Managing a school can even at the best of times be quite challenging and tedious. However, life as a school owner/administrator can be made a lot easier with the right technology tools. I am writing this article to share with other school owners some of the technologies that have made a huge difference to my work and life as a school owner. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to technology so I would recommend you consider your needs carefully before deciding to adopt any of these technologies.
Quick Books Online (www.quickbooks.intuit.com)
QuickBooks is a software for financial management. The online version – QuickBooks Online (QBO) is simply the cloud based version of the product. Intuit, the company behind QBO claim that it is designed to help business slash the time they spend managing their finances.
For a school that’s in its 4th decade, I hate to admit that only within the last 18 months have we adopted a financial management software. For a brief period in our history, we retained the services of accounting firms. This didn’t go as well as we hoped so we mostly managed our finances in-house using Excel Spreadsheets. In 2017 we felt we needed to take the next step in financial management. We chose QBO because of its simplicity and it hasn’t disappointed.
In addition to being easy to use, QBO is quite cost effective and gives us access to your accounts anywhere, anytime on desktop or mobile. The great thing about QBO is that if we are careful to make sure our transactions are properly recorded, at the click of a button it gives us the most beautiful reports ranging from balance sheets to profit and loss statements and everything in between.
With QBO we are able to generate professional looking invoices which can either be printed or emailed to parents. Arguably the most convenient feature of QBO for us is its ability to create recurrent invoices automatically. We’ve been able to setup our invoices to renew every 14 weeks which saves us a lot of time and effort in generating termly invoices.
nComputing Thin Clients (www.ncomputing.com)
nComputing is a desktop virtualisation company. They manufacture hardware and software to create virtual desktops which enable multiple users to simultaneously share a single operating system instance.
We have had a functional ICT lab for at least 5 years. Unlike schools that invested in traditional computers comprising CPU, monitor, keyboard and mouse we did things slightly differently. We went with a server – thin client architecture. We substituted the CPUs with nComputing L300 thin clients and connected them to a single server through a network switch.
Doing it this way did not come without its challenges. Sourcing for the thin clients wasn’t easy and It was more expensive to implement than if we had gone with traditional computers. Furthermore we had to get someone with a good understanding of networks to set it up. However, the benefits of going with this approach in my opinion far outweighed the initial cost outlay. Here are some of the benefits we enjoy
- Using the thin clients has reduced our electric power footprint by over 80%. We can run our ICT lab even on a 3.5KVA generator if we wish to do so.
- The thin clients (which replace the CPUs) have no moving parts within them and so are far less prone to damage and malfunction.
- The thin clients have reduced the incentive of theft since they are useless on their own and there is no thriving market for them.
- Software is installed only on the server so the cost and burden of managing and maintaining software is greatly reduced.
- Scaling up is relatively easy. All we do to add more terminals is buy an additional nComputing L300 device, monitor, mouse and keyboard and we are up and running.
Quick School Manager (www.qschoolmanager.com)
Quick School Manager (QSM) is an online school management system. According to its parent company Quest to Reality, “it easily automates everything, saves time and money and helps schools gain insight for better and faster decisions.”
We begun using QSM almost a year ago and it has radically transformed how we run our school. Before QSM, almost all our records were kept offline and our data for pupils, parents and staff were stored in different formats and different locations. This made finding previous records a very tedious task and records often went missing. QSM has provided us with a single online solution for managing pretty much all the key tasks and processes in our school.
Although this product has many great features, the 3 we can hardly do without are:
We previously used a product called Fedena to manage our reports but found it expensive and inflexible. With QSM, our reports are configurable and we are able to use different templates for different sections of our school. QSM also archives past reports and makes it easy to retrieve them.
All our expenses go through an approval workflow in QSM. This helps us keep track of every expenditure from origin to approval. It also makes it easy for us to refer to historical records. Information like how much we spent on our book orders last session is easily accessible through a few clicks of the mouse.
Communicating with parents
QSM helps us communicate more effectively with parents. It provides portals for parents and displays newsletters, announcements, child attendance and student reports via these portals.
School Fees tracking
With QSM we are able to create fees and easily manage and track collections. This helps us keep our eyes on total fees due, how much has been collected and how much is outstanding to collect.
Google Forms (www.docs.google.com)
Google is of course a leader in Internet-related services and products. Most people have a Gmail address but don’t realise that Google has several other useful products most of which are also free. Google Forms is one of them. It allows you collect and organise information for free.
Google Forms have been very useful to us for surveys. At the end of most major school events, we invite parents to participate in a survey. This provides an opportunity for them to share feedback with us about the event.
Microsoft Office (www.office.com)
Microsoft Office (Office) needs no introduction. It is undoubtedly Microsoft’s most popular product after their operating system – Windows. Office is such a ubiquitous product that it is easy not to remember how indispensable it is. For many years we have used Word and PowerPoint for obvious things like producing letters, documents, reports and presentations. However, Microsoft Excel has been our most indispensable of the Office suite. Here are 2 things we regularly use Excel for:
- Creating budgets
As someone who regularly reviews budgets, when they are submitted to me in Excel, it is easy for me to verify that the figures were added correctly. I can also chop and slice items and immediately see what effect that has on the overall budget.
- Estimating order quantities
Excel come in very handy especially when we are planning for a new session and having to estimate how many books and uniforms to order. Using Excel we are able to not only easily estimate quantities, we can easily compare costs across different vendors.
I hope my experience as shared here helps you see new possibilities in how technology can help in managing your school. As a school owner/administrator it is useful to know that there are lots of great products out there that can make life a lot easier for you. Some of them are even FREE. Don’t be scared to explore.