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Why a Fully Integrated E-Rate Program Design Matters

A fully integrated E-rate program design works like a thoughtfully integrated curriculum.

Imagine a science teacher who’s introducing new content to her class. There are multiple, interlocking components to the unit she’s designed: students will engage lab modules and write accompanying reports, conduct independent investigations into specific aspects of the new content, and design to-scale models of the phenomena described in the class’s textbooks. All of these components work together in concert to support student understanding, building upon one another as the unit progresses over a series of weeks. 

The teacher’s lesson ultimately “works” because each of its constituent parts operates in concert. If this weren’t the case, if, say, the textbook was from one publishing company, while the lab components were designed by another with a completely different approach to the content, the likelihood of students’ mastering the content would decline. 

When we talk about an integrated E-rate design, we can describe it much like the successful unit described above. By thoughtfully approaching each item in your E-rate bid in the context of your school’s broader technology landscape, you can increase the efficacy of your technology program which, like an effective lesson, ultimately supports your students’ learning. 

An integrated E-rate program design can accelerate the troubleshooting process.

Integration becomes especially important during the troubleshooting process. Many of the most reliable technology products are produced by a single manufacturer, meaning that everything from the keyboard to the internal hard drives is created by a single firm, ensuring each of its individual parts operates seamlessly within the broader system.

During the troubleshooting process, administrators and teachers will appreciate a similar level of integration. When a teacher makes a call to your tech provider’s support line in the middle of a class period, he doesn’t want to hear that the technician can’t access his computer because it’s serviced by a different vendor. He needs a solution, now, especially when student learning is on the line. 

This analogy extends to the tech systems that operate throughout your school, beyond the classroom. Whether hardware, software, internal connections, and online platforms, integration among your various systems allows your tech provider to diagnose the cause of a particular issue and quickly develop a solution. Simply put, when a school’s systems are integrated with one another, your tech provider has a more holistic view of your school’s entire technology ecosystem. With more information in hand, your support team can accelerate an otherwise slow-moving troubleshooting process. 

Integrating your E-rate design allows for more intentional technology decision-making.

When your school leadership team meets each year to begin thinking through its future technology needs, it’s much easier to plan ahead when your systems are already integrated. Rather than looking at different software or hardware in isolation from one another, your team can look at your technology landscape in its totality. 

Rather than foregoing a particular upgrade because it may cause problems with an unrelated system from a different provider, your team can instead choose to enhance its existing systems with the knowledge that such changes won’t lead to widespread disruption downstream. 

Thinking about your systems as a whole can also save your team valuable time when determining which items to include in your annual E-rate bid. When a system is integrated from top to bottom, it’s easy to identify the pain points. You don’t have to spend as much time second-guessing what, exactly, is causing a particular problem with your internet connection speed, firewalls, or other software issues. 

Working with an experienced E-rate consultant, your school can quickly determine which aspects of your existing landscape need enhancement and what parts can be left as is, potentially allowing you to roll over unused funds to another year within your billing cycle. You can then put these funds to use in future years when you add an additional site or onboard a new instructional technology platform that requires significant investment.

If you’re planning on expanding enrollment or adding a new site, integrated design can scale with ease. 

If your school is planning to increase its enrollment or add a new site, your team will have a much easier time scaling a technology system that’s already integrated. If you already have a sense of how many WAPs are needed for a particular floor layout or how many student devices are needed for a given section, adding another floor of classrooms or another two sections becomes relatively easy. 

Integration is especially effective when it comes to establishing a new site. Remember all of the time and energy it took to establish your school’s device ratios, pick the perfect classroom projectors, and determine the best model for your staff laptops? If your design is already integrated, making those decisions for a new site becomes a breeze. Moreover, you already have the infrastructure to support your chosen models and know what technology-related topics you’ll need to discuss with teachers when they walk through the doors of your new building. 

Thoughtful technology integration supports the unique mission of your school. 

Integrating your school’s technology systems doesn’t boil down to internet speed, the troubleshooting process, or even, for that matter, cost. What really matters is that your E-rate design supports the unique mission of your school. Rather than an isolated domain, your school’s technology program should enhance your teachers’ daily instruction. 

When your teachers turn on their projectors each day or power on their SMART boards, they should rest assured knowing that, if any issues do arise, a call to a support technician will quickly resolve whatever it is they’re facing. At CTS, we thoughtfully respond to E-rate program bids by evaluating the school’s existing programming and crafting integrated solutions to support their long-term visions. 

For close to a decade, we’ve helped schools make the most of their E-rate program funds, earning 434 awards worth a combined $10 million. Not only do we help our clients make the most of every dollar, but we also view ourselves as deeply ingrained in the work of educating students through effective technology usage. Contact us today to learn more about integrating your E-rate technology program and how such an effort can support the unique mission of your school.

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