Schools have got enough on their plates right now without having to worry about potential technical issues surrounding hardware upgrades. The IT department may be chomping at the bit to introduce new technology but they have to give consideration to the people who will be using it on a daily basis.
Schools have strived to continue to educate during lockdown despite the majority of teachers and pupils working and studying at home. This has seen teachers turn to web-based platforms to share lessons, set tasks and stay in contact with their classes and tutor groups. Some schools have used Microsoft Teams. Others have not used it at all, preferring Google Classroom, Show My Homework, Satchel One and others.
Some schools are upgrading their Microsoft licences to include the Teams Phone System and using headphones connected to a PC, laptop or mobile device rather than handsets on a desk. However, many schools prefer what I call the ‘plastic on the desk’! They want handsets and operator consoles because they know it is what their staff are used to and this is what I have observed with the schools I have spoken to in recent weeks.
These more traditional phone systems also offer functionality that cannot be offered by Teams at this time. For example, schools often rely on a public announcement system for emergency messages that are broadcast via handsets or they need a robust wireless handset solution for mobile members of staff, such as caretakers and senior management.
Being more traditional does not mean missing out on the unified communications features that have been so useful during lockdown. Apps can be integrated with phone systems to offer diverts to mobiles, presence, instant messaging and video calls. Therefore schools can enjoy the best of both worlds.
For instance, I have quoted Alcatel-Lucent’s OXO Connect phone system for many schools to upgrade them to new internet-based voice services known as SIP ahead of Openreach’s ISDN switch-off (you can read more about this here) and to benefit from free UK landline and mobile calls.
This system can grow with the school’s needs, can be self-managed by the IT team and includes an automated attendant, voicemail for all users, receptionist consoles and more. They can also use Alcatel-Lucent’s unified communications app, Rainbow, to accommodate mobile and remote workers.
In short, this will have minimum impact on office staff as they will still be using familiar desk-based communications tools while the school will have the flexibility to work from home if needed.
I recognise that every school is different and swcomms does not try to force a solution onto its potential customers. Instead we work with multiple manufacturers to ensure we have a choice of solutions to suit your school and its end users. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can offer any further advice.