reduce class sizes, and maintain school infrastructure. Business process improvements can also have a positive impact on the classroom and performance.
In this ebook, we explore the business side of education, some of the key challenges that schools are facing, and enterprise-class solutions and disruptive new technologies that can help address many of these issues.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
The Cloud Is the Destination
Many school districts maintain a legacy environment of dedicated infrastructure running traditional software out of a district-owned data center. The system was designed to handle peak demand—for example, during online testing, when every student is connected at the same time. But for the majority of the time, the system is not fully utilized, so the district ends up paying for resources it doesn’t need.
The benefits of cloud.
Cloud computing is faster, less expensive, and more productive and reliable than other computing environments. Three types of cloud computing models are relevant to primary and secondary education.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) enables schools to rent computing capacity in a third-party data center. Users can often self-provision virtual servers, storage, and network services, and continue to manage the infrastructure and use it to run applications and store data. IaaS can save K–12 institutions money on hardware costs—and some of the costs of supporting the hardware—when compared to a traditional computing environment.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is an evolutionary step above IaaS. Schools can use it to leverage preconfigured environments for developing and deploying applications without having to deploy hardware and software.
Software as a Service (SaaS) allows schools to acquire applications without making any investment in infrastructure, typically by paying a per-user license fee. SaaS can be less expensive as there’s no need to invest in hardware, support, and maintenance. SaaS providers can also leverage scale to reduce costs in a way that is impossible in other traditional and cloud deployment scenarios. Almost every application that school districts use can be purchased today in a SaaS model, including financial and HR systems, which are discussed in the next chapter.
Volusia County Schools in Florida decided to move to a cloud-based Oracle solution that provides a wide range of business capabilities while enabling unified visibility and control. “We no longer wanted to be in the business of owning and maintaining our own data centers. We want to be in the business of educating.” Pam Willingham, ERP and SIS Project Manager, Volusia County Schools
Education organizations have the most to gain by turning to SaaS for application functionality. It provides the greatest return on investment while also allowing for a responsiveness to needs that other models cannot provide. The benefits of cloud computing for schools, particularly when deployed in the SaaS model, are scalability, resilience, security, and cost savings—a powerful combination.
A school district can focus its resources on teachers and students when it no longer has to worry about the hardware infrastructure necessary to support the computing environment. Dollars saved can be reinvested in other areas, and the added flexibility can support classroom innovations from small pilots to large-scale deployments. This, in turn, allows for more-accurate planning and budgeting. Given the availability of proven applications and the benefits provided, school districts need to make cloud computing a focus of the strategic technology plan.
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
How Education Can Benefit from a Business Mindset
Enterprise resource planning.
Financial tools have evolved as demands on education leaders intensify and school administration becomes more complex. The progression has been steady from paper-based processes to computer spreadsheets, accounting software, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
The private sector has been using ERP for decades to improve efficiency and decision-making. But many schools have a legacy on-premise system that requires substantial customization. New features and functionality are infrequent, and updates are labor intensive for school IT staff. These systems also don’t offer anytime, anywhere, or any-device access.
The next step in the evolution of financial tools is a cloud-based ERP system. In contrast to on-premise ERP solutions that are installed locally on hardware and servers and managed by IT staff, cloud ERP is delivered as a service, managed centrally in the cloud by the ERP vendor, and accessed via a web browser.
On-premise ERP systems usually require large up-front and ongoing investments to purchase and manage software, the related hardware/servers, and the facilities to run them. For cloud-based ERP, initial costs are typically much lower. The cloud ERP provider hosts and maintains all the IT infrastructure. They ensure the system is always running, data is secure, and product enhancements are rolled out painlessly without breaking preset customizations.
“By modernizing our financial system with Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning Cloud, we no longer need external vendor support and substantially cut costs. Our account team can also devote 70% more time on analysis and assist the business to drive revenue rather than punching in numbers.” Ajay Patankar, Systems Accountant, KU Children’s Services
With Oracle ERP Cloud, educational institutions of all sizes can reap significant cost savings. According to a study from Nucleus Research, the average initial costs—software, hardware, personnel, and training—over a three-year period for on-premise ERP were 2.1 times higher than with Oracle ERP Cloud.1
Improved system performance and accessibility.
Cloud-based ERP often delivers better performance than on-premise solutions. Cloud software architecture is designed from the ground up for maximum network performance, which can mean better application availability than traditional on-premise ERP systems. Cloud-based ERP also offers optimized performance that can scale as needed. Plus, the cloud provides real-time data that can be easily accessed without extra setup fees or added costs. The scalability, performance monitoring, and management reporting are all features that a local IT department would usually struggle to provide.
Cloud-based ERP can also improve security as many vendors have prioritized features that protect systems and the data they store and process. As a result, they provide strong, industry-standard, data security certifications. These systems comply with rigorous security, disaster recovery, and backup procedures, and are much more cost effective than on-premise ERP solutions.
Every ERP deployment takes time and careful planning, but cloud ERP offers speedy deployment. Schools don’t have to waste time procuring and installing IT infrastructure. Cloud-based ERP can be easily and cost effectively rolled out across multiple schools, with more users being added as needed.
Oracle ERP Cloud is consistently ranked as the leader in cloud-based finance solutions. It uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and enterprise performance management to help increase automation and measure outcomes more effectively and accurately.
According to the Oracle Value Realization: ERP Cloud Benchmark Report, organizations that adopted Oracle ERP Cloud have seen the below benefits.
Improved the speed and accuracy of all aspects of the extended financial close and of the closing process by 50 percent on average
Increased reporting productivity by an average of 51 percent, reducing labor hours spent on routine finance activities and enabling staff to focus on strategic activities, such as spend analysis and supply optimization
Boosted the speed of receiving invoices and paying suppliers by monitoring and interacting with the entire organization, which reduced days payables outstanding and improved account payables by 55 percent
Human capital management.
Finding, recruiting, and retaining staff is a challenge for schools. Unemployment is low, many areas have a teacher shortage, and competition with the private sector for IT staff is a problem. High teacher turnover undermines student achievement and consumes time and resources. Because teachers and leaders have the highest in-school effects on student outcomes, talent-focused investments are vital to school success.
At Melbourne Grammar School in Australia, Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud has made the entire process faster and more efficient. Within 18 months, the school reduced overheads significantly by automating recruitment processes.2
These processes included screening teacher applications rather than hiring temporary staff to compile and send out shortlisting packs. This helped reduce agency costs by US$64,000 and increased the school’s hiring efficiency. Hiring managers were able to instantly access and shortlist candidates, make faster hiring decisions, get accurate status reports quickly, enhance candidate experiences through mobile devices, and boost the school’s image as an employer of choice. All of which helped the school attract even more high-quality talent.
Research shows that urban districts spend, on average, more than US$20,000 on each new hire, including school and district expenses.3 HCM applications can help reduce that figure by managing the entire employee lifecycle across human resources, talent acquisition, talent management, learning, work life, HR help desk, payroll, benefits, and time and labor. Below are some of the benefits of HCM applications.
Connecting headcount plans with financial plans across departments and locations while staying within budget
Evaluating current workforce skills and expected retirement and attrition, and predicting where future skills are needed
Providing forward-looking insight into workforce trends to increase performance, avoid attrition, and quickly accommodate organizational changes
Accessing a greater array of candidate pools and external channels, providing internal mobility opportunities, and employing AI-matching to make more-informed, data-driven recruiting decisions
A cloud-based HCM system offers even greater benefits compared to an on-premise HCM application. From a lower TCO to reduced IT support and savings on upgrade costs, the business value of the cloud is compelling. According to a research study by Nucleus Research, the TCO for cloud solutions is 52 percent less than on premise. Likewise, ROI for cloud solutions is 3.2 times greater than on premise.
Many organizations are now realizing that finance and HR work better, faster, and smarter when brought together. Both functions need to understand labor cost reporting and budgeting. And because payroll has always been tightly integrated with core HR and compensation, it makes sense for both divisions to migrate to the cloud together, or become one function.
In doing so, organizations can reduce costs, accommodate growth, and keep employees productive. With Oracle HCM Cloud and Oracle ERP Cloud, finance and HR organizations are brought together with complete financial management, planning, operations, and HCM on one platform in the cloud.
CX stands for customer experience in the private sector, but in education it might be more appropriate to call it “community experience,” as it engages everyone within the education ecosystem. Successful schools communicate readily and engage teachers, staff, students, parents, and donors via various channels. Oracle CX Cloud solutions can consolidate, simplify, and streamline these channels, providing a platform to personalize and target communications. Some of the benefits are listed below.
Student success and intervention management: Collaborate around holistic views of student data and progress. Understand what’s working and what’s not, in order to improve student learning and satisfaction, identify at-risk students, and help people before they’re at risk.
School communications and family engagement: Enhance the student experience through strong partnerships between schools, families, and community. Personalize and track engagement and communication efforts to reach all families and support all students.
Fundraising and grants management: Build enduring relationships, bring in more resources, and gain insights to better cultivate donors. Help fundraising and development leaders make informed decisions with real-time metrics that provide views into the fundraising pipeline.
Recruiting, application, and registration: Raise school brand awareness, perform targeted marketing campaigns, boost recruiter productivity and performance, increase yield, and gain greater insights into the recruiting and admissions funnel.
With a single platform that connects everything and everyone, schools can collaborate to boost student outcomes, gain actionable insights from data, achieve new process efficiencies, and better partner with families and the community.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
What’s Next for Tech-Enabled Education
The internet age has raised expectations in every industry that services will be smart, quick, simple, convenient, and user centric. Having a digital mindset is less about technology and more about delivering change where it’s needed. The following emerging technologies can quickly accelerate change and present huge opportunities to modernize the way schools operate. Oracle has integrated many of these technologies into its products to provide additional benefits to schools as well as a platform for innovation.
Blockchain is a public ledger that automatically records and verifies transactions. And it’s a true game-changer; it’s reliable, effectively tamperproof, and secure. Many of its applications are only just being imagined.
For education, blockchain promises to help solve challenges around student records and academic credentials. Student information could be checked more effectively than in a paper filing system—helping protect the value and validity of educational achievement.
Blockchain cuts out the middleman. So there is huge potential to improve accountability between education authorities. For example, an educational standards committee might upload formal statements of their official competency hierarchies to a blockchain.
It could also be used to tackle identity management as schools become increasingly secured and surveilled places. Blockchain could even help schools manage their energy usage and store data more efficiently and effectively.
Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential. In education, it could assist classroom teaching and remote learning, freeing up teachers’ time and driving academic achievement.
At the University of Memphis, Dr Arthur C. Graesser is leading the way in developing intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). For example, AutoTutor is a virtual tutor that uses natural language processing, body posture, and facial recognition.4
This AI-based technology encourages students to go beyond memorization and practice the concepts they’re learning. As this ITS can understand human emotion, it can optimize and personalize tutoring in real time.
The value and possibilities of AI-based, agent-guided learning go beyond schools. The vision for these systems is that they will better equip students with skills that will be in demand in the future.
“The normal lecture and read-a-book format is a product of the industrial revolution, where industry wanted people to be trained faster and be able to execute procedures. They didn’t need or even want people with deep knowledge. But now we’re in a knowledge revolution where the workforce needs to have a deeper set of skills and more interdisciplinary and collaborative problem-solving. It’s a different world.” Arthur C. Graesser, Professor, University of Memphis
Amy Passow, a business development manager at CDW, wrote a blog post that calls for AI to become an integrated part of the learning experience. She argues that this is vital not only to support teachers and motivate students, but also to prepare students for a world where AI coworkers will be commonplace.
“A recent Gartner report predicts one in five workers will have some form of artificial intelligence as a coworker,5 and Forrester predicts by 2021, automation technology will account for the work of nearly 4.3 million humans worldwide.6 That means most of today’s K–12 students will enter the workforce by the time AI is well established. In order to compete, K–12 schools will need to create curricula around artificial intelligence.”7
Predictive analytics have long been a standard in the business world, but they have been slower to take hold in education.
With predictive analytics, district and school leaders and staff could use data to help inform their decisions. Some of the benefits of predictive analytics are listed below.
Building early warning indicators based on students’ attendance, course failure, and behavior to predict dropouts
Predicting on-time high school graduation and being on track in grade nine
Examining indicators that predict college and career-readiness and postsecondary success
Identifying as well as retaining great teachers
Changes in policy can be based on sound, objective information developed out of analytics, rather than by intuition, tradition, and bias.
Internet of Things.
Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly becoming integrated into all aspects of our lives. Statista estimates there will be close to 31 billion connected smartphones, wearables, cars, and other devices and objects by the end of 2020. So the possibilities for IoT in education are endless.8
A survey of 300 school administrators found that IoT use cases tend to be interactive devices, security-related devices, or energy-saving resources.9 The following research was highlighted.
To date, IoT devices have had a limited but promising use in schools. They’re offering a richer, more personalized and interactive learning experience through laptops, tablets, and digital whiteboards. In the future, they’ll offer real-time information via these devices, which could eliminate any need for costly, bulky text books. Plus, IoT could strengthen the communications of the wider school community—connecting every “thing” to bring together teachers, students, staff, and parents for better collaboration and cooperation.
IoT also has the potential to optimize many aspects of schools’ daily operations. Given the funding squeeze, IoT could be a huge help to improve most schools’ finances. And, more importantly, it could assist in the smooth, safe, and secure running of a school.
“More schools are turning to IoT technology, such as smart lighting systems and thermostats, to improve energy efficiencies and reduce costs. RFID-chipped student ID cards and sensors for triggering text-based emergency alerts are giving parents more information about their children’s whereabouts during the day—and greater peace of mind. And a variety of emerging security technologies, including connected security cameras, video surveillance with facial-recognition capabilities, and wireless door locks, are helping schools create not just smarter but safer learning environments.”10
However, IoT connectivity also creates new challenges. It’s vital that schools take measures to protect the devices and the data that flows between them. As Ed Tech magazine explains, “Beyond the data shared by devices, many operating systems and form factors must be accounted for. Schools need to not only secure the devices currently on their networks; they must secure new ones as they come online. Protection is needed on two fronts—for the devices themselves as well as the data that is being generated… IoT devices need security monitoring and analytics, data protection, identity and access management, and encryption.”11
4 How Intelligent Tutoring Systems Make Deep Learning Possible 5 By 2022, One in Five Workers Engaged in Mostly Nonroutine Tasks Will Rely on AI to Do Their Jobs 6 The Beginning of a Wave: AI Tiptoes Into the Workplace 7 How K–12 Schools Have Adopted Artificial Intelligence 8 IoT Connected Devices Installed Base Worldwide from 2015 to 2025 9 ISTE: Working 2017: IoT Use Can Save Money and Boost Security 10 The Internet of Things in K–12 11 Schools Must Invest to Protect IoT Devices
Estimated reading time: 1 minute
Innovation in Education
Whether it’s back-office modernization, advanced learning in classrooms, or how technology supports schools, staff, and students to perform better—change is happening. Here are some highlights.
Oracle Academy: Supporting students and teachers.
Oracle Academy supports long-term success for students and teachers by providing computer science learning resources at all levels. It’s changing the lives of teachers through technology, resources, and continual professional development. And it’s helping students with the skills they’ll need in the future.Watch the video
Contribution: Schools alive with possibility.
“What if, instead of shuffling from one disconnected course to another, high school was an invitation to contribution—a chance for each young person to figure out what they care about, what they’re good at, and how and where they want to make a difference?” Tom Vander Ark, Forbes Contributor
Read the article
Charting career paths trumps focusing on skills in computer science.
Is the attention on computer science skills missing key points about the future of work? This study—conducted by Couragion, funded by Oracle Academy, and based on data from 3,612 students in the US—could influence how we structure computer science education.Read the study
This free programming school teaches far more than coding.
It’s impossible to predict which technologies will be useful over a 40-year career, so how can students be ready? This tuition-free computer programming school created and funded by French telecom billionaire Xavier Niel is trying to find the answers.Read the interview
Estimated reading time: 1 minute
Education ministry moves from spreadsheet scrum to financial restart.
Discover how New Zealand’s Ministry of Education took a major step forward in modernization by replacing its legacy financial systems, including its on-premise Oracle E-Business Suite software, with Oracle ERP Cloud.Read the article
KU children’s services lowers costs and drives revenue with Oracle Cloud.
Learn how KU Children’s Services closes month-end 50 percent faster, elevates user productivity, and saves significant maintenance costs with Oracle Financials Cloud.Read the article
Melbourne school meets its resource challenges with Oracle HCM Cloud.
Find out how Melbourne Grammar School cut admin tasks by a factor of five, decreased recruiting time, and significantly reduced the fees it was paying to recruitment agencies.Read the case study