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Dell Seeks Deeper Role in District Data and Learning Outcomes Work

Dell has corralled several products and services into a new education initiative it's calling the "Next Generation Learning Platform." With a combination of applications and professional services, the Texas company is making a play to persuade school districts that it's the go-to source for helping schools sort out and reach their learning outcome and teaching goals.

According to Gartner education analyst Bill Rust, "A key challenge in the years ahead will be the integration and support of disparate information, instruction, and education service resources in a world of choice where students and staff are using quite personally owned or selected devices," he said in a statement. "School agencies should begin now to look for device and [operating system]-agnostic solutions that integrate and deliver resources to users regardless of what they are using to gain access."

Although the details of Dell's announcement are still forthcoming, one component of the new platform is Dell Education Data Management (EDM), a combination of software and processes for tapping into data sources such as student information systems to create a data warehouse for district analysis and reporting. Education Intelligence, which is part of EDM, is a set of services that delivers data through role-based dashboards, scorecards, and reports, with interfaces tailored for administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Another aspect of EDM is an Education Data Portal, a self-service site for users.

Dell is promoting free half-day workshops to district leaders and longitudinal data system specialists to help school systems perform a gap analysis to identify their data management maturity levels and map areas for improvement.

The company is also pushing its professional learning services, which it reported have been expanded to help districts develop customized learning programs that incorporate one-on-one instruction, coaching and modeling, and sharing sessions for teachers and administrators.

According to Dell, a services team in these engagements performs a needs assessment, and then develops a plan for the district to follow in using the results of data analysis to mold instructional practices undertaken in the classroom. The plan uses an approach adapted from standards established by Learning Forward, a membership organization focused specifically on professional development of educators. Once the plan is developed, the services team is available to work with the district in helping manage and monitor its scheduled rollout in schools.

A third aspect of Dell's newly reinvigorated focus on education is its desire to become a single source for a district's assistive systems, whether the technology comes from Dell or somebody else. Dell said it would facilitate a single purchase order for student assistive devices and provide a dedicated Dell person to oversee the outfitting of an assistive program from beginning to end. That includes on-site delivery with pre-staging of devices and software to make sure they work; availability of a training team to get students, parents, teachers, and school specialists up to speed; and a direct Dell support line.

"Our mission is to equip teachers, administrators and parents with the resources they need to ensure all students reach their full potential," said Mark Horan, Dell's global education vice president. "Our Next Generation Learning Platform and our cloud and services capabilities are part of our continuing investment in and commitment to developing the solutions our education customers tell us they need to improve learning outcomes."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.