Help Make BYOD a Winning Strategy for Education

device-mockup-socialCharles Sweeney, CEO, Bloxx

Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, is the straightforward idea that enables students and staff to bring their own Internet-enabled device to school for learning and working purposes.

There are many advantages to implementing a BYOD strategy within a learning environment. For example, learning becomes culturally relevant; it is important for students to see the point of what they are learning, and how it is related. Allowing students to use the tools they like to utilize can help increase engagement with their learning. In particular, BYOD provides opportunities for utilizing technology that is interesting and engaging, such as social media and Web-based creation tools (e.g. digital video editing, etc.). In addition, many students believe that there is a difference between learning at school and learning at home, a misconception not helped by content being restricted to the domain of the school. However, cloud storage, cloud computing, and strategies such as BYOD, can alter this.

For the next generation, a BYOD strategy ensures that they are equipped with the skills of the future, which will help them to carve out careers in the digital age. Despite its significant advantage to both the institution and students alike, it is important to recognize from the outset that the implementation of BYOD brings with it a number of additional considerations. Therefore, in order to be successful it is important that education establishments consider:

  • Policy considerations –BYOD in its pure form utilizes student or family-owned devices – but in reality, it may not always be that simple. Prior to introducing a BYOD strategy many schools have run parent briefing events to ensure that everyone understands their role within any development – these meetings can also be useful if signing over devices to students/families. Moreover, schools should already have a policy on acceptable and responsible use of ICT equipment, but they may need to update this policy with regards to BYOD, to ensure students know acceptable behavior. It is vital that schools ensure equality of access for BYOD, to ensure 1:1 learning each student must have a device, and therefore, schools must guarantee devices are available.
  • Infrastructure – not having in place the adequate bandwidth and infrastructure to support BYOD strategies is a common pitfall. Schools need to check with their infrastructure supplier to determine the capacity of their access points, and do some quick tests around the school. This should help confirm that wide coverage of wireless is available and there are no dead-spots. There are also apps available that map out the available coverage. This of course, is different on a case-by-case basis, as some schools are much larger than others.
  • Security – first, schools must decide whether they want to only allow authenticated devices to connect to the network (or any device). If they only want authenticated devices, then they will likely need to set up an on-boarding process for new devices. Alternatively, they could set up separate wireless networks using virtualized LANs (VLANs). Risks of malware are immense with BYOD, so schools should include in their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that all devices must have up-to-date anti-virus software installed. This will decrease, but not eliminate, the risk of malware infections being spread to the network and devices. Finally, it is critical that any Web content accessed by students using BYOD is filtered to the same extent as content accessed from institute-owned devices. This may be an issue if students use 3/4G devices to access inappropriate content; once again, all parties need to be aware of what is, and what is not, acceptable in school via an AUP.

So, if your customers are considering implementing the BYOD strategies in their school remember these pointers. Permission is the first step in BYOD, what follows is: leadership, a shared vision, strategy, professional development, policy considerations, infrastructure, and security.

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