Optimize IT Across Large, Multi-Site K-12 School Districts

Increasingly large school districts with widely dispersed locations require unique solutions for their device management strategy.

There are over 132,853 public and private schools for K-12 students in the United States that are managed by 13,584 regular school districts. The number of school districts has been on a decline in the past decade as a result of school district consolidation, with the remaining districts now managing more schools across a larger geographic area.

While school districts and 1:1 device programs have both grown, limited budgets often prohibit the addition of IT personnel, with a limited number of staff and resources available to manage an increasingly complex technology landscape. As is the case for large districts, some teachers and administrative staff will float from location-to-location, creating additional IT challenges to ensure that teachers have access to the networks or peripherals needed to do their job each day.

Billings Public Schools, the largest school district in Montana, faced this challenge in supporting over 28,000 devices (Chromebook, iPad, Mac, Windows) for the students and staff in the 33 K-12 schools in the district. For Billings Public Schools, as with other large, multi-site K-12 school districts, the following technology-supported workflow improvements have been key to optimizing the management of IT across the district.

Supporting Floating Staff

Substitute teachers and floating staff require special attention from IT. Whether these teachers have their own devices or are logging into a shared device, it’s critical that they have the network access, peripheral support, and software needed to teach students or perform their duties without having to contact IT.

Billings Public Schools leverages FileWave to ensure that teachers traveling between school buildings automatically have the right settings and access needed within that location, with no need for teachers to call in to support to request access.

Smarter Deployment and Software Distribution

Billings Public Schools leverages FileWave as a single, unified endpoint management solution to deploy and manage all device types – Chromebook, iPad, Mac, and Windows. The moment a device is purchased, it is assigned to Smart Groups based on critical details about who and where a device will be used, assigning the device to a specific school, classroom, teacher, or even student, depending on the use case.

FileWave Smart Groups help IT teams ensure each device has the right account, security certificates, and software that the student will need. On a broader level, Smart Groups also make it easy to assign, revoke, or re-assign software licenses when and where they are needed, a more cost-effective solution to license management.

With Smart Groups and Custom Fields, IT teams have complete hands-off control to deploy patches and updates where they are needed or to gain visibility into device health, including battery and hard drive health, software in use, or device location.

“We’ve created simple scripts to bring us the information we need,” noted Christian Massie, Computer Technician for Billings Public Schools. “FileWave helps us check if a device has a required app and, if not, to automatically install it on the next time the device checks in.”

Remote Support

According to the 2018 National K-12 IT Leadership Survey Report from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), over 75% of IT time is spent reacting to technical problems. In many large school districts, this could mean sending IT personnel to physically touch devices, only to discover critical software is missing or user error.

“We had to literally touch every device, which wasn’t a good way for us to update devices or to add software,” notes Deana Elder, Technology Support Coordinator for Billings Public Schools.

While remote support eliminates the need for hands-on or lengthy troubleshooting, IT Admins in some school districts are also leveraging student-led tech teams to better manage tier 1 support requests in the field, allowing IT admins to focus more time on implementing and enhancing the curriculum.

Self-Service Kiosk

Teachers and staff need an easy way to get what they need to support on-demand learning. If a teacher decides to pursue a new project, having to request software from IT could lead to delays. Instead, IT teams can leverage FileWave’s self-service kiosk, pre-populated with vetted applications pre-configured and kept updated for whenever they could be needed. Teachers can download the software they need – or push software to their entire class – without requiring administrative access to any devices.

Multi-Platform Visibility & Reporting

Like most large school districts, Billings Public Schools had a central IT staff, with a few schools only with their own IT staff member. Without an IT staff member in each location, it was difficult to know exactly what devices were present, whether those in use were best-suited to support learning, or if each device had all the software required to be effective.

The IT team at Billings Public Schools chose FileWave to provide greater transparency over the devices in use. IT admins can track inventory at-a-glance, with geo-tracking if devices go missing, as well as better plan for device and software purchasing decisions to prioritize spending.

“I give these reports to our principals and to my boss, to let them know what kind of IT support we need and where,” said Elder. “For example, one high school has 4,000 devices and only one tech. I can take these numbers and make the case for why we need another tech.”

Aside from a unified dashboard, FileWave makes it easy to run reports that can be used to secure or gain technology funding or to comply with privacy and security regulations.

To learn more about how Billings Public Schools leverages FileWave to support their multi-platform STEM project for over 16,800 students, read our case study.

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