Sep 08 2021

How Can Asset Tagging Save a K–12 School Money?

Thoughtful IT asset management solutions can help K–12 districts save money by keeping track of technology and planning device refreshes.

Schools have a lot of devices to manage. Students have devices, staff have devices and classrooms have devices, all of which need to be tracked, organized and managed. Educational technologies are a considerable investment for K–12 districts. To protect this investment, schools need robust asset management programs.

An asset management strategy should include asset tags for all devices. This means that all school-issued tech should be tagged before it goes into the hands of students, teachers, administrators and other end users. Asset tags are adhesive labels that typically include a barcode and a sequential number identifying the unique asset to which the tag is adhered — anything from a student laptop to classroom speakers.

Asset tagging can take time for schools to set up, or schools can employ a third-party service to aid them in implementing asset tags. Spending the resources to properly apply asset tags and begin tracking assets can substantially benefit K–12 districts, however. The ability to carefully track and manage assets can help districts maximize their investments by keeping track of deployed tech and simplifying device refreshes.

DIVE DEEPER: What is an asset tag, and how is it used in K–12 schools?

What’s the Purpose of Asset Tagging the Devices in K–12 Schools?

One way that asset management helps schools maximize their IT investments is by identifying and locating lost devices. Educators who teach in multiple classrooms throughout the day, for example, may take technology with them between classes.

“Teachers will physically move assets from one classroom to another,” says Samer Alsayed Suliman, the IT manager at Bloomfield Hills Schools in Michigan. “Some teachers will grab all their stuff — the computer, the document camera, the sound system — and they’ll just take it with them if they move classrooms.”

This can create problems for other teachers using the classroom, and it can eventually become a problem for the IT team in the school responsible for locating the missing technology. When asset management practices are in place, however, the tech can be easily located.

“Audits really help us find this information, because then we just kind of know where all of our assets are,” Alsayed Suliman says.

IT Asset Management Makes Students and Educators Responsible

Asset tagging also helps connect devices with individuals. When a device is missing at the end of the year or the end of a semester, district IT leaders can work with administrators in individual schools to identify the student or staff member who did not return the device. This can help them track down and locate missing tech more easily.

“If a student receives a Chromebook, that device is actually checked out to the student directly,” Alsayed Suliman says. “Typically what we do is check out devices directly to the building, so we can account for how many devices are present within that building, and then the building will go through and check those devices out specifically to students.”

Within the asset management system used by Bloomfield Hills Schools, students and parents can see — but not manage — the asset tracking information. By identifying problems early, schools can more easily retrieve any assets that go missing.

Assigning devices to individuals also helps districts keep track of assets in the possession of staff members. With asset tagging, when someone leaves their position within the district, the IT team can be sure all of the tech checked out to that person is returned before they go.

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: This guide breaks down federal funding for K–12 leaders.

Asset Tags for Equipment Help Districts Track Device Lifecycles

The last year and a half of online and hybrid learning disrupted many districts’ device purchasing plans. There was a rush to get devices into students’ hands, and five-year plans became initiatives that needed to happen overnight. As a result, lifecycle and device refresh schedules are in turmoil.

Asset tagging and asset management can help schools save money on their device refreshes. When assets are properly managed, districts can take a holistic look at their operational technology.

“Knowing what the district has ensures that schools are reducing any unnecessary spending on replacement equipment,” says Jerome Ohnui, a data specialist for Michigan’s Troy School District. “Equipment that’s deemed obsolete by one program may be more than adequate for another, which allows a district to purchase updated equipment for a more advanced use case while moving older but still serviceable items to another program.”

This can help schools assess where they need to make investments and determine which devices can be kept in rotation for a few more years, which cuts down on unnecessary purchases. Districts can see what they have and what they actually need to spend money on, rather than rushing out to buy the newest and most recent version of a product.

“Without asset management, districts will simply bleed money by chasing after needs without properly assessing and accounting for them,” Ohnui says.

RELATED: Take a structured-choice approach to purchasing educational technology.

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