Mal Lee and Roger Broadie
An effective and highly efficient digital communications suite is critical if the digital school is to provide the kind of integrated client support expected in a digital and socially networked society.
What is now apparent (Westerman, et.al, 2014) – particularly with business but increasingly in the public sector – is that clients no longer differentiate between a face to face and an online experience; it is but an experience.
The term – and indeed the concept of – integrated client support is rarely as yet experienced in schools. A Google search will unearth few references specifically pertaining to schooling. It is more commonly used in the corporate sector and areas like family law, health and psychological support (Queensland Council of Social Services (2013). However, the provision of well orchestrated, quality support for all students and their families is something every good school has for generations believed is essential.
It is partly that schools haven’t seen the need to label that student support and pastoral care, but it also that most schools still don’t regard their parents and students as clients. We recommended in an earlier post that to thrive and remain viable digital schools would benefit from focussing on meeting and indeed exceeding their client’s needs and expectations. This is an area where one can use the smarts of the digital to that.
All schools could benefit from having an integrated increasingly sophisticated client support arrangement, even if they choose not to label it as such. The aim should be to provide all teachers and counsellors ready access to the latest information and data on each child and family, packaged in a way that can provide the best possible support. Most schools tare likely still working with a variant of the old teacher mark book, without ready access to the plethora of other information on the child’s development, in and outside the school. In a socially networked environment there should also the ready digital facility to share appropriate information with other agencies supporting the client.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is now also clear that most school’s paper operational base, and the associated inward looking, physical site fixated mindset has markedly impaired school’s ability to provide the requisite individualised high quality client support.
That shortcoming will continue while ever schools continue to operate within an analogue paradigm. While many schools have begun to tinker with the digital, employing the likes of online bookings for parent teacher interviews the reality is that they require a mature digitally based ecosystem before they can readily provide the apt, integrated, individualised, efficient and effective client support.
The system needs to be integrated within the wider school ecosystem and consonant with the ways and expectations of an evolving digital and socially networked society, where teaching and learning is happening 24/7/365 and geared to time poor parents highly reliant on their mobile technology.
Long gone are the days where the support can be only site based, reliant on the physical attendance at the place called school. It is the client that needs to be to the fore, not those supporting the clients.
It needs to be a system that sits – and evolves readily – within the school’s wider ecosystem and where the supporting information and data is readied in the main as a normal part of the school’s everyday operations.
It will be a system where the relevant staff play a lead role but where their contribution – whether face to face or online – will be supported by a suite of pertinent information and data.
Ideally the clients should be able to access much of the desired information and the current data when convenient online at either at the school or the complementary agencies websites. If the client wants additional support they should be able to do so initially digitally and only when truly needed face to face.
The key is to envision the desired digitally based ‘integrated client support’ arrangement from the outset, to identify the likely information and data required, to liaise with the pertinent complementary agencies and services in its creation and to build the model as one shapes the school ecosystem, gathers and makes available the data and creates the digital communications suite.
Done astutely and in conjunction with the shaping of the school’s digital communications suite and refinement of its student data and management system schools shouldn’t need for the expensive integrated client support systems being pitched at the health and social service markets.
- Queensland Council of Social Service (2013) A Guide to Integrated Delivery to Clients 2013 -http://communitydoor.org.au/sites/default/files/A_GUIDE_TO_INTEGRATED_SERVICE_DELIVERY_TO_CLIENTS.pdf
- Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press