Top 6 skills every school IT admin should have

3 June 2021

Are you a school sysadmin wanting to hone your skills, or a principal looking to hire? After a decade of major developments in IT and edtech, the particulars of the job have evolved. This blog reveals the most in-demand competencies for today’s IT admins. Explore 6 top sysadmin skills and share with your colleagues how these skills can benefit your school.

If you’re an IT admin, you’ve likely seen your job change significantly in recent years. Automation has taken sysadmins off the hook when it comes to performing tedious manual tasks. Meanwhile, the rise in the use of technology in the classroom is presenting a whole new array of needs and challenges. 

In addition to managing a traditional network, IT admins now have to deal with virtualized servers, cloud services and, for the past year, the challenges posed by remote learning – including the management of tons of new devices. 

Well-honed skills can help sysadmins perform at their best and keep up with their tasks while improving the learning and teaching experience at their school or district. These 6 skills represent trends that have been growing steadily and show no signs of a downturn anytime soon.

1. Problem-solving

IT admins are masters of troubleshooting and problem-solving. In fact, it’s vital to anticipate and assess problems, and solve issues as quickly as possible. As a school sysadmin, you solve problems of all shapes and sizes, ranging from simple cases of operator error to devastating technical difficulties. It’s hard to predict these issues, so adapting to sudden or difficult circumstances is part of the job. Next to always being a step ahead, flexibility and stress resilience are key. 

With many more devices and cloud applications to manage, sysadmins will also notice a shift from server maintenance to more issues on the network side and, with the influx of devices, more time spent on troubleshooting Google Admin or Intune configurations. Make sure you know how to make the most of Google and try to seek help from other sysadmins. For example, check out this subreddit, where you’ll find a community of other IT admins with similar daily struggles.

2. Cloud and virtualization

The cloud has already proven indispensable during distance learning. It enables anyone with an internet connection to access IT resources on-demand while maximizing uptime, accessibility, and scalability. Indeed, cloud computing and virtualization are no longer just the future. This means that every up-to-date IT admin is also bound to be an expert in cloud architecture and virtualization. 

Once the team is equipped and ready to work in the cloud, you’ll have to deal with content publishers and content types that lag behind. To make every admin’s job easier, the COOL team is already supporting schools with app virtualization. This allows your school to easily continue using the desktop apps the team already knows across all devices.

Virtualization also helps schools and other organizations shrink their existing IT infrastructure’s footprint, increase operational efficiency, and shore up security. It allows physical servers, storage, and networking services to be migrated into the cloud.

3. Device management

In response to distance and hybrid learning needs, more and more schools are working with 1:1 devices like Chromebooks, Windows devices or iPads. As an IT admin, you must be able to mitigate the associated risks to the network and know how to secure devices and keep the system safe.

Managing hundreds or even thousands of (1:1) devices is a lot to handle. It requires new tools, knowledge and software. Your job as an admin involves pushing updates, keeping students safe and making sure all applications are working properly. You’ll also have to devise a system for keeping track of repairs and RMAs.

And then there’s the strain on your network: A large number of devices means your school needs a better Internet connection, better routers and more WiFi points to give students Internet access throughout the school building. Even with all this new work at hand, prior tasks also require attention, as servers are still needed for legacy applications and specific course materials not yet available in the cloud.

4. Security and monitoring

Phishing, ransomware attacks and data breaches have spiked over the past few years. So with the global trend of edtech in teaching, there is rightly a heavy emphasis on security within schools and districts. Specifically, school IT admins need to:

  • monitor system vulnerability and keep the school’s network infrastructure and devices safe from unauthorized access;
  • address security issues before they occur, for example by enforcing safety protocols and educating teachers and students about security best practices;
  • have the right tools in place for managing user passwords and credentials and for backing up and monitoring the school’s systems;
  • keep up with security bulletins and updates from vendors.

In terms of security and proactive monitoring, the focus is shifting from traditional tools for monitoring internal computers and networks to cloud-based solutions. This means that valuable tools like Intune for Microsoft devices, Jamf for Apple devices and Google Workspace for your Chromebooks are indispensable. 

A common mistake in managing and monitoring is preparing network devices manually, instead of using automated default settings or available tools to roll out your preferred settings to your preferred network devices at once. Especially when migrating to the cloud, a standardized subset saves a lot of time! A platform like COOL can give sysadmins an overview of all devices and operating systems by aggregating all relevant information about the school cloud in one place.

From the teachers’ side, a classroom full of students now equals a classroom full of students with devices. How can they make sure students stay safe and on task and improve digital classroom management? Smart tools for real-time monitoring and managing students’ browser activity can help teachers maintain control of the classroom while providing an intuitive way to track and support their students’ work.

5. Communication

The ultimate goal of a school IT admin is to make teaching and learning as fun, easy and effective as possible. In addition to the right expertise, this calls for good communication skills. 

As a sysadmin, you stand at the intersection between the school board, teachers and students and right at the heart of all the tech changes happening in your school or district. Clear communication starts with timely notifications in case teachers need training and extends to getting buy-in from colleagues and school leadership on big tech issues. Your job is also to educate all parties involved about the new ways of working and help everyone adapt.

Clear lines of communication and approachability will make it easy to pinpoint and prevent tech issues and speed up the problem-solving process. As an IT admin, you need to set aside time to explain why certain steps do need a certain investment and how it will benefit education.

Poor communication on the other hand can result in redundant staff and low student engagement. So, technology acceptance in school is largely in the sysadmin’s hands. Therefore, make an effort to understand the different perspectives of your school community. Communicate information in an easy way so that everyone can get the most out of the systems and solutions you’ve so carefully crafted.

6. Productive time management

There’s never a dull moment when you’re on top of managing complex school systems. To avoid drowning in your work, allocating your time effectively makes all the difference. While acting as a proactive changemaker, you should also be aware that you won’t be able to manage a multitude of systems all at once. 

Rapid changes and extra devices represent a huge task, the magnitude of which is not always recognized by school leadership. Therefore, make a point of creating awareness around the work you do and the changes you inspire. Express your needs, make sure you’re using the right tools, get extra help, or make it clear to school leadership that you cannot simply do the work you were already doing plus all the new work in the same way as before.

Instead of rushing from one task to the next, you can free up time by optimizing your productivity and finding solutions that automate time-consuming tasks or help you delegate them. Here, the magic words are automation, simplification and self-service. And with the right tool, it doesn’t take any wizardry to optimize all-round workflows within your school!

Get started with COOL

The COOL Platform helps IT admins master complex tasks like user administration and security management with ease:

  • COOL simplifies schools’ IT infrastructure by bringing everything under one umbrella.
    All settings are grouped together in one admin dashboard and as an admin, you only need to configure these settings once.
  • Experience easy and secure account management with full Google Workspace integration.
    Up-to-date user accounts and groups are automatically created based on Google Classroom. You can easily add or remove users, manage devices, and configure security settings to keep all student and staff data safe.
  • The COOL Platform helps admins delegate simple tasks.
    COOL lets teachers perform simple tasks like changing student passwords themselves. In the COOL app library, teachers easily add educational apps and web pages for students without an admin’s help. 
  • Easy login options with added security improve day to day teaching.
    Poor password hygiene can lead to disaster, which is why safe login methods are essential to keeping accounts secure. Discover the benefits of the combined solution of COOL Picture login and QR login.

To sum up, COOL will free up your time and allow everybody in the team to focus on what’s important: the learning success and well-being of your students. To discover more benefits of using COOL, read what makes IT admins excited about COOL.

COOL gets schools future-ready and IT admins on top of their tasks. Want to see it for yourself?


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