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The panel

Rich Harley CEO, ScholarPack school management software Fredrik Forslund VP enterprise and cloud erasure solutions, Blancco secure data software erasure Christophe Landuré head of development, further and higher education software, Capita Philippa Wilding director of customer engagement, school software, Capita Murray Morrison founder, Tassomai online learning programme Kevin Prone head of services, Nowcomm IT solutions Steve Cox chief evangelist, IRIS Software Group

Q. Why is the data cleansing process so important for education providers?

RH: When you’ve already got a lot on your plate, data cleansing may feel like a low-priority task. In reality, data cleansing is just about keeping your data up to date. Trying to do anything in your school with incorrect data is going to make the process longer. Conversely, when census time rolls around, if your data is being updated throughout the year via your MIS, your census return can be completed in 30 minutes. At best, having the wrong information can be time-consuming; at worst, it could be potentially dangerous – for example, in the case of medical records (such as allergies) not being up to date. Try to take a whole-school approach to data cleansing, and ensure that every piece of data you store has an associated plan for keeping it up to date. This might take a couple of formats:
  • ad hoc updating, where all staff can keep school and pupil information up to date via the management information system (MIS) and staff permissions to access certain data can be set accordingly to maintain security;
  • and parent information forms, a useful but often time-consuming exercise.
Completing these once a year will allow your office staff to do a full data check in one go. You could also speed this up by merging existing data into the form, and only asking parents to flag any necessary changes. Similarly, some MIS providers now offer apps for parents to allow them to quickly see and update their own details. FF: To truly understand the importance of data cleansing, we must first define it. The official industry term is ‘data sanitisation’. As data sanitisation specialists, we’re tasked with removing data from devices permanently, so that it's impossible to recover. The recent cultural shift towards working from home because of the pandemic, has seen a huge increase in sensitive data being transferred between different IT assets and new locations. Keeping a tab on all IT assets is crucial, and it’s important to recognise the risk associated with leaving this data dormant on devices. This is where a data sanitisation policy comes into play.
Keeping a tab on all IT assets is crucial, and it’s important to recognise the risk associated with leaving this data dormant on devices – Fredrik Forslund
To ensure compliance, education providers should insist on an audit trail to prove what has been completed, according to standards and requirements. Education providers handle a lot of sensitive information on their staff, students, and the institutions themselves. As part of that responsibility, strict data retention policies are crucial. Failing that responsibility can mean breaching privacy laws, resulting in steep consequences, both financial and reputational. CL: Further and higher education providers must adhere to GDPR, and must clearly identify the purposes for holding the data that they have. Cleaning the student data within their systems is key to ensuring that personal data is adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary. The Information Commissioner’s Office can issue penalty notices of up to £500,000 for serious breaches. PW: Chiefly, data management is essential for safeguarding and ensuring legal compliance. All schools must comply with GDPR regulations specifying that sensitive data is only provided to the intended recipients. Failure to comply could result in a serious incident, reputational damage and/or financial penalties. Another implication of incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate data can be financial, in that the institution may miss out on possible funding – for post-16 education, for example. MM: School leaders and students are currently making crucial decisions for lesson plans, student intervention, catch-up schemes and distribution of resources – and doing so with limited visibility on their students. Not only will they have seen very little of those most in need of support during the past few months, but contact time will likely be less than they would wish in the new term. For school resources, including teacher time, to be deployed in the best interests of those students most in need, the quality, volume and validity of data will become paramount. KP: Data cleansing should focus on delivering effective performance, preferably through a standards-based, formal process. A good start would be to incorporate ISO 9001 and 8000 certification. Data requires curation: it ages and it can degrade in quality. At an individual level, I may change name or address, and organisations must keep this data up to date to meet my expectations. Therefore, retaining old data is inefficient, and again when thinking about an individual’s data, aged and inaccurate data could possibly be irritating, potentially offensive or even a potential risk to a person. At a technology level, data storage devices are not always perfect and data can get corrupted (by a hard disk failure, for example). Human error is also possible: if I am working with the data in some form of administration role or activity, I may accidentally overwrite correct data with incorrect data. Data is increasingly valuable to drive operational efficiencies, maintain good customer relationships and to build insights that can extend and enhance the relationship with the customer. These are some of the key areas why a comprehensive and consistent data cleansing process is essential for all organisations. SC: While data requirements have been relaxed in the short-term, this is just the calm before the storm as the fallout from coronavirus is assessed. The problem is that, while requirements are relaxed, staff could be cutting corners on data entry. And reporting is only as good as the data that is entered – thus, there is a potential data cleansing process looming on the horizon for most education providers. Further, in the coming year there will be far larger data requirements placed on trusts and schools. With significant changes to pension rates, funding and the level of required reporting expected, how schools obtain and manage financial, pupil and staff data is now more crucial than ever. And yet, the recent Kreston Academies Benchmark Report found that most schools and trusts currently operate on the minimum requirement. [caption id="attachment_30638" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. What sorts of tools, systems and solutions out there best allow education institutions to manage and clean their data?

CL: There is a range of specialised data cleansing tools on the market, which may help institutions correct inaccuracies and duplicate records. However, the student record systems vendors are best placed to provide solutions that will iterate through all record links and be aware of complex data integration rules within the database. For example, the Personal Data Erasure tool in our MIS provides options to delete students who applied for courses but subsequently changed their minds and never turned up at the institution. The same feature also deals with people who applied for jobs but were not successful. It also provides a log of all external documents (learning agreement, medical notes etcetera), linked to those students which can be cleaned up subsequently by the IT team. RH: The best method for storing, sorting and tracking your data is a modern management information system (MIS). The latest systems now use intelligent software to help you keep your data up to date, by alerting you to any gaps or duplications – and by allowing you to bulk-update or bulk-delete your data, thus saving time. FF: Fortunately, there are options to manage and clean data to a high standard. Also, best practices offer data-erasure software for all sorts of data-storing assets, from mobile devices and tablets to SSD drives and data centres. The key here is to be able to process all assets at any location, wherever your sensitive data may sit at any given time. Given the recent lockdown measures, this can be a challenging process but, as long as all assets are tracked and have a sanitisation process in place, chances of a data leak are minimised. Maintain a certified audit trail and you’ll be in charge of the process, able to prove compliance and avoid regulatory hassle. Another key priority for many education institutions is sustainability. With software-based best practice for data erasure, there is no need to physically destroy IT assets just to protect the data on them. Today we are facing a global e-waste problem, and the destruction of IT assets to avoid data leaks is both damaging and unnecessary. If data sanitisation is used instead, damage to the environment is mitigated. KP: Educational institutions should build a data governance strategy that considers people, processes and technology. There are many products on the market, and it is important to make any selection based on an educational institution’s specific requirements. What data are we looking to clean? Where is it stored? How often will it need to be reviewed?

Educational institutions should build a data governance strategy that considers people, processes and technology – Kevin Prone

Each data set presents different challenges: does it age quickly? Is it typically incomplete? Do we hold significant volumes of duplicate data that is expensive to manage? Do we need to comply with regulations and hold the data for a specific or minimum period of time? Who is going to manage and audit the data? As we define, document and build processes for the data sets, quality management systems and recognised frameworks (such as ISO 8000) can assist. This approach can be used to define not only the functional requirements of any tools, systems and solutions to best allow education institutions to clean their data, but also the implementation and conformance model to be adopted and configured for each tool. SC: Though the MIS remains one of the most critical pieces within a trust’s architecture, by itself it cannot manage or run a school. Creating real efficiencies and one single, accurate picture of truth across a trust requires countless other pieces of software. Schools and trusts must be sure that they have all the right elements in their infrastructure to support them as we move into the next ‘normal’. These include:
  • Engagement: trusts and schools need to ensure that they can communicate more frequently than ever with parents, in order to obtain the required data and provide guidance. Software such as ParentMail and PS Connect by IRIS can create a two-way conversation with new parents, enabling schools and trusts to increase engagement and obtain the necessary data.
  • Analytics and reporting: as analytics and reporting become a primary requirement, there will be a significant amount of crossover in the data sources required to produce accurate, meaningful and precise reports across multiple data sets. Schools and trusts must ensure that their data sets are clean in order to deliver the most accurate results without the need for data manipulation for better decision-making.
  • Asset management: asset data, including new equipment being loaned out and key compliance dates, which sits aside critical day-to-day student record data, can ultimately help trusts remain compliant. Trusts have a legal responsibility for all the people in their care, and so are liable if anything goes wrong with equipment or other assets.
[caption id="attachment_30640" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. How has the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting remote working and learning, impacted data management for education institutions?

CL: The pandemic is having a profound impact on exams management and enrolment processes. In previous years, admin staff and teachers would schedule a range of interviews, and talk to students face-to-face, in order to update their records and provide advice. Further and higher education providers have had to transform existing processes to take place online, requiring support systems to be updated to allow students to enter their details, submit evidence and coursework, and access a wider range of payment options.

The pandemic is having a profound impact on exams management and enrolment processes – Christophe Landuré

PW: There have been requirements for providers to record attendance and other types of data, which has differed from the usual information that they previously collected daily. In addition, providers have had to collect, moderate and submit estimated exam entries, which required remote access to an MIS system from home for some staff. Furthermore, providers have needed to facilitate regular communication between parents and carers throughout lockdown. RH: The biggest impact has been a realisation, for most schools, that on-site systems (MIS and others) are just not an option anymore. With lockdown forcing many school leaders to work from home, those already using cloud-hosted systems have found it quicker and easier to adapt to remote working. Leaders needed instant access to critical information (student, parent and staff details), as well as an ability to seamlessly communicate with specific groups of students (e.g. children of key workers, pupils eligible for free school meals, or vulnerable groups): getting the right information out to the right people was crucial. Cloud-hosted systems have allowed school leaders to access their MIS – to use, change and input data, and to keep up as the situation evolved, no matter where they were. Furthermore, cloud systems support the ability to roll out system updates at the click of a button. As such, we were able to launch new features and functionalities in line with changing government guidance, to help schools get through the pandemic. Server-based, or on-site systems will have needed manual updates here – which just wasn’t possible in lockdown. FF: In this post-COVID world, educational institutions must maintain a razor-sharp focus on data management processes for remote management. Organisations must find a way of removing sensitive data remotely, instead of the usual route of running a process on site or on campus. Achieving the highest level of security at the same time as streamlining operational efficiency during this ‘new normal’ has become a mantra for many. Automate data processes where possible, and look at software solutions that can be deployed remotely. By remotely controlling data management and sanitisation processes, devices will be clean and secure.

In this post-COVID world, educational institutions must maintain a razor-sharp focus on data management processes for remote management – Fredrik Forslund

MM: What I have been hearing among teachers and school leaders is that school closures have, in some cases, greatly increased the range and volume of data they hold on students – for whom they are thus able to make good decisions. Many students, however, are simply missing. With little or no communication, home learning or interactivity, the worry is that these students are overwhelmingly the ones for whom good data is most needed.

[Missing] students are overwhelmingly the ones for whom good data is most needed – Murray Morrison

KP: I would imagine that each institution has been impacted differently, depending on the different data management tools they have in place. However, a correctly defined data management policy, combined with a robust data security and cybersecurity policy, should produce little or no impact. [caption id="attachment_30642" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. And what might some of the longer-term implications be, as/if we transition to more of a 'blended learning' landscape?

CL: This questions fundamentally the concept of a classroom, with its limited numbers of students, monitored attendance, and careful timetabling of activities. There's no limit to the number of people who can connect online to follow a lesson – it can be recorded and played back at will. Students can progress at their own pace through the curriculum. So, in the longer term, the whole structures of teaching and of building estates are at stake.

… the whole structures of teaching and of building estates are at stake – Christophe Landuré

PW: It’s vital to have cloud-based, flexible solutions, to allow for remote use without complex setup and maintenance. There's also a need for improved internet capacity, to cope with the increased traffic, along with more flexible ways of capturing and storing student assessment – whether these be photographic or sound files, or online tests linked directly to MIS assessment systems. This move towards a blended learning landscape will only succeed if there is an investment of time for the training of leaders and teaching staff in how to use online learning tools effectively.
This move towards a blended learning landscape will only succeed if there is an investment of time for the training of leaders and teaching staff in how to use online learning tools effectively – Philippa Wilding
RH: A priority will be to ensure that *all* families in the community are able to take advantage of a blended learning approach. Many households could struggle to provide the home learning equipment required – so greater support will be needed here, to make sure that some groups don’t fall behind.
A priority will be to ensure that *all* families in the community are able to take advantage of a blended learning approach – Rich Harley
FF: The way education providers handle data is changing in tandem with the new ‘blended learning’ landscape. For those responsible for keeping data storage clean and secure, it’s important to recognise exactly where your data is distributed and stored. Today, we are dealing with sensitive data on-site, at home and in the cloud, and each of these requires its own data management approach. MM: Blended learning will, I believe, greatly ameliorate the problems we’ve discussed above – provided that schools are able to make decisions and adapt their provision without their hands tied. Direct contact with students will allow teachers to fill in the gaps from those students who have been absent through lockdown. The quicker the data holes can be filled, the quicker schools will be able to focus their attention where it’s needed most. If it’s clear that some students are thriving in the distance-learning model, while others stall, then perhaps a balance can be found in which all students can make academic progress. SC: As ownership of data becomes more scrutinised in the coming months, allowing the ‘data owner’ to update and ‘own’ their data will become even more vital. Crucially, this will be a benefit for schools' and trusts’ finance offices, as it puts the power and ownership of data back with the teachers and staff. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools and trusts to be prepared to switch strategies quickly. However, this relies on having the right information instantly – which staff are high-risk, which work part-time, and what additional skills they can bring to the table. By moving to a self-service data input, schools can be sure that they will have the most accurate and up to date information when needing to implement contingency plans quickly and effectively.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools and trusts to be prepared to switch strategies quickly – Steve Cox

[caption id="attachment_30644" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. What tips and tricks can help IT leaders to tidy up their Management Information Systems (MIS)?

CL: IT leaders require a powerful reporting toolset in order to understand fully their data health, as well as network and document management systems to ensure a best possible overview of the myriad individual files linked to personal database records. They should demand high standards of services from third-party vendors supplying their IT systems, particularly in terms of performance and data management tools. PW: I would recommend a good knowledge of, and training in, prebuilt utilities; using reports to highlight possible missing or incorrect information, such as: email addresses; error trapping; verification and validation checks on data entry, such as for census returns; and deletion or archiving of old data, for safeguarding, GDPR compliance and performance reasons. RH: The best advice is a ‘little and often’ approach, to ensure a rolling programme of updates and improvements. Create a plan to make sure that every piece of data you store has an associated plan for keeping it up to date. That way, your data sets are all being updated systematically, through the work you do every day – rather than having to allocate a chunk of time to do it all in one go. You might also want to plan in time to periodically spot-check, and edit or delete duplicate data sets. This will also help to ensure that your census return is completed as quickly and painlessly as possible. FF: Diligence is the order of the day. A comprehensive and up to date data inventory is the only way to ensure that all data is tracked and kept secure. Think of it like data ‘housekeeping’: a task that must be consistently reassessed as ways of working continue to change. Consistency is key to avoiding losing control of the data life cycle. One tip would be to implement a data retention period, at the end of which all redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT) data is sanitised securely.  KP: Always start with people, processes and technology, and review all three points of the triangle. At Nowcomm, we use this holistic approach for the design and delivery of any system or service. Agree formalised best practice models, adopt standards and legislation, or use sections of standard-based models. Make sure that all your employees understand, and are committed to, your institution’s own standard model – and regularly review these models, looking for ways to further improve the existing system.

Further reading

ISO 9001 certification iso.org/iso-9001-quality-management.html ISO 8000 certification iso.org/standard/50798.html
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  [post_title] => Clean sweep [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => clean-sweep-data-cleansing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-07 12:04:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-07 11:04:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/?p=30625 [menu_order] => 960 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24077 [post_author] => 83 [post_date] => 2020-04-10 12:30:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-04-10 11:30:33 [post_content] => Technology now supports many areas of our lives, enabling us to work smarter, improve accuracy and communicate more efficiently. Communication between a school and a parent or carer should be just as simple as any other type of interaction outside of school. Getting parental engagement right can have a real impact on improving student outcomes. What happens outside the classroom can benefit children and their attainment, and it therefore comes under scrutiny as an improvement area for schools.

Getting parents involved

Rather than broadcasting to parents, it’s important schools work with parents and carers to develop practical strategies for authentic engagement. Asking parents when, how and how much they want to hear from school means providing much richer and more relevant feedback and information about their own child’s performance, homework, behaviour and attendance. We recently ran a survey to ask what parents and carers want from schools in terms of information and engagement with their child’s learning. The responses were striking and a cause for optimism for all those school leaders who want to innovate, engage and do more to bind their whole school community into their goals. We found that 81% of parents believe they are already ‘engaged’ or ‘very engaged’ with their child’s school, with only a small drop off as their children get older, with 52% believing their engagement has stayed the same as their child has progressed through school.

Collaborative technology

At Capita, we know that communication between schools and parents is important, and that methods of communication are changing in a world of digital, mobile and social media. In our conversations with schools, we know many are experimenting and innovating with ways to improve the information flow from classroom to home. One such school is Whalley Range, a member of the Education and Leadership Trust in Manchester. The school has been using SIMS for five years and wanted a very simple and effective way of engaging students and parents. They chose the SIMS Parent and Student apps.
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To date, the apps have been very popular, with over 80% of students and more than 650 parents already engaged. When the school rolled them out, they quickly found the ‘killer feature’ was homework – something that was invaluable for parents and students. According to deputy head, Mike Lee, not only are students much better organised by taking ownership of their homework, parents are now much better informed about what it is their child is expected to do, and this can only benefit the outcomes for that student. Opening up the channels of communication takes away the element of surprise for parents. Students can track their own progress and parents can see what’s being set, as well as access behaviour, attendance and progress reports, all in one place. For SIMS and Data Manager, Matthew Begg, it has brought parents closer to the school and has made communication much easier. Rather than relying on paper and post, messages now go out with just a couple of clicks and they get a response back straight away.

The future of engagement

Engagement needs to be more than just ‘getting parents in to school’ and technology will inevitably be one of the solutions. As more schools start to adopt collaborative technology, we’ll start to see dynamic two-way dialogue between school and home, turning one-way information flow into genuine two-way conversations. Technology has the power to greatly improve parental engagement with schools, helping parents get more involved with their child’s education and supporting increased attainment as a result.
To find out more about the Capita SIMS all-in-one engagement solution connecting parents, teachers and students, visit: capita-sims.co.uk/pe-solution or call: 0800 170 1713 [post_title] => Increasing the use of technology to improve communication between schools and families [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => increasing-the-use-of-technology-to-improve-communication-between-schools-and-families [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-04-08 13:07:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-04-08 12:07:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/?p=24077 [menu_order] => 1182 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23064 [post_author] => 86 [post_date] => 2020-03-16 10:37:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-16 10:37:06 [post_content] => More than 85% of Scottish citizens believe the Internet of Things (IoT) and other digital technologies will allow education in the country to progress, according to new research commissioned by Capita's Technology Solutions division on behalf of the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN). Seeking to unravel Scottish attitudes towards increasing the use of digital technologies and IoT in education, the study also found that 91% of citizens feel emerging technologies could be particularly useful in supporting students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with 92% also feeling it could connect and improve outcomes for students living in remote and rural areas. "We're seeing new technologies developing all the time which can help build smart classrooms and campuses across Scotland," commented Jack Anderson, head of digital and innovation for SWAN at Capita. "Ultimately, these technologies can be an advantage to every student in Scotland. This is particularly true when it comes to ensuring equal access to education – especially for those in remote and rural areas – and helping them prepare for a tech-driven future. We're seeing a lot of government investment into high-speed internet across Scotland – especially for the one in five of households that remain unconnected. We now need to make sure citizens across these remote and rural regions are aware of the possibilities that come with the right infrastructure and reliable connectivity."

Scotland calls for more technology

On top of this, 84% of the Scottish population feel education institutes should provide more remote and distance learning offerings. This would be a huge perk for those dispersed across large geographical boundaries and could greatly alleviate the nation's teacher shortage.

Unique challenges in Scottish education

Citizens listed a number of benefits regarding digital technologies in education, with 60% listing interactive learning capabilities, for example, and 56% citing the potential for distance and remote learning. People based in the Highlands harboured lower expectations, with a fifth – or 20% – of respondents claiming they don't see any benefit to digitising education, compared to 10% overall. The report notes that this is because, historically, connectivity in this region has been harder to come by so expectations are different, but this is likely to change as connectivity improves. With digitisation progressing at rapid pace, Scotland desperately needs to invest in the infrastructure to support it. The government and Scottish policy-makers are working alongside SWAN to realise these efforts. "Scotland is a nation of innovators, but we can only unleash that potential if we have the means to communicate and share ideas effectively," said John Wilson, CEO and co-founder of Ajenta – a software company and SWAN partner. "This begins in the classroom, where access and equity in education resources, and efficient knowledge sharing, is the key ingredient for a nation to gain global economic and human advantage. There is a global shortage of teachers, and this is a genuine challenge in Scotland. Our aim is to overcome the issue by connecting as many classrooms as possible with digital and smart tech, to help schools and universities share learning resources and collaborate easily. SWAN offers a comprehensive level of connectivity that makes this possible." The report is the final instalment in a series of three; the first explored digitisation and IoT in healthcare; while the second explored digital technology in local government services. Click here to download the report.
In related news: BIMA sets new benchmark for digital inclusion and diversity
  [post_title] => 85% of citizens believe digital technologies will improve education in Scotland [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 85-of-citizens-believe-digital-technologies-will-improve-education-in-scotland [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-25 17:23:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-25 17:23:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?p=23064 [menu_order] => 1239 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7263 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2018-12-07 09:35:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-07 09:35:42 [post_content] => [embed]https://vimeo.com/305000718[/embed]

Data-driven change

With the emergence of a data-driven regulatory framework, HE providers need to consider how they are going to respond. To explore these challenges, we’re delighted to welcome HE data expert, Andy Youell, to our webinar panel. Andy’s work has covered all aspects of the data and systems lifecycle and in recent years has focussed on improving the HE sector’s relationship with data. [post_title] => Data-driven change [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => webinar-data-driven-change-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-04-21 14:32:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-04-21 13:32:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=7263 [menu_order] => 2276 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6219 [post_author] => 70 [post_date] => 2018-10-30 00:00:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-30 00:00:51 [post_content] => Data analytics is not just about driving efficiency. It also has the power to improve outcomes and ensure every student achieves their potential. Today’s education solutions enhance the opportunities for children and young adults. By knowing about an individual, rather than guessing, education professionals can create profiles of each learner and use data to better understand when intervention may be needed. No one working in education decided to join the profession to trawl through spreadsheets of student performance data.  However, being able to understand the information enables better interpretation of trends and sometimes, and the chance to uncover the hidden story. Today school, college and university leadership teams are awash with data. While many solutions ‘slice and dice’ data to turn it into actionable information about a year group, class, or subject, there are still a lot of cases where data is siloed – lacking standardisation and incomplete.
No one working in education decided to join the profession to trawl through spreadsheets of student performance data.
The situation becomes even more complex when multiple locations, campuses and groups of schools or colleges are involved, and an aggregated view is required.  Add in a requirement to compare how your school, college or university is doing compared to others and it’s easy to see why education data managers (a very important breed of person in educational establishments these days) never have a quiet moment.  The days of the late 1990s are gone – schools, colleges and universities have to be data literate to survive and thrive in today’s world.

Enhancing education with data and technology

The best results are achieved when education technology solutions are used together to follow the learning journey from nursery right through to higher education. Educational organisations that want to do well should follow the below guidelines:
  • Get strategic – agree what data your institution will collect, with what frequency, and how it will be used.
  • Use the technology you have (or get what you need) – use the full capability of your student management information solution, which should have in built capability to show you data as interactive dashboards, ‘drillable’ reports, a library of key data analyses and alerting systems that tell you when things change.
  • Provide easy access where it matters most – put the data in the hands of those that can do most with it, and do not just keep it hidden behind the doors of the establishment’s management offices.
  • Don’t act in isolation – make sure you understand your institution’s data in context and not in isolation (although that’s important too).  Consider how you compare to those establishments like you and against national benchmarks.  If that data shows you are different, either positively or negatively, ask why this could be?

What’s next for education data analytics?

Data and analytics are awash with buzzwords: big data, data lakes, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and so on.  Advances in data analysis techniques and technologies such as software bots and voice assistants mean we are on the cusp of a revolution everywhere, not just in education. Think about the next time you buy something online.  You’ll see ‘people who bought that also bought this’, or ‘48% who looked at this went on to buy that’, or ‘recommended for you’. Now, apply that experience to education data in schools, colleges or universities and what might happen? Systems will soon be telling us things like ‘did you realise that, based on her current pattern of attendance and results, it looks like Philippa will drop out of her university course next term’ or ‘did you know that Lauren has been absent from school the last four Mondays in a row and this absence pattern is shared by Andrew, Natalie and Chetan’.”
We are on the cusp of a revolution everywhere, not just in education.
Similarly, how far off are we from being able to say: ‘Hey, (Alexa / Siri / Google) – what is the likely outcome for our GCSE resits and A level results this year in Maths, and what actions should I take now to improve them?’. That future is just around the corner. For more insights, please see here. [post_title] => Data literacy in education is essential [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => data-literacy-in-education-is-essential [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-10-30 11:23:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-30 11:23:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=6219 [menu_order] => 2385 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 358 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2018-08-09 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-08 23:00:00 [post_content] =>

Parents often remark that their children, especially teenagers, appear to belong to a different species. One that communicates almost exclusively in sullen stares, uncooperative mumbles and contemptuous tuts. This gulf of communication is not just cultural. Research by Temple University suggests that adolescent brains behave differently from adult brains: the brain continues to mature as people reach their early 20s, and the regions controlling impulses and making plans – the frontal lobes – are the last to develop. As Laurence Steinberg, who led the study, argues, this development explains why teenagers can be moody and reckless. Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “The kinds of capabilities that connectivity contributes to – emotion regulation and impulse control – probably plateau in the early to mid-20s.”

The difficulty that parents, guardians and educational institutions alike are finding is that technological innovation has the potential to exasperate these inherent biological divides. With issues like data protection and online communication now fundamentally woven into pupil and student experience, even impinging on their health and safety, the challenges of navigating the age of communication are unignorable. But equally Graham Cooper, Head of Education at Capita, a professional services company, thinks that its opportunities should also not be neglected: “Nowadays everyone lives their lives using their mobile devices and communicating with schools is no different. With the range of communication tools available to schools there’s no barrier to communicating about any topics, whether that be mental health, social engagements or pupil progress.” 

Often, he argues, it is a school’s attitude to these new technologies that is paramount: “The best schools that I’ve come into contact with seem to focus on communicating positive messages just as much, if not two or three times as much, as the negative ones. They don’t wait for things to go wrong or rely on the normal calendar events like parents’ evenings or school trips to use communication technologies. They’re using them all the time to reinforce good behaviour, good homework or examples of students helping each other out.” In this way, technology can further promote a sense of community, both between pupils and within institutions. Twitter is an excellent tool for this engagement, Graham observed: “It’s increasingly common for schools to create a school trip Twitter account and ask parents to follow that account for any news or updates on the trip.” 

Rob Eastment, Head of Learning at Firefly, an edtech consultancy, agreed that fear of new technologies – and the draconian policies implemented in response to that fear – has the potential to do more harm than good: “It’s perhaps easy to gravitate to the lowest denominator of banning technology or taking smartphones away from students at school, but doing so is to deprive students of information – we, as educators, should be smarter than that in our approach.” However, he cautions that this idealism must be tempered by an institution’s duty of care towards its pupils: “The idea of digital natives vs. digital immigrants is often banded about, and while there may be some truth in it, both teachers and parents have the ability to shape how such devices and information for learning is approached by students.” 

The notion of loco parentis is not eroded but reinforced in the digital landscape, regardless of whether younger generations take more intuitively to new technologies. “For progress, accessibility is key,” said Rob. “An important step is to unify communications – there’s nothing more frustrating than having a bunch of apps, channels or approaches for gathering or sending information. Instead, a single portal, easily accessible (e.g. via online and through an app), which ensures no one misses a message works best.” 

Trackability is also important.

“Teachers can easily see if parents haven’t read or engaged with something they have sent out, enabling them to simply send a reminder or nudge,” said Rob. 

Proprietary education apps, like Firefly’s, which combine accessibility and trackability, are increasingly common as schools realise that purpose-built education online platforms are often preferable to retrofitting commercial ones. Even though apps like Twitter can be enormously powerful tools for institutions, especially for marketing and communications, proprietary apps can ‘ensure no-one misses out’.   

Another such app is the iParent, developed by Isams, an edtech company. As Lisa Evans, Head of Marketing, described, communication between parents, pupils and teachers has been comprehensively revolutionised by digital technologies: “Almost 65% of the population of Western Europe owned a smartphone in 2017. Parents can be kept up-to-date with all aspects of their child’s progress – anytime, anywhere, anyplace,” she said. Again, these tools further underlinse an institution’s duty of care and the necessity of providing ‘proactive, preventive pastoral care’. 

iParent fulfils this criterion by “providing a solution to capture all pastoral and safeguarding needs in one place,” explained Lisa. On the app, using a raised pastoral flag feature indicates the severity of a student’s concerns or life event and is shown as yellow (monitor), green (mild) and red (severe).   

This problem of pastoral care is especially marked at universities. As a generation has grown to maturity completely immersed in a digitally enabled world, concerns around how technology impacts mental health have grown acute. Amid an apparent crisis in student mental health, trusted avenues of communication between students and their support network back home are critical – as is the responsibility of universities to support those vital lifelines. 

James Murray, the father of Ben Murray, a Bristol University student who took his own life in May this year, has called for the relaxation of data protection rules that prevent universities from sharing information about students’ mental health with parents. He highlighted that the transition between school and university is a crucial – and sometimes overwhelming – time: “When they were at school we considered them kids. Then at university we consider them adults. What’s the difference? Ten weeks of summer holidays, that’s all. It’s nothing.”

It’s a view that is being echoed resoundingly across the public sphere, including at the highest levels of government. Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University, agreed that parents should be able to maintain better contact with their children: “Nothing matters more than preserving life. We need porous walls to save lives,” he commented. Universities Minster, Sam Gymiah, speaking at the Office for Students conference recently, concurred: “When these students arrive, for some… the ‘uni experience’ can be disorientating and demanding, as it should be. But universities need to act in loco parentis, [students should be offered] all the support they need to get the most from their time on campus.”

That these political heavyweights have weighed-in makes one thing clear: a new age of communication is upon us. Learning to navigate its pitfalls, as well as appreciating its opportunities, is an essential task for education institutions. The gulf between generations may be genetically hard-wired and therefore, to some extent, unbridgeable. But far from being a cause of further distance, digital tools offer the opportunity to forge common ground. Schools and universities should embrace them – they ignore today’s age of communication at their peril. 

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Picture a multi-academy trust acquiring new schools on a regular basis, all with varying back end IT infrastructure components such as wireless, servers, storage and networks along with numerous IT providers and procurement channels. Combining these all together can cause a headache for the trust’s IT department in terms of co-ordinating the IT service and managing separate contracts with providers. This can also affect the ability of schools in the trust to collaborate effectively.

IT is not always the top priority for a trust as they establish, and therefore IT harmonisation is not always at the forefront of their growth strategy. However, IT harmonisation can provide the vehicle for supporting the ease of growth and the seamless on-boarding of new schools.

Often IT is perceived as a huge investment – this is not always the case. A cost-effective behind the scenes IT infrastructure can drive cost efficiencies and change the classroom experience, without disrupting teaching and learning as it takes place.

There are steps a trust can take to harmonise their IT infrastructure that will drive the achievement of improved performance and cost savings across the trust. It is not possible for this to occur overnight, however. The first step for a trust is to understand what their current situation is and who the various IT providers from which their schools procure are.  This can provide a clear picture of the level of consistency and where new agreements can be negotiated.

Key questions include what is the wireless capacity in each school, what is the status of the key networking components (servers, switches, storage etc.) in what system(s) is student data monitored.   This ‘back-end’ IT infrastructure is usually transparent to the users, unlike the technology being used in the classroom which is very visible and may not need to be harmonised if it is right for the individual schools.  After all, this end user computing equipment should be capable of connecting to any IT core infrastructure – so why not harmonise if it saves money and makes the estate easier to support?

A proper audit of the entire IT estate will provide a basis to understand what exactly a trust needs to do to harmonise and leads to their ‘how to’ plan in terms of sustainable refresh.

To achieve IT harmonisation, a trust must begin by discussing the following questions:

1. Do we have an effective IT strategy and a refresh programme for on-boarding new schools?

2. Do we have a view of the IT environment in all our schools?

3. Do we have a clear view of all IT suppliers through which our schools procure and is this offering value for money?

4. Are we receiving a cohesive and coherent IT service?

5. Is the existing IT provision supporting the achievement of improved student performance?

Once the IT infrastructure has been harmonised, how IT impacts upon teaching and learning methods becomes apparent. Trialling new teaching technology and software becomes far simpler – and it becomes significantly easier to collaborate across trust schools and share best practice.

It opens a whole new world for students and teachers – and because a reliable back-end infrastructure is in place, there will be very little risk of projects failing or classrooms experiencing connection problems due the IT infrastructure. Technology that is being delivered in one school will work in another without issue.

As a new school joins a trust they will experience huge change, and it is important a trust can support the new school and ensure their transformation is as seamless as possible. Establishing a clear set of guidelines about on-boarding a new school with an IT infrastructure that works reduces the risk for the trust and avoids early disagreements about spending, and as such IT harmonisation means a trust is better prepared for the future.

To be clear, however, not every school in a trust is the same, and IT harmonisation is not about applying a standard IT provision regardless of a schools’ wishes.  It is about applying the same core, back-end solution, whilst allowing schools the flexibility to facilitate learning and enrich teaching with whatever user access technologies that work for them.  This approach ensures consistency in the areas that really matter at a trust level, makes the model far more scalable and ensures new schools that join have the same expectation and opportunity. 

Clearly, consolidating spend and harmonising around fewer suppliers/manufacturers will save a trust money. Money that can be reinvested in support of the all-important goal of education; performance improvement. Put simply, money not spent unnecessarily on ‘back-end’ IT can be used in other ways; on things that directly impact on improving outcomes, whether this be continual professional development, additional staff or new classroom devices.

In summary, then, IT harmonisation means:

1. Harmonising IT suppliers and procurement channels to as few providers or manufacturers as is appropriate, thereby reducing costs in respect of technical support, administration and management of suppliers, as well as gaining economies of scale – freeing resources to re-invest in teaching and learning.

2. Harmonising the behind the scenes core IT infrastructure, so when new schools join the trust they become part of a reliable and future proofed IT infrastructure network that enables them to experiment with new IT rich teaching methods. 

Capita work as an IT partner to support you in your IT harmonisation plans, improving IT services across your trust while achieving cost efficiencies and safeguarding students. 

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Capita Managed IT Solutions and C2k have announced that all schools in Northern Ireland can now access Google Apps for Education.

The apps are now part of the C2k service provided to all schools through the EN(NI) contract and are being made available at no additional cost to schools. The launch follows a successful pilot of the scheme in October 2015, involving five schools across the region followed by an additional 26 schools in January 2016. To date almost 300 schools have already opted in to the Google Apps for Education service.

The new apps will provide Northern Ireland schools with greater choice and access to a wider range of classroom tools.  They are specifically designed to engage learners, support collaboration and connect students and teachers to new educational content.

Michelle Clancy, Assistant Principal for St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Downpatrick, said: “Being part of the pilot made the process of ‘Going Google’ quick and simple. The Google Apps allow us to deliver a much more collaborative approach to learning and teaching both inside and outside the classroom across multiple devices, in a secure fashion. 

With almost 300 schools in Northern Ireland already signed up to the service, we are thrilled about the opportunity to provide teachers and students with access to powerful, affordable and easy-to-use tools for collaborating through the Google ecosystem

“During the pilot, A-Level Politics and Sports Science students used Chromebooks to access Google Apps. Lessons were conducted via Google Classroom, allowing students to take a very active role in their learning while taking part in activities such as debates, polls and peer assessment.

Teachers, students and staff will have access to Google Drive, Google Classroom and Google Calendar, with Google Hangouts available for teachers.  Content from Google Play for Education will also be available to compliment the current C2k provision of educational software, as well as support for Chromebooks on C2k’s wireless network.  Phase two will see Gmail, Sites and full Hangout functionality enabled.

Liz Sproat, head of EMEA education for Google said: “Today more than 50 million students, teachers and administrators globally are using Google Apps for Education. We are incredibly excited to now offer key elements of the Google Apps suite through C2k to the schools in Northern Ireland. With almost 300 schools in Northern Ireland already signed up to the service, we are thrilled about the opportunity to provide teachers and students with access to powerful, affordable and easy-to-use tools for collaborating through the Google ecosystem.” 

As part of the roll out of the new apps, Capita, Google and C2k will be running a number of events across Northern Ireland for schools to attend. These sessions will demonstrate the capabilities of Google Apps for Education and provide guidance for schools looking to introduce the new tools.

Further details of these sessions can be found at www.capita-mits.co.uk/Events/

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Whether we want to master a new language, play in an orchestra or run a marathon, we all need to learn to work through different levels of achievement in our bid to reach the ultimate goal.

Setting and achieving targets is an intrinsic part of life and this is often replicated in the way schools monitor their pupils' learning. But do parents get enough information about where their child is in relation to their expected achievement? 

Aiming high

Many schools regularly set target grades for their pupils to aim for throughout the term or by the end of the academic year. These grades can be subject-specific and they help teachers to track children's learning as well as identify what action needs to be taken to support them in making good progress. 

It is vital that care is taken to ensure target grades are personal to a specific child. There are schools I know of that tailor learning goals for each child using computer software to analyse a range of information, such as historical assessment scores and national averages. Detailed notes from teacher observations are also seen as crucial to ensuring that the targets are challenging yet achievable for children, to keep them motivated. But I am seeing more and more schools wanting to take this a step further. 

Greater transparency

Heads of an increasing number of independent schools I visit report a growing need for them to demonstrate the impact they have on pupils' learning. One way that some schools have responded to this is to start making much more information available to parents than they may have done in the past. 

One school I recently visited was keen to move away from a situation where parents were often unaware of what their child was expected to achieve - or where they were in relation to this.

By setting more personalised learning targets for every child, tracking the progress they make more closely and sharing the details more regularly, parents now know what goals their child is working towards and as a result, can help to boost their achievement from home. 

As a parent myself, I feel it’s really important for my child to understand from a young age that if on first glance a challenge seems insurmountable, slicing it up into smaller steps is a great way to help them get to the desired end point. But parents need to be kept informed of how their child is progressing in order to provide the right support, at the right time, to help them master each step. 

Julie Booth is head of SIMS Independent www.capita-independent.co.uk    

You can read Julie's full article published in the Huffington Post 

 

 

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The software, Computer Programming Environment (CPE) will give students and teachers access to a range of programming tools, helping schools introduce computational thinking, coding and algorithms into the curriculum. This will ensure that students have practical experience of designing and writing computer programs, and that they can understand the fundamental principles of computer science. 

Schools in Northern Ireland are amongst the first to have access to the new programming environment with over 40 schools having registered to use the service within days of its launch. The service has been developed as part of the new C2k schools’ ICT service provided to every school in Northern Ireland.  

Programming tools and applications are accessed within a virtual desktop via Capita’s My-School portal.  This provides students with a safe, secure environment in which programming can be carried out.

The development applications available through CPE include:

  • Alice: an 3D programming tool that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story;
  • Blue J: a Java development environment designed for beginners, used by millions worldwide;
  • Python: a widely used general-purpose, high-level programming language.

Ed Brown, managing director, Capita Managed IT Solutions said: “This is a great opportunity for students to learn skills to help them write programs for computer games or design their own smartphone apps.  

“CPE gives schools access to major applications used within the software development industry. Access is provided through individual computers in a secure, managed environment, allowing the freedom to edit, compile and run programs safe in the knowledge that the school’s local infrastructure is completely isolated.”

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The panel

Rich Harley CEO, ScholarPack school management software Fredrik Forslund VP enterprise and cloud erasure solutions, Blancco secure data software erasure Christophe Landuré head of development, further and higher education software, Capita Philippa Wilding director of customer engagement, school software, Capita Murray Morrison founder, Tassomai online learning programme Kevin Prone head of services, Nowcomm IT solutions Steve Cox chief evangelist, IRIS Software Group

Q. Why is the data cleansing process so important for education providers?

RH: When you’ve already got a lot on your plate, data cleansing may feel like a low-priority task. In reality, data cleansing is just about keeping your data up to date. Trying to do anything in your school with incorrect data is going to make the process longer. Conversely, when census time rolls around, if your data is being updated throughout the year via your MIS, your census return can be completed in 30 minutes. At best, having the wrong information can be time-consuming; at worst, it could be potentially dangerous – for example, in the case of medical records (such as allergies) not being up to date. Try to take a whole-school approach to data cleansing, and ensure that every piece of data you store has an associated plan for keeping it up to date. This might take a couple of formats:
  • ad hoc updating, where all staff can keep school and pupil information up to date via the management information system (MIS) and staff permissions to access certain data can be set accordingly to maintain security;
  • and parent information forms, a useful but often time-consuming exercise.
Completing these once a year will allow your office staff to do a full data check in one go. You could also speed this up by merging existing data into the form, and only asking parents to flag any necessary changes. Similarly, some MIS providers now offer apps for parents to allow them to quickly see and update their own details. FF: To truly understand the importance of data cleansing, we must first define it. The official industry term is ‘data sanitisation’. As data sanitisation specialists, we’re tasked with removing data from devices permanently, so that it's impossible to recover. The recent cultural shift towards working from home because of the pandemic, has seen a huge increase in sensitive data being transferred between different IT assets and new locations. Keeping a tab on all IT assets is crucial, and it’s important to recognise the risk associated with leaving this data dormant on devices. This is where a data sanitisation policy comes into play.
Keeping a tab on all IT assets is crucial, and it’s important to recognise the risk associated with leaving this data dormant on devices – Fredrik Forslund
To ensure compliance, education providers should insist on an audit trail to prove what has been completed, according to standards and requirements. Education providers handle a lot of sensitive information on their staff, students, and the institutions themselves. As part of that responsibility, strict data retention policies are crucial. Failing that responsibility can mean breaching privacy laws, resulting in steep consequences, both financial and reputational. CL: Further and higher education providers must adhere to GDPR, and must clearly identify the purposes for holding the data that they have. Cleaning the student data within their systems is key to ensuring that personal data is adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary. The Information Commissioner’s Office can issue penalty notices of up to £500,000 for serious breaches. PW: Chiefly, data management is essential for safeguarding and ensuring legal compliance. All schools must comply with GDPR regulations specifying that sensitive data is only provided to the intended recipients. Failure to comply could result in a serious incident, reputational damage and/or financial penalties. Another implication of incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate data can be financial, in that the institution may miss out on possible funding – for post-16 education, for example. MM: School leaders and students are currently making crucial decisions for lesson plans, student intervention, catch-up schemes and distribution of resources – and doing so with limited visibility on their students. Not only will they have seen very little of those most in need of support during the past few months, but contact time will likely be less than they would wish in the new term. For school resources, including teacher time, to be deployed in the best interests of those students most in need, the quality, volume and validity of data will become paramount. KP: Data cleansing should focus on delivering effective performance, preferably through a standards-based, formal process. A good start would be to incorporate ISO 9001 and 8000 certification. Data requires curation: it ages and it can degrade in quality. At an individual level, I may change name or address, and organisations must keep this data up to date to meet my expectations. Therefore, retaining old data is inefficient, and again when thinking about an individual’s data, aged and inaccurate data could possibly be irritating, potentially offensive or even a potential risk to a person. At a technology level, data storage devices are not always perfect and data can get corrupted (by a hard disk failure, for example). Human error is also possible: if I am working with the data in some form of administration role or activity, I may accidentally overwrite correct data with incorrect data. Data is increasingly valuable to drive operational efficiencies, maintain good customer relationships and to build insights that can extend and enhance the relationship with the customer. These are some of the key areas why a comprehensive and consistent data cleansing process is essential for all organisations. SC: While data requirements have been relaxed in the short-term, this is just the calm before the storm as the fallout from coronavirus is assessed. The problem is that, while requirements are relaxed, staff could be cutting corners on data entry. And reporting is only as good as the data that is entered – thus, there is a potential data cleansing process looming on the horizon for most education providers. Further, in the coming year there will be far larger data requirements placed on trusts and schools. With significant changes to pension rates, funding and the level of required reporting expected, how schools obtain and manage financial, pupil and staff data is now more crucial than ever. And yet, the recent Kreston Academies Benchmark Report found that most schools and trusts currently operate on the minimum requirement. [caption id="attachment_30638" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. What sorts of tools, systems and solutions out there best allow education institutions to manage and clean their data?

CL: There is a range of specialised data cleansing tools on the market, which may help institutions correct inaccuracies and duplicate records. However, the student record systems vendors are best placed to provide solutions that will iterate through all record links and be aware of complex data integration rules within the database. For example, the Personal Data Erasure tool in our MIS provides options to delete students who applied for courses but subsequently changed their minds and never turned up at the institution. The same feature also deals with people who applied for jobs but were not successful. It also provides a log of all external documents (learning agreement, medical notes etcetera), linked to those students which can be cleaned up subsequently by the IT team. RH: The best method for storing, sorting and tracking your data is a modern management information system (MIS). The latest systems now use intelligent software to help you keep your data up to date, by alerting you to any gaps or duplications – and by allowing you to bulk-update or bulk-delete your data, thus saving time. FF: Fortunately, there are options to manage and clean data to a high standard. Also, best practices offer data-erasure software for all sorts of data-storing assets, from mobile devices and tablets to SSD drives and data centres. The key here is to be able to process all assets at any location, wherever your sensitive data may sit at any given time. Given the recent lockdown measures, this can be a challenging process but, as long as all assets are tracked and have a sanitisation process in place, chances of a data leak are minimised. Maintain a certified audit trail and you’ll be in charge of the process, able to prove compliance and avoid regulatory hassle. Another key priority for many education institutions is sustainability. With software-based best practice for data erasure, there is no need to physically destroy IT assets just to protect the data on them. Today we are facing a global e-waste problem, and the destruction of IT assets to avoid data leaks is both damaging and unnecessary. If data sanitisation is used instead, damage to the environment is mitigated. KP: Educational institutions should build a data governance strategy that considers people, processes and technology. There are many products on the market, and it is important to make any selection based on an educational institution’s specific requirements. What data are we looking to clean? Where is it stored? How often will it need to be reviewed?

Educational institutions should build a data governance strategy that considers people, processes and technology – Kevin Prone

Each data set presents different challenges: does it age quickly? Is it typically incomplete? Do we hold significant volumes of duplicate data that is expensive to manage? Do we need to comply with regulations and hold the data for a specific or minimum period of time? Who is going to manage and audit the data? As we define, document and build processes for the data sets, quality management systems and recognised frameworks (such as ISO 8000) can assist. This approach can be used to define not only the functional requirements of any tools, systems and solutions to best allow education institutions to clean their data, but also the implementation and conformance model to be adopted and configured for each tool. SC: Though the MIS remains one of the most critical pieces within a trust’s architecture, by itself it cannot manage or run a school. Creating real efficiencies and one single, accurate picture of truth across a trust requires countless other pieces of software. Schools and trusts must be sure that they have all the right elements in their infrastructure to support them as we move into the next ‘normal’. These include:
  • Engagement: trusts and schools need to ensure that they can communicate more frequently than ever with parents, in order to obtain the required data and provide guidance. Software such as ParentMail and PS Connect by IRIS can create a two-way conversation with new parents, enabling schools and trusts to increase engagement and obtain the necessary data.
  • Analytics and reporting: as analytics and reporting become a primary requirement, there will be a significant amount of crossover in the data sources required to produce accurate, meaningful and precise reports across multiple data sets. Schools and trusts must ensure that their data sets are clean in order to deliver the most accurate results without the need for data manipulation for better decision-making.
  • Asset management: asset data, including new equipment being loaned out and key compliance dates, which sits aside critical day-to-day student record data, can ultimately help trusts remain compliant. Trusts have a legal responsibility for all the people in their care, and so are liable if anything goes wrong with equipment or other assets.
[caption id="attachment_30640" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. How has the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting remote working and learning, impacted data management for education institutions?

CL: The pandemic is having a profound impact on exams management and enrolment processes. In previous years, admin staff and teachers would schedule a range of interviews, and talk to students face-to-face, in order to update their records and provide advice. Further and higher education providers have had to transform existing processes to take place online, requiring support systems to be updated to allow students to enter their details, submit evidence and coursework, and access a wider range of payment options.

The pandemic is having a profound impact on exams management and enrolment processes – Christophe Landuré

PW: There have been requirements for providers to record attendance and other types of data, which has differed from the usual information that they previously collected daily. In addition, providers have had to collect, moderate and submit estimated exam entries, which required remote access to an MIS system from home for some staff. Furthermore, providers have needed to facilitate regular communication between parents and carers throughout lockdown. RH: The biggest impact has been a realisation, for most schools, that on-site systems (MIS and others) are just not an option anymore. With lockdown forcing many school leaders to work from home, those already using cloud-hosted systems have found it quicker and easier to adapt to remote working. Leaders needed instant access to critical information (student, parent and staff details), as well as an ability to seamlessly communicate with specific groups of students (e.g. children of key workers, pupils eligible for free school meals, or vulnerable groups): getting the right information out to the right people was crucial. Cloud-hosted systems have allowed school leaders to access their MIS – to use, change and input data, and to keep up as the situation evolved, no matter where they were. Furthermore, cloud systems support the ability to roll out system updates at the click of a button. As such, we were able to launch new features and functionalities in line with changing government guidance, to help schools get through the pandemic. Server-based, or on-site systems will have needed manual updates here – which just wasn’t possible in lockdown. FF: In this post-COVID world, educational institutions must maintain a razor-sharp focus on data management processes for remote management. Organisations must find a way of removing sensitive data remotely, instead of the usual route of running a process on site or on campus. Achieving the highest level of security at the same time as streamlining operational efficiency during this ‘new normal’ has become a mantra for many. Automate data processes where possible, and look at software solutions that can be deployed remotely. By remotely controlling data management and sanitisation processes, devices will be clean and secure.

In this post-COVID world, educational institutions must maintain a razor-sharp focus on data management processes for remote management – Fredrik Forslund

MM: What I have been hearing among teachers and school leaders is that school closures have, in some cases, greatly increased the range and volume of data they hold on students – for whom they are thus able to make good decisions. Many students, however, are simply missing. With little or no communication, home learning or interactivity, the worry is that these students are overwhelmingly the ones for whom good data is most needed.

[Missing] students are overwhelmingly the ones for whom good data is most needed – Murray Morrison

KP: I would imagine that each institution has been impacted differently, depending on the different data management tools they have in place. However, a correctly defined data management policy, combined with a robust data security and cybersecurity policy, should produce little or no impact. [caption id="attachment_30642" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. And what might some of the longer-term implications be, as/if we transition to more of a 'blended learning' landscape?

CL: This questions fundamentally the concept of a classroom, with its limited numbers of students, monitored attendance, and careful timetabling of activities. There's no limit to the number of people who can connect online to follow a lesson – it can be recorded and played back at will. Students can progress at their own pace through the curriculum. So, in the longer term, the whole structures of teaching and of building estates are at stake.

… the whole structures of teaching and of building estates are at stake – Christophe Landuré

PW: It’s vital to have cloud-based, flexible solutions, to allow for remote use without complex setup and maintenance. There's also a need for improved internet capacity, to cope with the increased traffic, along with more flexible ways of capturing and storing student assessment – whether these be photographic or sound files, or online tests linked directly to MIS assessment systems. This move towards a blended learning landscape will only succeed if there is an investment of time for the training of leaders and teaching staff in how to use online learning tools effectively.
This move towards a blended learning landscape will only succeed if there is an investment of time for the training of leaders and teaching staff in how to use online learning tools effectively – Philippa Wilding
RH: A priority will be to ensure that *all* families in the community are able to take advantage of a blended learning approach. Many households could struggle to provide the home learning equipment required – so greater support will be needed here, to make sure that some groups don’t fall behind.
A priority will be to ensure that *all* families in the community are able to take advantage of a blended learning approach – Rich Harley
FF: The way education providers handle data is changing in tandem with the new ‘blended learning’ landscape. For those responsible for keeping data storage clean and secure, it’s important to recognise exactly where your data is distributed and stored. Today, we are dealing with sensitive data on-site, at home and in the cloud, and each of these requires its own data management approach. MM: Blended learning will, I believe, greatly ameliorate the problems we’ve discussed above – provided that schools are able to make decisions and adapt their provision without their hands tied. Direct contact with students will allow teachers to fill in the gaps from those students who have been absent through lockdown. The quicker the data holes can be filled, the quicker schools will be able to focus their attention where it’s needed most. If it’s clear that some students are thriving in the distance-learning model, while others stall, then perhaps a balance can be found in which all students can make academic progress. SC: As ownership of data becomes more scrutinised in the coming months, allowing the ‘data owner’ to update and ‘own’ their data will become even more vital. Crucially, this will be a benefit for schools' and trusts’ finance offices, as it puts the power and ownership of data back with the teachers and staff. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools and trusts to be prepared to switch strategies quickly. However, this relies on having the right information instantly – which staff are high-risk, which work part-time, and what additional skills they can bring to the table. By moving to a self-service data input, schools can be sure that they will have the most accurate and up to date information when needing to implement contingency plans quickly and effectively.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the absolute necessity for schools and trusts to be prepared to switch strategies quickly – Steve Cox

[caption id="attachment_30644" align="aligncenter" width="790"]data cleansing Image source: Freepik[/caption]

Q. What tips and tricks can help IT leaders to tidy up their Management Information Systems (MIS)?

CL: IT leaders require a powerful reporting toolset in order to understand fully their data health, as well as network and document management systems to ensure a best possible overview of the myriad individual files linked to personal database records. They should demand high standards of services from third-party vendors supplying their IT systems, particularly in terms of performance and data management tools. PW: I would recommend a good knowledge of, and training in, prebuilt utilities; using reports to highlight possible missing or incorrect information, such as: email addresses; error trapping; verification and validation checks on data entry, such as for census returns; and deletion or archiving of old data, for safeguarding, GDPR compliance and performance reasons. RH: The best advice is a ‘little and often’ approach, to ensure a rolling programme of updates and improvements. Create a plan to make sure that every piece of data you store has an associated plan for keeping it up to date. That way, your data sets are all being updated systematically, through the work you do every day – rather than having to allocate a chunk of time to do it all in one go. You might also want to plan in time to periodically spot-check, and edit or delete duplicate data sets. This will also help to ensure that your census return is completed as quickly and painlessly as possible. FF: Diligence is the order of the day. A comprehensive and up to date data inventory is the only way to ensure that all data is tracked and kept secure. Think of it like data ‘housekeeping’: a task that must be consistently reassessed as ways of working continue to change. Consistency is key to avoiding losing control of the data life cycle. One tip would be to implement a data retention period, at the end of which all redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT) data is sanitised securely.  KP: Always start with people, processes and technology, and review all three points of the triangle. At Nowcomm, we use this holistic approach for the design and delivery of any system or service. Agree formalised best practice models, adopt standards and legislation, or use sections of standard-based models. Make sure that all your employees understand, and are committed to, your institution’s own standard model – and regularly review these models, looking for ways to further improve the existing system.

Further reading

ISO 9001 certification iso.org/iso-9001-quality-management.html ISO 8000 certification iso.org/standard/50798.html
You might also like: Ultimate guide to blended learning
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