Digitally educated printers

Digital tech is not replacing traditional printing, it’s fuelling its demand, writes Gemma Church

In today’s digital society, does print technology still have a place in the nation’s educational institutions? The answer, from both students and teachers, is a resounding “yes”.

There is not only room for digital and printing technologies to co-exist, students are also showing a preference for print media. When HP surveyed students in their first year at college, more than 60% said they preferred to read novels in print form, for example. Furthermore, the growing popularity of digital technology in the classroom is actually driving a surge in printing. 

Thanks to a multitude of mobile devices, users want to print from any device and any location, as Cheryl Hopes, public sector business manager at Xerox UK, said: “Many of the trends we are seeing relate to ease-of-use and mobility of end users within the education sector. Schools are now much more agile in their learning and want to produce prints as and when they need them, which means printing from iPads or mobile devices; being able to print on whichever machine is closest to them at that moment in time (not to one particular device) and being able to identify who printed what, where and when.”

Users expect their print technology to mirror the ease-of-use they experience with their mobile devices as Dovid Katz, administrator at Gateshead Jewish Primary School, explained: “Xerox machines, like many others, are now much more intelligent than they once were, which means less time standing at the copier, as even complicated jobs can be sent directly from the computer or smartphone.”

Educators also want automation to further extend the ease-of-use of their printing technology, with toners and other consumables sent and meter reads taken automatically, for example.

9698C LeMans Silo 3QR v2 0033 X576dw

Making the right decision

For educators looking to choose their perfect printer fleet, there are many factors to decide on. Ease-of-use is a key consideration, but low cost-per-page, speed, durability and quality are also important factors. 

Due to the heavy print loads, classrooms need durable printers that are also fast, reliable and economical, so teachers and students can print as much or as little as they need. Katz added: “The most important factor, not so much the lease cost, but the ‘click’ charge, especially in high usage environments – followed very closely by reliability.”

Networked printers can also reduce the overall number of printers required either in the classroom, office or staff room. Peter Silcock, business manager for Business Imaging at Epson UK, said: “Schools, like any businesses, are looking to buy multiple devices. The days of just buying a device and the inks to go with it are probably coming to an end. MPS (Managed Print Service) has been growing and solutions are the way forward. For us, we are moving far more into that approach.”


Green printing

The demand for print must be balanced with environmental considerations, and this factor also has a direct impact on buying decisions. The HP OfficeJet Pro 276dw Colour MFP uses up to 50% less energy than colour laser printers and the HP OfficeJet Pro X476/X576 Colour MFP series helps reduce carbon footprints by up to 55%. Both these inkjet printers are popular choices in the education sector, according to HP, alongside the HP Colour LaserJet Pro M477, which offers two-sided printing and versatile digital scanning.

An ongoing shift from laser to inkjet printers in the education sector is expected by the manufacturers as schools and universities demand improved printer efficiency. Silcock said: “The compelling cost savings, greater energy efficiency and better quality which inkjet can offer to schools is something that is proving to be very popular to them.”

Epson also recently developed the WorkForce Pro RIPS (Replaceable Ink Pack System) range, to offer schools and colleges a series of inkjet products that deliver uninterrupted printing for up to 75,000 pages without the need for a consumables change, which matches the ease-of-use requirement so many educational institutions demand. Silcock added: “The new products are helping Epson accelerate the shift from laser to inkjet within the education printing market.”

The Replaceable Ink Pack System helps schools take advantage of the convenience benefits of a localised printer fleet, but with the predictable costs of a centralised model. The products are also designed to address the impact of printer downtime and maintenance issues, which can cause disruption in schools.

Small desktop printers also have success in the classroom, such as the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5690DWF, as they’re wireless, easy to maintain, low-cost and simple to use. Norwood and Crescent Primary Schools recently replaced its bulky primary printer with the HP Officejet Pro X476dw, which is a smaller, faster and more cost-effective device. 

The Norwood and Crescent Primary Schools printer also offered added functionality, including copying and scanning, so staff no longer have to waste time travelling to the only photocopier on campus. Brian Jukes, ICT manager at Crescent Primary School, said: “The new printer offers outstanding print quality at low cost. It’s fast, flexible and takes up little room making it ideal for the staff room environment. Furthermore, by using the ePrint facility I can easily monitor and authorise the print jobs.”

HP OfficeJet Pro 276dw Colour MFP

Digital world

Finding the balance between the digital and print environments poses a new challenge for the education sector, as Neil Sawyer, channel sales, education and SMB director (UK&I) at HP, said: “It’s not an ‘either or’ for digital or paper – it’s a both. You can’t digitise everything and there’s still a huge role for print and the tangible world – it’s not going to go away. The real question is how to measure when it’s right to use print or when it’s right to go digital, and we’re at the beginning of all that science.

“HP is on a mission to enable teachers and students with tools that ‘un-standardise’ learning – making education a more unique experience for students that is more flexible, collaborative and dynamic,” he added.

As part of this goal, HP has worked with the Irish government to recognise schools which are successfully using technology for teaching and learning. Together they have created the “Digital Schools of Distinction”– a programme to promote best practice for use of technology in Irish schools. Some 1,600 primary schools in the Republic of Ireland have signed up and 260 schools have been accredited within the first two years of the programme, which is now being rolled out in Northern Ireland. HP plans to expand this programme elsewhere in the UK and possibly across Finland, South Africa and Spain.

Digital and printing technologies are opposite sides of the same coin. 

One will always exist and support the other. For schools, there is a clear learning curve ahead to embrace and effectively use print media through the enabling effects of digital technology.