Technology Planning and Analysis

Education in Europe Depends on a More Holistic Approach to IT Investment

There have been many different predictions about the future of education.  In the recent Humans and Machines report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Ricoh Europe, some, including Sebastian Thrun, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University in the US, predicted that the physical learning environment will disappear, especially in higher education, as people migrate to online learning courses, otherwise known as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).  While others, such as Patrick McGhee, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London in the UK, have said that online learning cannot replace the shared experiences that are so valuable to the education experience.

Whatever happens, it’s clear that technology is central to the future of education, helping universities and colleges better manage information and provide improved standards of teaching and learning. However, many professionals in the education sector are struggling to keep up with the rate of technology-led change.  An additional study from Ricoh reveals that the majority of European education professionals believe that the way they work is out of date. 88% also said that this inhibits their effectiveness and efficiency, which in turn is having a significant impact on their ability to deliver high quality education services.

This is not down to a lack of investment, with many schools, colleges and universities having invested significantly in new technology. In the UK for example, it is reported that £450 million is being spent every year on the latest technologies, such as interactive whiteboards and tablet computers.  However, 73% of education professionals across Europe say they are concerned that their organisations are investing in new technology before maximising the potential of their existing IT investments. 

It means that vital information, such as student results, performance and attendance data cannot be accessed readily. The ability to access such information could add immense value to education professionals when considering what resources and learning programmes they should develop to continuously improve the quality of education across the region.  Also for higher education, data about student interests can be leveraged to create personalised recruitment campaigns, supporting the establishments’ goal to attract talent and stand out from other competing colleges and universities.

The challenge is widely recognised in the European education sector, with 77% of education professionals saying the use of front-facing devices is being hindered by back office legacy systems.  This can lead to crucial information such as attendance data and performance reports remaining in back office silos, when it should be easy accessible.

Education organisations therefore need to take a holistic look at their technology needs.  This starts with a review of the existing infrastructure, assessing whether it can meet the demands of teachers, lecturers, administration and students.  By doing so, information bottlenecks can be detected and innovative processes can be created to improve access to information and connect data from all departments.

Optimising document and information processes will also enable organisations to harness big data and analytics to support education professionals when personalising learning experiences, for example they can access useful data about each individual’s interests, courses and areas for improvement.

By focusing on reviewing, digitising and optimising information processes, educational establishments can drive more value from existing assets.  

By creating a more connected operating model for the future, Europe’s education sector will be able to increase collaboration and offer more effective personalised education services to students whether in a physical or virtual environment.

Educators will also be in a position to more quickly optimise new technology investments and keep up with the pace of change which isn’t going to slow down; on the contrary it’s most likely to accelerate in the years ahead.

By Carsten Bruhn, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Europe PLC


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Carsten Bruhn

Executive Vice President, Ricoh Europe PLC

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