Five K-12 school challenges and how to overcome them
Teachers are the lifeblood of future generations, and if a global pandemic has taught us anything, it's to have a greater appreciation for what they do.
Despite enormous obstacles and, in some cases, the need for a significant on-the-fly technology transformation, the education sector has successfully delivered learning to locked-down students across the country.
So why now, when there's finally light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, are there so many teachers leaving or planning to leave the profession?
A recent national survey by NEiTA Foundation and the Australian College of Educators found that an alarming 84% of teachers have thought about leaving in the past year. With 76% of teachers' feeling stressed' and with enrolments in education degrees down by 30%, it's easy to focus on the global factors outside our control. But this can leave us feeling helpless. Instead, this blog highlights the challenges you can control and how best to overcome them with Microsoft Dynamics 365.
No, it's not going to magically increase teacher salaries or manage your parent-teacher interviews. Still, it may save you a few headaches as we continue to navigate the future of education.
So, what is Microsoft Dynamics 365 and can it really make a difference?
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system combined into one seamless solution. As an ERP system, it provides a comprehensive suite of tools to help improve your transparency, collaboration, and efficiency across critical functions such as your finance and operations, project management and human resource management. As a CRM system, there's a range of tools to support the student and parent experience from enrolment to graduation and every touchpoint in between.
Regarding teachers, it can serve as your end-to-end system for attracting and retaining staff. And just as necessary, it can help you deliver an engaging experience for both students and parents.
If you're using a cloud-based Student Management System (SMS) already but still experience some of these challenges, perhaps it's time you reviewed your outdated systems to see if there's a better way of doing things
1. A poor student experience can lead to poor student outcomes
Are your students becoming increasingly disengaged? Or maybe the pandemic has exposed some of the shortfalls in managing student welfare?
With 70% of teachers spending more time supporting their students' emotional wellbeing, using tools to help make the best use of this time or free up time elsewhere will impact the students directly.
The learning experience has changed dramatically in the last couple of years due to the emergence of online and remote learning. But what began as a necessary 'quick-fix' is now being considered a long-term solution to meet the growing demands of students (and parents) looking for a hybrid learning environment of both in-classroom and virtual learning.
It's not just about the ongoing risks of a global pandemic, but other very real scenarios schools have faced like bushfires, floods, and earthquakes. The truth is, engaging your students now extends well beyond the confines of the physical classroom.
One core benefit of using Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the seamless integration and user experience with other popular Microsoft products, such as Office 365 and SharePoint. So, whether students are learning within the classroom or forced to take classes remotely, they can access the information they need with ease, rewatch classroom recordings and stay up to date with all the latest announcements – leaving far less chance for students to fall behind.
When students do fall behind, it places an added strain on teachers who don't just have to put in the extra hours to get them up to speed, they also have to put time into the student's wellbeing. So by reducing the risk of students falling behind, you will reduce the strain on teachers and give them more time to teach.
2. Parents are losing confidence in the school
Providing an online self-service portal is now standard practice among most schools, but some portals aren't designed with both the student and parent experience in mind. As a result, breakdowns in communication between parents and teachers can, in some cases, lead to unnecessary legal liability.
The problem with some legacy portals is that there's a unique student login, which is great, but there's no option to have a separate login for parents. This poses a couple of challenges for schools. Firstly, parents with multiple children at the school have to remember multiple logins or give permission multiple times via multiple logins, which is simply annoying. But of greater concern, the school has no visibility over who has actually logged in and provided permission for the student to go on that upcoming excursion. With no way of tying that student login back to a legal guardian, if something unexpected was to happen, where is the evidence of any or either parent logging in and providing permission?
A simple but effective fix that Microsoft Dynamics 365 can provide has unique logins for parents too. This improves the experience for parents, and schools mitigate their risk as they can now verify which parent has actually provided the permission in the first place. In addition, it's another win for teachers, as it puts their minds at ease regarding any and all interactions parents have had with the portal regarding their child's permission — no more nasty surprises when parents dispute whether they permitted the excursion in the first place.
3. Teachers are burned out and feel stressed, despite the return to normality
How often do you find yourself or teachers complaining about the software they use at your school? Is it a case of 'bad worker blaming their tools', or is there some merit in the improvements teachers would make to the tools they use — if they could?
One of the advantages of Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the ease with which schools can customise the software to fit their needs. Unlike some specific legacy systems, it's much easier to find an IT specialist familiar with the Microsoft environment.
When it comes to building software solutions for schools, we're yet to find two schools that have asked us to build identical solutions.
Helping schools to mitigate their student medical plan liability is an excellent example of a quick fix with huge upside potential — regardless of your solution. Picture this; a student comes home from school in a panic because they forgot to ask a parent to provide permission to attend their sports day tomorrow. Parent lets out a big sigh, pours themself a glass of wine and jumps into the online portal, only to be interrupted by a popup that says, 'student's medical plan has expired, please renew.' The popup serves as a gateway and cannot be bypassed until the school receives an updated medical plan. The parent lets out another big sigh and proceeds to update the medical plan, which may mean that dinner isn't starting until later that evening. But think of the peace of mind afforded to the teacher who no longer needs to worry about the wellbeing of a student who has rocked up to their sports day with an expired medical plan.
4. Teachers are buried in unnecessary admin
For the most part, technology has played a significant role in making our lives easier. It removes the need for manual tasks, provides greater communication and transparency across the school and can even give us valuable insights through data and analytics not previously captured.
You may have the right technology, but are you using it as effectively as you could be?
With more and more schools competing for a limited pool of teachers, teachers are looking for the technology infrastructure, processes and operations that will make their lives easier.
If you've got teachers buried in admin, staying back late, or working on weekends to get through their paperwork, it's time to review your systems and see where you can remove any time sucks.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 can replace a complex mix of independent systems and save teachers time by giving them visibility of their students across various metrics, whether it's their attendance across different classes, grades, or extracurricular activities.
It can help teachers prioritise students who need extra support, collaborate with colleagues, and share feedback on how best to tackle a challenge with a particular student. It can empower your teachers to act immediately and use their productivity tools to save time.
5. Attracting and retaining your best people
Some of the top reasons teachers leave the profession include workload and a lack of work-life balance, and feeling undervalued due to a lack of recognition.
So, how can the Human Resources module within Microsoft Dynamics 365 help transform your teacher experience and reduce high workforce costs associated with high employee turnover?
If schools are competing for a shrinking talent pool, then it's time to make your technology work for you to improve the way you recruit, engage, and retain your best people.
The HR module can help provide teachers with self-service access to their payslips and submit leave and expense receipts. In addition, you can expand your recruitment reach with LinkedIn integration, connect a wide range of payroll solutions, and improve workforce planning with rich dashboards that help you centralise and visualise all your employee data in one place.
These tools have been designed with the users in mind. In this case, your teachers will benefit most from the ease of accessing the information they need when they need it, which ultimately saves them admin time and helps them feel happier and more engaged with their employer.
If you're feeling the pinch when hiring and retaining good teachers, then start there with the teacher experience. There will always be external factors outside of your control — so focus on what you can control internally to make life easier for your staff.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is an intuitive, cloud-based solution that can provide greater transparency of your finance and operations, improve staff communication, collaboration and engagement and ultimately free up time to do what you do best — educate!
The happier your teachers are coming to work, the more comfortable and more engaged your students will become, and put parents' minds at ease as we move into the future of education.