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How to Untangle: Collaboration in the World of Education

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Educators understand the value of effective communication—it’s one of the keys to their success. But today, it’s not enough for teachers to speak clearly and connect intellectually with their students.

For many educational institutions, the challenge is that educational budgets and IT resources rarely support enterprise-class communication service and collaborative capabilities that incorporate the latest technologies and media.

As a result, schools and other educational facilities must endure an ongoing lesson in delivering quality on limited operating expenses. In addition, administrators must be able to increase the overall efficiency of their institutions in order to drive down costs.

New communications systems abound that promise improved communication and collaboration. A few offer features that educators would find appealing. So if you’re exploring how to improve collaboration in your educational institution, you need to determine the features you really need and understand how you can afford such a system in an era of shrinking budgets.

When considering a new communications system, make sure you ask the following questions about its capabilities:

  • Is the system easy to use? Ease of use helps reduce and even eliminate the time and cost of training while ensuring the highest rate of adoption.
  • Does the system support all the media types your institution uses? This is particularly important as new formats become popular and increasingly useful.
  • Does the system create a single communications platform across all classrooms and campuses no matter where they are located? Large and dispersed campuses need communication systems that allow teachers and students to work and communicate regardless of location--at home or in extension classrooms.
  • Does the system easily integrate voice and data applications? Teachers and students need flexibility in how they present their ideas. Administrators rely on key operational systems, such as call center capabilities for enrollment peaks and an emergency response system, that must fit with existing processes.
  • Is the system highly reliable? A redundant system with no single point of failure helps ensure a working communications system even during a crisis.

When considering costs and affordability, make sure you also ask these questions:

  • Is the system sufficiently scalable to support future growth?
  • Does the system make it easy to support your ever-changing population of teachers and students?
  • Can changes be made by one non-technical person (with little or no training) at one location, eliminating costly calls to the phone company or a contractor?
  • Are voicemail and email centralized for one-stop communications management?
  • Does the system offer least-cost routing and support for primary rate interfaces (PRIs) to eliminate toll charges for calls between campuses and to reduce the number of leased lines needed at each site?
  • Is the system energy efficient, significantly lowering costs while helping support a green footprint?
  • Does the vendor offer free software upgrades as part of the support package, saving your institution significant costs over the long term?
  • Is the system an open, fully distributed IP-based unified communications system that can be integrated with your legacy communications equipment and be deployed incrementally in order to control upfront costs?
  • Can the vendor accurately show you upfront and long-term costs, so you can see the real value of the system over the long term?
  • Does the vendor offer a lowest TCO guarantee that uses independent third-party data to compare actual costs over time—and then lowers its prices to beat any competitor?

If you’d like to learn more about how ShoreTel can help untangle collaboration in the world of education, contact your local ShoreTel reseller.