Why service level agreements (SLAs) are valuable to schools

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 | Sustainability

It is a real challenge for schools to find technical support for their ICT facilities.

The best way to support ICT, if a school can afford it, is by means of a full-time technical support person.  Such a technician will ensure that the hardware remains operable, that the software is installed properly and that all the network connections work as they should.  Regrettably, at present no provision is made for technology related posts in South African schools and if a school wants to appoint a technician, this has to be funded from the school’s own resources.  Many schools simply can’t afford to employ such a person.

Most schools with technology facilities have to depend on whatever “corporate services” are offered by their education authorities.  These corporate units are often under-staffed and when the number of schools requiring their services increases, the service rendered to schools becomes unsatisfactory.

Some schools succeed in arranging pro bono technical support with a parent, a member of the community, or a company that makes its technical staff available to the school.  Sometimes this arrangement works well, but since the school has to depend on the good will and availability of volunteer workers, support is often not accessible when it is most needed.

For schools that are serious about the use of technology for teaching and learning, another option exists: service level agreements.  These are often referred to as SLAs.

In a school context an SLA is an agreement reached between the school and a commercial technical service provider, where the service provider agrees to render a certain level of technical support to the school.  The company may, for instance, agree to pay a specified number of scheduled visits per month to the school, to perform routine maintenance tasks, and to provide a number of hours of additional support when things go wrong.  The cost of such a service is determined by the number of agreed visits and the additional support that can be expected.

The advantage of an SLA to a school is that it is more affordable than a full-time technician, yet support is available when required.  The level of service can be negotiated according to the requirements of the school and available funds.

Many technology companies are able to render this service, but some of them specialize in assisting schools.  These companies often provide a better and cheaper service, since they understand school systems and are geared towards assisting schools.

If your school battles with technology support, the solution to your problem may lie in entering into an SLA with a service provider with a proven track record in schools.

Technology service providers who can offer SLAs to schools are welcome to leave a comment, giving a description of the service they can offer, contact details, as well as their geographical area of operation.

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5 Comments to Why service level agreements (SLAs) are valuable to schools

mark.carolissen@gmail.com
Wednesday, 3 August, 2011

As you have mentioned above that many private companies do not have the necessary knowledge to service schools. Only a few small companies work hand-in-hand with the department’s technicians to service schools.

For many years the schools relied on the facilitators to be of service to them, saving them lots of money. Good relationships were forged with CEI’s technicians as well as educational software suppliers in order to be of service to the schools. This will now no longer be. I hope the schools will receive more funding from WCED to pay for getting good IT services.

As a somewhat technically experienced IT person, I am available to be of service to schools.

bonny
Thursday, 4 August, 2011

Thank you Kobus for this important article. This is one of the most challenging areas at schools currently. If Technology is not functioning well, it influences more than one subdivision at schools for example.
1. Administrative duties
2. Resourceful ICT curriculum integration delivery
3. Effects Training
4. Internet connectivity
5. Virus activity
6. Warranty effectiveness
7. Upgrading knowledge
8. Security – this is another topic on its own.

The fact that most schools only have one IT facility, it is therefore requisite that technology needs optimal functionality and maintained efficiently.
Khanya facilitators do most of these technical duties currently, apart from their actual ICT curriculum delivery at schools in a shorter turn around time, because they are daily at schools and it is important for Khanya that technology runs optimally. Schools are still confused and regard Khanya facilitators as the WCED technical department.

The most important part of why technology has been installed at schools was to enhance Curriculum delivery and not only for administrative purposes. Cei unfortunately do not load Educational software and facilitators fulfill those duties more than once per year, per school.

The reason why I am mentioning above is because if a SLA is signed with an Outsource Technical Company the above is important to take note of and providers should be aware that the WCED Schools Network set-up differs from an ordinary Business or Admin Network setup. Proficient knowledge is crucial to sustain technology at schools. The correct Server image and anti-virus is also important. External Hard drives need to be clean regularly with an updated quality anti-virus product; otherwise it affects the whole system.

For security reasons the Providers should be reputable and registered.If Outsource Services are paid for through schools, records of such service need to be VISIBLE at schools with the necessary receipt and job card of technical work done, with the necessary signatures of both parties (Outsource technician & principal/SNA) for record keeping and auditing.

We previously experienced some Outsource technicians visited schools, messed up the system and the School Network administrators or principal do not know the persons details or Companies name. Please this is important that information is available for security reasons and to follow-up on work performed. School managers must also remember that to much mechanics working on the same engine can be fatal; this counts for technology as well, it is better to have one reputable provider only.

It will be good if WCED can have a database of reputable Service Providers that will attend to specific criteria’s for schools to maintain good practices and to protect schools from fraudulence, as well as manage technical funding allocated to schools that should be officially implemented through WCED with the installation of technology. Kobus once again take the lead.

Malcolm - MSIT Support
Thursday, 4 August, 2011

We have been supporting schools in the metropole area for some time. We specialize in the support of PC and server hardware and software. We have a number of schools with Khanya labs as clients and understand the setup very well.

We are also aware of the particular needs of schools with their Pegasus Mail systems and curriculum software.

We are available for ad-hoc support, but focus on different levels of SLAs which we give to schools at reduced rates. Instead of charging per device as with businesses, we charge based on the frequency of calls.

Schools are welcome to contact us for a proposal.

malcolm@msitsupport.co.za
082 874 6220

Albie
Monday, 8 August, 2011

Kobus very good and so important. I must also admit – Bonny 10/10; your comment should be noted by WCED.

Albie

SULORAC (2MEG IT SOLUTIONScc)
Tuesday, 9 August, 2011

This is indeed a very sad state of affairs, especially for our schools. I would have expected Khanya, being a successful Project to be mainstreamed with a more dynamic WCED approach to our curriculum delivery. Being a teacher and given an opportunity to project manage 3 computer Labs in three schools, I saw our teachers struggling in using curriculum integration with the hardware and how our teachers were not motivated enough to expose our learners to see and be part of our global villages in education. As a teacher I would have integrated our various schools with each other, working on literacy projects together, talking to each other and sharing common challenges and resolutions. It is my opinion that teachers can learn so much more from our learners, given the opportunity.
However, we as Sulorac is currently working in 60 schools on an Ad Hoc basis, and have signed up numerous schools on an SLA basis. Schools on SLA are getting 4 visits per month, once a week. We are then responsible for the IT Labs and all IT in the Administration Block. All schools we visit, receives a detailed report on work done(technical report),which is emailed to Khanya and to CEi for transparency purposes. We also give principals and the ICT Committee our best advice in purchasing laptops, data projectors, computers, internet delivery, new technology, server upgrading, etc. We also sell computers, laptops, according the correct specifications and warranty suitable for schools IT purposes. Schools are also using our services should they need security, carpentry, cabling, trunking, strong room doors, intercom systems and electrical services. Next year we will be offering our teachers, parents and students accredited courses in Computer literacy. Our technicians and assessors are all qualified whilst the other services mentioned above are all done by qualified personnel.
We are also working hand in hand with CEi and Khanya and have established a very good working relationship – not just in East, but also in Central and Overberg. Many a times we are called in to explain to the SGB (School Governing Body), our involvement in their school and how our services can be expanded to the community surrounding their school. We are also in the process of getting sponsorships for schools and have adopted a few schools that really cannot afford the sustainability of their IT Labs. As a company, we regard ourselves as a tool in getting our teachers and learners computer literate hence our logo which reads – “Solutions Unlimited through Learner Orientation and Radical Achievement through Computing”
In closing I would like to thank Khanya and the facilitators for a wonderful and meaningful journey and Kobus for an opportunity in meeting with you, wishing you a wonderful and well deserved holiday. I believe that you will concur more opportunities and challenges as our educational system needs more persons like yourself in bringing our learners closer to their achievements in life.
For effective and efficient technology support contact us on:
Wayne (Marketing): 083 404 1004
Bruce (Operations): 072 991 7284
Email: wcarolus@gmail.com
Email: carolusbruce@gmail.com

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