AI’s Influence on Education: Challenges and Opportunities for Print Resellers

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AI's Influence on Education: Challenges and Opportunities for Print Resellers

Artificial intelligence is changing how the education sector works, including how staff use document management and print solutions in the workplace – and this is something resellers need to be alert to.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is influencing many aspects of business and life currently, and the education sector is no exception. For example, last year the Government announced it was investing up to £2 million in Oak National Academy, which was established to support teachers with high-quality curriculum resources online, to create new teaching tools using AI – marking the first step towards providing every teacher with a personalised AI lesson-planning assistant.

This is just one way that AI is influencing the education sector currently, and it will have an increasing influence on educational establishments of all kinds in the months and years to come and it is something that resellers need to be alive to – if they aren’t already.

AI influence 

“AI and automation products can prove to be hugely beneficial to the world of further education and are especially popular at the moment,” says Noel Loughrin, strategic solutions manager for government and education at Laserfiche. “For example, the UK Government and Department for Education recently hosted a two-day hackathon for teachers, school leaders and data scientists to create AI solutions that tackle real-life issues like teacher workload, as well as the recent investment into Oak National Academy.

“With the state now fully backing AI, the technology is set to form a key pillar of the future of education. Generative AI driven technologies will continue to revolutionise educational institutions by creating more connected and intelligent learning environments. AI can and will be used as an assistant, aiding staff in locating essential information and aggregating data for comprehensive reports and insights.”  

David Harrison, director public sector sales at Sharp Business Systems UK, agrees that interest in AI is growing, adding that this is where resellers have a crucial role to play. “Clients are looking to their technology partners to help them understand how it is being used in devices and technology,” he says. “In addition to wanting to know how we as a technology partner and service provider are using it to automate processes and, of course, lower costs.”

Evolving demands

The use of AI is indicative of how customer demands for print and document management solutions are changing in the education sector, with technology increasingly being embraced.

“Customers in the education sector are looking to deliver more coordinated, connected efforts to help students succeed, something that is especially vital given many are still trying to overcome the setbacks imposed during the pandemic,” says Noel.

“Digital transformation plays a significant role here, granting students unprecedented access to staff and information. Increased access empowers staff to identify trends and develop tailored approaches for individuals, while students will benefit from enhanced transparency and access. Previously, education was often one-size-fits-all. 

“The advent of generative AI tools such as document summarisation promise customers significant time savings, and more possibility for an individualised approach, yielding more successful outcomes for students and their teachers.

“Customers are also prioritising document management solutions that eliminate paper-based forms and processes, saving time and money across activities like application evaluation through manual process automation.” 

Must haves

Noel adds that the recent proliferation of learning technology, largely because of hybrid schooling, means that fresh tools that enhance the experience of students and staff are now a ‘must-have’, not a ‘nice-to-have’ that they might have been viewed as in the past.

“Particularly among primary and secondary school educators, we are likely to see continued demand for digitalisation and centralisation of records, which allow schools and teachers to access and secure vital documents with ease,” Noel adds. “Research from September 2023 found that a third of teachers already use technology such as AI to help with their work, doubling in size since May of the same year. 

“This figure is only set to grow in 2024 as customers continue to look for the most innovative solutions to free up teachers’ time, supercharging classroom experiences.”

David agrees that in the education sector, the demands for efficient, flexible, user-friendly and cost-effective solutions are high. “Clients often seek out solutions that streamline workflows, offer lower power consumption, enhance collaboration, improve document security, and support remote learning environments,” he says. 

“On top of this, there’s a growing emphasis on solutions that offer integrations with Microsoft Teams, One Drive and Google as well as with existing educational technology platforms. All of which need to provide robust analytics for tracking usage and managing costs.” 

Embracing technology

Other product categories that are in high demand in the education sector currently include cloud-based document management systems, multifunction printers with advanced scanning capabilities, interactive tables mobile printing solutions, and software applications for document collaboration and digital workflow automation, David says. 

“For many of our education clients it’s about embracing the transformation to a Multi Academy Trust (MAT), by seeking out easy to use technology from one supplier who can provide devices with common functionality for printing and scanning. MATs are also seeking to centralise their document storage, providing us with opportunities to support them in streamlining their processes and ensuring compliance.”

David has also observed that the demands of customers in the education sector are changing. “Demands from clients in the education sector are evolving rapidly, driven by tech advancements, cost reduction objectives, changes in teaching methods and the shift towards digital learning environments,” he says. 

“There is an increasing focus on flexible, cost-effective and scalable solutions that can adapt to hybrid learning models, accommodate diverse student needs and support remote teaching and learning.”

Shift to MPS

Chris Bates, director – print & supplies, UK, TD SYNNEX, agrees that customers in the education sector want simplicity, reliability and exceptional return on their investment. “Increasingly, they also want print to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible,” he says. “These factors are driving two key trends – a shift towards managed print services and greater interest in print and scanning devices that are more efficient in terms of ink and consumables replacement, and low on energy consumption.

“When it comes to managed print services, what schools need is good all-round service and support. In addition to on-site warranty, we [TD SYNNEX] offer a comprehensive, value-add service that ensures the end user is fully supported. Where possible, our engineers will help with poor print quality or other issues that are not officially covered by the warranty. This gives confidence to our reseller partners and their end-user customers and helps partners to improve customer satisfaction and retention. 

“We can also give partners an opportunity to save money for schools, and help them to support the environment, by providing extended warranty cover for existing print devices.”

Chris adds that the education sector is increasingly receptive to alternative forms of financing hardware purchases. “Our Tech-as-a-Service (TaaS) options are popular with schools as they provide a way to pay for new products on a subscription basis – so there is no need to find a capital up-front,” he says. 

“From a reseller perspective, having options like OpenMPS and TaaS makes it easier to sell new print and scan devices to education customers, who always have limited budgets, while the customer benefits by being able to procure new equipment that they need right away. Many partners also offer the OpenMPS service as a simple way for schools to manage print efficiently.”

Reseller tips

For resellers selling into the education sector, the best way to ensure that they are helping customers to get the right solutions – and therefore maximising their own income – is to be consultative and engaged with the customer’s needs, David says. “Many are lulled into approaching the market with a one size fits all approach,” he says. “But at Sharp UK we know each school has individual needs, concerns, and priorities. 

“As a technology partner we support our clients, having conversations that go beyond print. We use our expertise to provide integrated solutions leveraging our solutions capabilities. In addition to having strong communication channels with our clients to ensure we are there to support them in evolving their solutions to their changing needs.”

Conclusion

As the education sector embraces change, resellers in the print sector must adapt too with the document management and print solutions they are providing, especially with a focus on cost and simplicity.

With AI increasingly affecting aspects of education, this will inevitably impact on print and document management and resellers will need to be alive to this to ensure they can provide the solutions education establishments will require.