District IT teams are tasked with protecting distributed education networks from attacks, while at the same time enabling digital growth.

How to help IT teams manage digital transformation

District IT teams are tasked with protecting distributed education networks from attacks, while at the same time enabling digital growth

From educators, IT teams, and school administrators to parents and students, nearly everyone with a stake in the education industry is aware of the promise new digital technologies hold to improve learning outcomes, increase student engagement, and add variety and depth to instruction and assessment.

Whether they’re talking about one-to-one computing initiatives, digital textbooks, using “smart” interactive whiteboards and 3D printers in classrooms, or moving to full-scale “flipped” instructional models, educators are excited about technology’s potential.

These innovations are making it possible for teachers to customize lessons to suit individual learning styles, extend instructional time beyond school hours, and better capture the attention and interest of students.

But digital transformation is also threatening to overtax the resources of district IT teams, which are already challenged to accomplish a great deal with small staffs and limited budgets. With increasing reliance on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) learning applications and growing numbers of student-owned devices connecting to school networks, educational IT environments are more complex and heterogeneous than ever before.

In addition, school buildings are incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) devices to boost the efficiency of their lighting and climate control systems, and adding facility monitoring and physical security systems into their networks.

The increasing numbers and new types of connected devices represent an enormous expansion of the network’s attack surface. This challenge is complicated by the reality that IoT devices are notoriously difficult for IT administrators to discover, monitor, and secure, and continues to be compounded as networks become more distributed–requiring education IT teams need to secure devices across multiple schools and networks, rather than limiting technology deployment to a single, centralized location.

Education IT budgets not growing as fast as cybersecurity challenges

The other half of the challenge is that across the United States, overall educational expenditures have remained relatively flat since 2009. The inevitable consequence is that IT teams are being asked to do more without seeing corresponding increases in the resources they’re being allocated.

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