The new era of smart printing for schools

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The new era of smart printing for schools

  1. 1. The New Era of Smart Printing for Schools October 4, 2013 by Andy Slawetsky Digital content, personalized learning, classrooms filled with tablet-toting students using mobile devices supplied by the school or through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives — it’s clear that the latest tech- nology innovations are continuing to reshape the K-12 educational landscape. But what do all these changes mean for printers, the long- time fixtures in classrooms and administrative offices? As content transitions from being paper-based to being created and consumed on digital devices, will printers go the way of dial-up modems and floppy drives? Don’t bet on it. Schools aren’t pulling the plugs on their printers; they’re using these essential devices in new and innovative ways. For example, as students create more digital content, they still need high-speed, color-capable output devices to produce visually compelling presentations for class discussions. It’s the same with the assignments that originate on mobile devices, whether they are tablets, notebooks or streamlined Web clients. But these traditional uses are only the beginning as increasingly sophisticated, versatile printing hardware enables new ways of distributing content in the digital classroom. Technology-savvy schools are now taking advantage of networked and multi-function printers (MFPs), which can print, scan, copy and fax information as black and white or color output. Because these devices connect directly to school networks, they be- come communication hubs that enable students and teachers to scan essays and artwork and distribute the digital files to a website or email list without even producing a paper document. As 1:1 computing and BYOD initiatives continue to proliferate, more students will be equipped with smartphones, tablets, netbooks and laptops — and the ability to print from these mobile devices will grow in importance. Additionally, administrators who face stringent regulatory requirements will increasingly rely on workgroup printers and MFPs to create, capture, store and distribute information for federal special needs funding and other state and local government mandates. The good news for cash-strapped schools is that technical innovation and sophistication doesn’t mean the latest hardware is a budget buster. Prices have been steadily falling in recent years so that many high-volume workgroup models now fall well below $1,000. And when schools replace older, single-purpose printers, scanners and fax machines with more efficient multi-function units, they will reap additional benefits from reduced hardware costs, increased productivity and lower energy bills. The bottom line: Output devices aren’t becoming less relevant for digital classrooms, they’re becoming more versatile, more available, more convenient and more resourceful than ever before. But to get the most out of these advanced products, schools must develop a digital content strategy that takes advantage of the latest device innovations and related solutions.
  2. 2. Printers Keep Evolving One thing is clear — despite the digital revolution now occurring in K-12 classrooms across the country, schools need printers and MFPs more than ever. MFPs come packed with network connections, processors, hard drives and touchscreen panels, putting these devices squarely in the category of specialized computers. In the classroom, teachers can use the latest devices to create hard copies of lesson plans and assignments for students, especially for those who rely on digital content but cannot bring a device home. In addition, teachers can produce presentations that make use of color to grab the attention of pupils and facilitate learning. Beyond these traditional uses, networked printers and MFPs complement the growing world of tablets, Web-based applications and Internet resources. Following are some print solutions and strategies that are supporting schools in their digital revolutions. Document management and digital content In schools, the ongoing need for networked printers and MFPs is solidifying around a host of new applications that are creating a foundation for a larger transformation in how education organizations create and manage documents. At the core of these changes is document management software, which, when combined with the scanning capabilities of MFPs, enables schools to turn hard copy documents into digital content. This means schools can gather all of the required information about students — ranging from grades and teacher evaluations to medical histories — into central electronic repositories. The information then can be stored securely, located easily and distributed efficiently via networks, workflow systems and the Internet. According to AIIM, an industry association devoted to digital content trends and best practices, key document management features include:  Document check-in and check-out  Security and access control  Version control  Audit trails  Annotation and stamps  Summarization A recent report by AIIM concluded that the latest technologies for scanning, imaging and character recognition are improving the processes organizations use to turn information in hard copy documents into digital content. AIIM surveyed a cross section of organizations, including ones in education, and found cost-saving and productivity benefits when content is in digital form and doesn’t require manual data entry processes for keying-in data.1 The majority of the survey respondents said they saw a gain in productivity of 33 percent or more, according to the report. “These could generally be considered hard-dollar savings, and they commence as soon as deployment is complete, and continue for the life of the process,” the AIIM report states.
  3. 3. How does this translate for schools? One compelling example is the ability to automate testing and grading. This comes about when school districts combine the scanning capabilities of MFPs with the right software that enables instructors to create and print tests and barcoded master answer sheets. The scanners in MFPs automatically match student responses to the masters and compile the scores. This eliminates the expense of commercial test forms and specialized scanners and gives instructors nearly instant feedback on student performance. The MFP and software combination can then send test scores directly to the school’s student information system to update each pupil’s education record and allow instructors to analyze the results to identify areas for improvement. Gap analysis like this is especially important as instructors prepare for standardized tests and other regulatory requirements. Another important aspect of document management is the related area of content lifecycle management: the ability to organize and store data according to its age, educational relevance, regulatory importance and other retention policies of the school district. Lifecycle management systems can automatically move digital records to the most appropriate destination, whether that’s a hard drive on a networked printer or MFP, a file server, a database housed on a storage area network or a public cloud archival site. School districts should look for systems that manage data unobtrusively so teachers and administrators have the information they need whenever they need it and don’t encounter any productivity delays. Managed print services and cost control Managed print services (MPS) are another game- changer for school district printing resources. MPS is a print optimization system that provides visibility into the entire printing environment. This allows districts and schools to account for every penny they spend and manage how the print resources are used. With this outsourcing approach, school administrators contract with an outside specialist to take control of the printing and imaging equipment, including such tasks as ink and toner replacement, routine maintenance and repairs. Managed print services and cost control Managed print services (MPS) are another game-changer for school district printing resources. MPS is a print optimization system that provides visibility into the entire printing environment. This allows districts and schools to account for every penny they spend and manage how the print resources are used. With this outsourcing approach, school administrators contract with an outside specialist to take control of the printing and imaging equipment, including such tasks as ink and toner replacement, routine maintenance and repairs. This can all be addressed with the help of a managed print professional that can provide supplies replenishment, maintenance and preventive care all for a set monthly cost that remains predictable throughout the school year.
  4. 4. Finding an optimal ratio of devices to users is essential for managing costs, according to the Photizo Group, an industry association devoted to the MPS segment. It states that some organizations maintain one printer for an average of every 2.2 employees, 3 which can rack up unnecessary costs for hardware, ink or toner, and energy, totaling about $750 per employee, per year.4 An evaluation by a managed print specialist often finds ways to use workgroup printers and MFPs to centralize printing resources and serve perhaps six employees per device. The savings from a successful managed print program may average 30 percent, Photizo adds.5 Better management of printers and MFPs has ripple effects that go beyond direct budget considerations. With proper oversight, school districts can be sure these networked devices don’t open up new security risks through careless use of the resources. For example, a student health record or Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) report left unattended in an MFP output tray could lead to embarrassment or legal problems if accessed by someone who isn’t authorized to see the information. And while scan-to- email capabilities on MFPs can be effective ways to distribute information, they could also facilitate security breaches if access controls aren’t in place. Challenges like these help explain why organizations are turning to MPS. The Photizo Group reports that millions of organizations across all market segments have adopted managed print services in recent years. In 2011, the North American market alone reached $17.5 billion, or 20 percent higher than the previous year, Photizo says.6 Similar growth rates are likely for at least the next three years, it adds.

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