For Langford, who also serves as CIO for the Beaverton (Ore.) School District, such help has proved invaluable. The first time his district went one-to-one in the 2015-16 school year, it had no outside support. “The IT shop had to absorb all the logistical planning, and there was some risk to that in terms of staff capacity,” he says.
In a subsequent 2019-20 deployment, he went with third-party support.
“It took all the logistical work and moved it outside of IT,” he says. “Rather than us having to enroll the devices and get them configured for student use, they came ready to use. It drastically reduced the amount of time IT staff had to spend on all phases of the deployment, which freed us to put those people and resources to work in other areas.”
Making Dollars and Sense of Outsourcing
In addition to freeing up IT teams to address higher-level tasks, outside support has proved to be a financial boon for some districts.
Nidy weighed the long-term budgetary impact of hiring staff to take on a job versus using outside assistance to support her one-to-one deployment. “Sometimes, it makes more sense to pay to outsource this part of the work, and then it is not an ongoing cost,” she says. “It’s a one-time expense that we can leverage just to move us forward.”
North Canton supports its one-to-one initiative through a permanent improvement levy that generates $1.5 million a year, some of which goes to support buildings and instructional resources, and some of which is devoted to devices.
DISCOVER: These 3 online learning tools provide a boost to remote learning instruction.
“Once we found out that the service existed, we factored that into the cost of the device, which was already being supported by that levy,” says Nidy. To get the service built into the budget, she presented a cost-benefit analysis to a district-level cabinet that included the superintendent, assistant superintendent, business director and treasurer. This ensures third-party support is now included as part of the Chromebook cost structure every year.
For schools considering third-party help for one-to-one deployments and support, Langford says it’s important to take a big-picture view of the financial impacts.
“Sometimes in education, we don’t quantify the cost in terms of human resources for our projects. We’ll talk about how much the device costs, but we don’t look at how much staff time it takes to get that device out of the box, to get it enrolled and get it in the hands of the student,” says Langford. “You have to look at it holistically, to consider all these possible costs that could explode when you bring in these new devices.”
Allow IT Teams to Focus on User Support
At Pleasanton (Calif.) Unified School District, Senior Director of Procurement and Technology Amy Nichols uses centralized configuration to manage applications on her Chromebooks to speed the setup process. She uses Google’s Chromebook White Glove Service, which allows a third party to configure and enroll devices, through CDW•G. The service enables her team to define configurations through the Google console, and the rest of the setup is left to CDW•G.
“The devices are removed from their individual packaging, the computer is opened and turned on, and a short key combination initiates the device,” says Nichols. “The outside providers log in, we provide them with an administrative account, and that pulls over many of the settings that we have set up in our console.”
This becomes especially relevant at a time when IT teams are stretched thin. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Pleasanton Unified School District has processed more than 6,000 trouble tickets. The pressure is intense, she says, and outside support in the form of white-glove service has been key to coping.
“It helped us to move the less technical work off the shoulders of our staff,” says Nichols. “Whenever you are unboxing thousands of devices, you end up with a mountain of cardboard. Just having another company to deal with all that trash disposal takes the pressure of our custodial staff, and it frees our tech folks to focus on supporting the students who are using the devices.”
MORE ON EDTECH: How did these school districts successfully navigate hybrid learning?