Press "Enter" to skip to content

The future of print in education

What impact will new tech nologies have on printing in education? To find out, PrintIT spoke to David Harrison, UK Sales Manager, Sharp Business Systems and Bob Taswell, Senior Solutions Consultant, Sharp Business Systems.

PrintIT:

The future of print in education
The future of print in education

What are some of the key developments in education technology and what effect are they having on print?

David Harrison:

“One of the big developments we’ve seen is the adoption of mobile devices, and that does have an impact print volumes. On one hand, mobile devices move you towards a paperless environment, but on the other, they produce hard copy, so it also has the potential to drive print volumes.

“Also, the adoption of interactive display technologies used in the teaching environment and the connection of iPad devices to those screens means there is more interaction with information that is visual and electronic rather than in printed format.

“As well as wider adoption of mobile technology, schools are adopting managed print solutions. They are taking a look at their print fleets and print environments, gaining control of them and understanding what they are printing and in what volumes. They may be acquiring technology from lots of different suppliers and saying to themselves ‘we really need to be dealing with one supplier who can meet all of our needs’. We provide services like print audits and assessments to help them understand their costs; and we show them a way to a better solution, based on print management, that helps them maintain control, so that a later adoption of mobile print, say, isn’t out of control or out of sync with that strategy.”

PrintIT:

What proportion of schools already have an MPS? It must be quite high.

David Harrison:

“Schools are very savvy these days and there is a lot of sharing of information on social websites, so we are seeing an almost daily implementation of print management solutions in schools. There’s still a considerable number out there that just renew their contracts and replace, but even they have taken advantage of built-in features of MFDs to record usage and keep some track of it. We are seeing quite a substantial move of schools towards implementing software solutions to bring their print under control.”

Bob Taswell:

“An average secondary school would produce something in the region of 2 to 2.3 million A4 sheets of paper per year, which splits down to 75% copies and 25% prints. Schools, academies, secondaries and primaries are very keen to control the amount of paper they consume and the cost of consuming it.”

PrintIT:

That’s 2 to 2.3 million pages today. Do you have figures for five years ago? How have print volumes changed over this period?

Bob Taswell:

“There has unquestionably been an increase in both copy and print volumes. That’s partly driven by curriculum-based activity, but also by flourishing colourrich software that is increasing volumes.

“Traditionally, every school has needed a photocopying facility for exam papers and curriculum-based material and this side of things has flourished, with schools now creating quite a lot of published material, pamphlets and parent information, which has increased actual throughput. This is why schools in general look for some form of control mechanism and some form of managed service to go behind it.“Schools in general tend to deploy a small number of multifunction devices that predominantly copy but can also print and scan. Historically, schools have also had a large number of print devices – anything from 30 to 100 – that are expensive to run, are distributed throughout the campus and are not properly supported by anybody. That raises many issues that staff have to deal with, for example replenishment of paper, replenishment of toner etc. These are the things that we are able to deal with through automated software.”

PrintIT:

Presumably the greater use of new software tools is driving colour print to a great extent.

Bob Taswell:

“It is. We think that on average colour might represent anything from 10% to 20% to 30% of overall volume and that figure is increasing.”

PrintIT:

When you go in with a managed print offering, do you try to reduce a school’s print volume as you would in a corporate environment?

Bob Taswell:

“The reduction in cost is the main thing. The traditional way of outputting volume would be by an inkjet printer or a laser printer that has no static running cost. You buy consumables, you buy the toner from a source and put the toner into a machine. The average colour output cost per A4 page can be anything from 10p to 30p per page, depending on the technology and the type of device. So the first thing we look at is the cost of production, the cost of outputting colour as a given page rate.”

David Harrison:

“The other strategy is to recover cost and therefore to recharge for the prints that are being produced by students.”

Bob Taswell:

“Historically, schools focus on curriculum activities and they have a heavy requirement for copying output. But in some cases, they have an equally heavy requirement for print, both mono print and colour print, from all electronic devices.”

PrintIT:

So charging is done in secondary schools as well as universities?

Bob Taswell:

“If you look at the history of charging, MFDs have within them a metering facility, a user code facility that allows you to track volumes taken against a specific code. That code would then be passed to the accounts/finance department and the accounting would be done after the the print had been produced. Now, we put in place software that will track and record all usage – photocopying, printing and scanning – so that tracked volume can be recorded instantly and automatically. As a result, small finance departments can operate at the touch of a button, rather than having to manually collate information.

“We use and support a number of packages, for example Equitrac, Papecut MF and, in certain circumstances, Pcounter. These can integrate with biometric authentication and have support for a wide array of different devices, as well as integration with other technologies.”

PrintIT:

In business environments, you would introduce rules-based printing. Is this something that education customers also make use of?

Bob Taswell:

“Behind the software, there is always the ability to refine the output. For example, if a single user or a group of users is printing a large number of pages to a device that isn’t best suited to that volume, a rule can be set to redirect that volume to a more appropriate device and perhaps to recharge that volume to a cost centre or shared account. You can also introduce rules for duplex printing, to force email printing to mono printing, to force some colour printing to mono printing and to do a number of other things.“In most situations, rules will be applied. We take a global look at the output volume by auditing the environment over a period of time. We then deploy a solution and look at how best to reduce or disburse print volume within an environment. You can make devices more efficient, you can make print volume more cost-effective and you can make user workflows more streamlined and improved. It’s those three elements – it’s looking at the whole environment and putting in place rules-based printing that can achieve all those different goals.”

PrintIT:

How much typically can you reduce costs by?

Bob Taswell:

“That varies and it sometimes varies very dramatically depending upon the existing cost base. Education environments across the field have huge existing contract exposures due to financial commitments that were made many years ago and continue to have a bearing on current colts. In one case, a competitor company had signed a contract with an academy in North London based on three machines that had a capital cost of £80,000. Yet, the total commitment – the lease cost – was almost a million pounds. The academy had to bear that cost because it had signed a financial agreement and the lease documentation.

“When we look at education equipment, the volumes being done, the way those volumes are achieved and what the customer wants to move to.

“One of the big problems we encounter is when people print but don’t collect their print jobs. In some audits we have done, that volume accounts for between 10% and 15% of overall print volume. A 2.3 million sheet school can save 300,000-350,000 sheets of paper instantly simply by forcing people to authenticate before their print job is produced.

“Historically, schools did not have a control solution in place. When students, staff, external workers pressed print and then changed their mind or forgot about it, print jobs would still be output on relatively expensive printers, and as you walked around you would see quite a large volume of paper in bins that people hadn’t collected. With a control solution, if a person doesn’t collect the print job it will expire and automatically be deleted and therefore not output. That saves paper and the cost of the print. We can produce a report showing how much has been saved from the expiry of these jobs. It’s rarely below 10% and is often between 10% and 15% of total volume.”

PrintIT:

Obviously there’s a cost benefit in that. Are schools interested in carbon reduction as well?

Bob Taswell:

“Very much so. Some more than others. What we find is that every education establishment is different, but carbon footprint is important to us all, particularly in high volume situations. We have various tools within the software that will give a carbon footprint diagnosis of paper usage and paper output, with dashboards showing thesituations, we have to look at the existing cost base of the equipment, the existing deployment of the consumption of trees and carbon savings. There is software for that, but to a large degree, it’s about the management of output, including from mobile devices – we have seen a huge increase in mobile device output across the education sector.”

PrintIT:

What’s driving that? Is it changes in classroom technology or just the fact that students use mobile devices rather than computers now?

Bob Taswell:

“Schools are early adopters of technology and when they have the budget they will always invest heavily in technology. They invest in laptops, which become out of date fairly quickly; and they invest in notebooks, which become out of date fairly quickly. Support for those devices is difficult because students don’t treat them with the respect they deserve, and school IT departments have to bear the cost of repairing and storing them. The tablet is an easier solution: it’s a much more compact solution; it’s more easily transportable; it connects to a wireless LAN more easily; it has a range of tools and applications that can be used; and cloud-based storage and cloudbased functionality and virtual learning environments (VLEs) within schools all point to centralised use and centralised deployment and centralised control of tablet-based devices, and perhaps terminal-based devices as well.”

PrintIT:

While technology has helped drive increases in print volumes up to now, do you think as more people are given tablets and make use of cloud storage and virtual learning environments that volumes will come down?

Bob Taswell:

“There are many initiatives afoot to push paper-based volumes downwards. The classic and main focus is around virtual learning environments where you can publish tests and complete tests online. Tests can be marked very, very quickly and much more easily on a VLE than with conventional mechanical-based output. We offer scanning solutions so a document, rather than being output, can be scanned to a repository in a VLE and accessed electronically by a desktop or tablet device. So paper-based material becomes electronic rather than being output, which does reduce volume. This is a big focus in many establishments that we look after.”

PrintIT:

So print volumes could begin to come down quite significantly?

Bob Taswell:

“Absolutely. But it’s a difficult one. We all look to the paperless office, but there are conflicting desires and conflicting requests. Colour output has increased because there has been increasing demand at the head level. Heads want the curriculum-based output to be more colour-rich and to be of a higher quality and they are prepared to sacrifice cost for that, in some cases. I don’t think many heads like waste, so to suggest a control solution and to provide a simplistic but feature-rich, relatively modestly costed control solution in an education environment is a good option.”

David Harrison:

“An interesting perspective on this is how work is being submitted and used. Today, with homework, many teachers will pull down a document from the school system, print it out and then mark it up. The next generation of teachers, who are probably at school themselves or maybe at university, are probably more familiar operating in a completely electronic environment and will happily read a proof online. As screen and tablet technologies continue to improve, teachers won’t need to print bundles of paper. That is a behavioural and generational change that is gradually happening and similar to what we see happening in the corporate environment.”

PrintIT:

There must be research showing that reading something on paper improves retention and understanding. Is there no chance that schools will say ‘No, we need to keep things paper-based’?

Bob Taswell:

“That argument is a valid one, but the main factor I see is that there is a huge amount of output and lack of control of documentation once you go down the paper route. You have the distribution of the paper to think of; the production of the paper to think of. You have to employ staff to generate the output. Most secondary schools have a central reprographics person who is employed full-time or part-time to produce a large amount of paper-based output which then gets distributed right the way throughout the establishment and externally to parents and other bodies. So, there is the cost of production to look at. But also, if you can harness content electronically on a VLE, it is there, it is not going to be deleted and the ability of staff to get in, for example to mark a test paper, is virtually instantaneous. There are lots of arguments about whether paperbased is better, but at the end of the day, the school will look at the control of output and the way in which staff can interact with it. The vast majority of educational environments we work with take the view that the electronic route is the easiest and most beneficial way to move forward.”

PrintIT:

Especially on the admin side and communicating with parents. It used to be usual to receive loads of paper, now everything is electronic and by text message.

Bob Taswell:

“Absolutely. Schools have vast management information systems and the cost of those systems is huge. They give you all sorts of reporting capabilities and monitoring capabilities, e-registration, class registration, automatic text messaging, automatic e-mailing. Of course there are costs, but it’s all about compliance with OFSTED and compliance with best practice.”

PrintIT:

What are the challenges presented by greater use of printing from mobile devices?

Bob Taswell:

“If we look at the way that people printed material in the past, they had a desktop PC, they had a laptop and they printed to a printer queue that output the material to a dedicated printer. With the advent of mobile devices, the printer queue is removed and the tablet or mobile device doesn’t use that queueing mechanism in the main. So the ability of that wireless device to connect to another device, such as an MFD, is crucial. If you have a wireless MFD using a technology such as AirPrint you are able to print, but that does not allow you to track the print volume that is done on that device. This is where our software comes in, as it gives you the ability to track prints from Android and Apple mobile devices.

“We believe wireless printing is crucial, especially now that some schools are deploying a tablet per pupil. If you have 1,000 pupils in a school, you will have 1,000 tablets that have the capability to print without control. We can offer that control.”

PrintIT:

Is the greater use of tablets creating demand to have printers back in the classroom?

Bob Taswell:

“No, I don’t believe that to be the case. At the moment, we are at the infancy, the early stages of wide-based tablet deployment and app-based deployment. As this evolves, there will inevitably be an increase in demand for devices that can handle such output. All of our devices are able to support tablet and mobile device printing at some level. We can either have the generic AirPrint capability on the machine itself or we can deploy a software solution that converts the tablet output to the language on our devices. It’s really only now that schools are harnessing the application capabilities of these devices, which will ultimately determine whether paper-based output will increase.”

Please follow and like us:
2018