Solving the Bring your own device (BYOD) Dilemma in Education

BYOD Part 1-Defining Users

nec-education-communicationsDo you manage IT for an elementary school district, or a college or university? If so, you are undoubtedly seeing more frequent use of personal devices. There is business value in this rapidly growing practice of users wanting to gain access to your network using their device of choice – are you prepared?

When contemplating a solution set or policy switch to a personal device such as a tablet or smartphone, there are some key things to remember. Before you make a decision on what infrastructure to invest in, first look deeper at your users, the devices and available solutions, and then weigh both the benefits and obstacles you will encounter. Keep in mind that each user will require different access, use different devices, and generate their own sets of issues and benefits.

We’ve divided these users into three categories, let’s take a look:

Students: This group will be more invested in new technologies and less willing to use second-rate or “borrowed” tech in the classroom. They also have a deeper desire to be connected and collaborate electronically. The user set within this group varies greatly; for example, middle school students require different solutions and access than high school students. In a university or college setting, graduate students may have different tools available to them than their undergraduate counterparts.

Teachers: Teachers are bringing their own devices into the classroom, and not just for personal use. Tablet and smartphone use to run presentations and manage in-class participation are practically required by some schools. This trend is likely to grow, and determining your teachers’ needs and capabilities is paramount to a successful implementation.

The good news here is that teachers using their own devices can not only save your institution money, but can enhance the educational process for your students. Advanced presentation styles, greater sense of ownership, and “always-on” connectivity with students can help your teachers make a profound connection with their learning community.

Staff: Your administrative staff can be the most vocal and have the most to gain in accessing school systems through personal devices. Allowing access to student data records, attendance charts, personnel forms and other information needed on an ad hoc basis can increase productivity and efficiency tremendously, which can result in less training and more usage with reduced capital investment.

Remember to also include your maintenance and other support teams in this category. Rather than supplying cell phones and paying for usage, why not allow staff to use their own cell phones, or even connect seamlessly with Wi-Fi to your internal PBX, thus saving you mobile charges altogether.

Each of the user types in your environment are unique and should be treated as such. Identifying who will be granted access to your network, and the scope of that access before you make deployment decisions is critical in preventing unnecessary network tampering and security risks. Now that we’ve identified users, the next post will take a look at available devices and best application practices.