From education to employment

Asset management complexities with the 14 – 19 agenda

The 14 – 19 agenda is transforming the delivery of education for young people today. No longer will students remain in one location; instead those completing diploma courses will be registered to study at a number of locations.

A regular week for a diploma student may involve approximately three learning centres; a ‘home’ school which is their normal school or college; a second education base which is often another school or college in the area where students can study modules that their ‘home’ school does not provide; and a workplace where students will receive support from professionals in their chosen topic of study.

With students and staff moving between educational establishments on a daily basis, key ICT issues must be addressed. An array of students will visit different educational sites to complete their studies, potentially resulting in a number of assets and software titles being taken onto the premises. The challenge of accurately organising and reporting on a large number of assets and software programmes is now heightened by the arrival of diploma students. Andy Jackson, children, young people and families directorate, at Birmingham City Council recently explained to me: "Schools and colleges have a duty of care to know what software is on every owned computer. Expecting a school or college to carry out a regular manual audit on every computer, especially on student and teacher laptops is unrealistic."

The truth behind software licensing laws

Many head teachers and teaching staff are unaware of copyright laws as well as the possible fines that can be incurred for the use of unlicensed software. In order to promote legal software licensing, Software Asset Management (SAM) is an essential issue to address in education.

Becta advise that a software licence is an agreement that gives schools and colleges the right to use the software. The learning centre does not buy the software outright; therefore they do not own it. Software is protected under copyright law; the unauthorised, unlicensed copying or use of software is illegal.

Students may upload a number of software titles to complete their diploma studies, so how does a school or college keep track of these titles and comply with licensing laws? It is the establishment’s responsibility to know exactly what is on their system, what duplicates may be uploaded and also any warranty expiry dates that they must adhere to.

For example a Creative and Media diploma student may require an art software programme to complete his or her studies. If the student’s secondary education base does not have this specific programme installed on its network, the student may bring it with him or her to use.

This may be a student-owned software title but if it is being used on the school network this naturally brings challenges for the educational establishment, such as ‘is the software properly licensed?’ As many schools and colleges are now reporting, paper-based records cannot maintain an up-to-date reflection of software uploads, licences and expiry dates. Forward thinking automated asset management systems however, such as Parago, can look after this at the click of a button. Analysing an establishment’s system on a 24/7 basis (almost like an online security guard), schools and colleges can be confident that their asset management system will alert them of any duplicates or licence expiry dates.

As stated by Becta, there are four steps towards managing software effectively;

– Conduct a software inventory

– Match installed software with licences held

– Review software requirements with reference to development plan

– Ensure an up-to-date inventory

By ensuring an accurate log, this will help schools and colleges to;

– Manage software assets

– Establish upgrade requirements

– Ensure legal software installation

– Establish areas in which schools or colleges can save money by buying volume licences

– Ease budget planning

Paper-based reports ‘v’ automated asset management reports

There still seems to be a large proportion of schools and colleges that believe paper-based reports fulfill the requirements of asset management. But how can a paper report be kept up to date, and can it be a trusted database of information? Once the inventory is completed, does this not then mean that 364 days of the year, it is an incorrent representation? In the ill-fated event of a fire, how can learning centres be sure that they have a precise account of all assets on the campus and software titles on the network?

Now take a moment to think about the unknown duplicates of software titles that may be sitting unused on learning centre networks, especially in this instance with the delivery of the 14 – 19 diplomas. Consider the substantial cost savings that could be made if software title usage was analysed (through a process known as software metering), used effectively and not just left sitting idle on the computer system.

With budget constraints tightening on a daily basis for educational establishments, now could not be more timely to consider powerful ways of ensuring financial savings and more accurate budget forecasting.

Tim Roots is director of Parago Software, which develops revolutionary systems for the education sector

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