Analyses & Studies T.I.C. - Informatique

Transforming education through VoIP

Whether your memories of school are of blackboards and chalk, hallowed ranks of BBC microcomputers, or a modern classroom filled with laptops, tablets, and interactive whiteboards, the technologies we remember are a good predictor of our age.

Communications technology continues to evolve rapidly and the latest revolution for schools and universities is proving to be VoIP telephony, with the blended future of education supported by robust cloud-based communications systems.

If your school memories involve a fixed phone line located in a secretary's office, where a single landline served a secondary school of 2,000 students in an era before there were mobile phones to confiscate, you can imagine the bottleneck this created for every call. Nowadays, a modern VoIP phone system for education facilitates a range of valuable functionality for speed and efficiency, including:

  • An effective IVR for inbound callers, enabling messages to reach the right ears fast, even when teachers are constantly on the move
  • Smart routing and call hunting, which can take account of the time of day at a granular level (such as individual teaching timetables, INSET days, and school holidays)
  • Endpoints in every classroom, on every teacher’s preferred personal or institutional device
  • One-to-many application-driven messaging broadcasts, for example to advise of snow days or other emergencies
  • Voicemail-to-email transcription, to enable classroom educators to receive and scan urgent messages in a non-audible format, enabling them to prioritise without disruption to the students.

Cloud-based telephony also means that schools can manage their own resources effectively, from internal conference calling to arranging supply cover for absences to booking out equipment and space.  Administration departments too can be responsive and efficient, scaling as required and allocating personnel productively. For example, the admissions departments of higher education institutions, which might hum along quietly for much of the year before exploding into life during results season and clearing weeks. Being able to rapidly and temporarily increase the number of attended lines available would be a logistical impossibility if it meant installing fixed lines and endpoints for that fortnight of chaos. However, with a VoIP system new inbound lines can be configured in the Ringover dashboard in moments.

Whilst efficiency is a key concern for schools, safety is priority number one, and ensuring student wellbeing is a shared responsibility. Reliable real-time communication between parents and staff is critical. The ability to quickly alert groups via SMS messaging is vital for schools, whether it’s a closure notice or a Covid update, and broadcast messaging is the perfect VoIP driven solution. Automatic read-receipts and tracking ensure each essential message is received.

We also know it can feel easier for students to get advice or report incidents anonymously, and with a VoIP phone system, this can be configured easily, either as a general service or in response to specific circumstances. Students can then anonymously log cases of bullying or instances of discrimination, enabling better institutional benchmarking and policymaking to tackle these problems.

The Covid pandemic switched many establishments to remote learning overnight. Preparing and delivering classes online presented huge challenges, and teachers from primary to postgraduate level had to completely rethink the way they structured, assessed, and delivered teaching. While delivery of the teaching experience could be moved over to platforms like Microsoft Teams, voice calling was left behind. Solutions were inevitably thrashed together and the personal mobile phones of now home-based teachers became a short-term fix. Going forward, a more practical solution is needed now that switching in and out of remote learning is likely to be a part of everyone’s lives for the foreseeable future.

While many are desperate to return to full face-to-face learning, the widespread adoption of collaboration technology and e-learning will not be rolled back entirely, and the future will surely make the best of what both modern and traditional teaching worlds have to offer. A VoIP-based phone system will help every school and college meet the educational needs of each student, wherever and however they are learning.

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