School Technology Budgeting

Consider Your ROI (Return on Instruction)

September 27, 2018 by Paul Heckathorn, Practice Director for Education IT Services

When developing a budget that allows your school to be truly future-ready, perhaps you should consider using a tool common in the world of business: ROI. In the world of business, that acronym refers to Return on Investment. In education, those letters more properly represent the concept of Return on Instruction.

In education, evaluating Return on Instruction refers to how well investments in technology improve the learning environment in the school. This applies to all kinds of learning institutions: traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, and faith-based schools.

Selecting technology to support the digital learning process can keep administrators up at night, especially when the pool of money is constrained. It can be challenging for school administrators and board members to know what should be considered when developing a budget, often times relying heavily on one or two internal sources, such as the director of technology or instructional technology.

A better scenario would be two-pronged: an internal technology committee made up of the key stakeholders to provide valuable input on what is important for Ed Tech in your institution, augmented by an outside entity that has the infrastructure expertise as well as former educators on staff who understand technology integration in the classroom. The outsiders can provide valuable input with their knowledge of what other schools are doing.

Here are some key elements to consider when your school is going through the technology budget process.  

  • Start an internal Ed Tech committee to prioritize initiatives based on the Ed Tech plan.
  • Conduct an Ed Tech assessment utilizing a third party to understand the current state of technology.

  • Determine your replacement cycle for infrastructure, devices and software.

  • Does it make sense to utilize e-rate to offset the infrastructure upgrade costs?

  • Will you move from on-premise hardware/software to Cloud Services for administrative and education applications?

  • Can the existing technology staff support new initiatives or does the school need to add more staff or outsource?

  • Determining if extended warranties and support packages are worth the cost versus risk.

  • How much miscellaneous expenses should be budgeted?

  • Where to look for software alternatives when licensing costs escalate beyond what your budget can afford.

  • Leasing versus purchasing? Leasing can be advantageous if a large influx of technology is required for infrastructure or devices and helps with asset management and a consistent replacement cycle, on the contrary, you are locked in typically to a direction or specific technology whereas purchasing provides flexibility each budget cycle.

These major items by no means cover all areas of education technology. Each school is different based on size, location and how it’s funded. The main thing is that doing an Ed Tech assessment, forming a tech committee and developing an Ed Tech plan will go a long way to ensure you are maximizing your Information Technology spend to support digital learning and reduce the risk for making mistakes on the wrong technology or educational software.