BYOD goes to top of the class

Dell Software’s Bill Odell looks at how mobile and BYOD strategies are enhancing innovative learning

When students get ready for school, they’re as likely to bring their own device as their own lunch. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is transforming education by creating new levels of students’ academic engagement, teacher interaction and learning effectiveness.

While mobile technologies and BYOD schemes promise great advancements for educational institutions, they also can create challenges for IT teams responsible for securing and managing these diverse systems, applications and devices.

By following in the footsteps of some shining examples, educational institutions worldwide can embrace the best that BYOD has to offer.

For example, the Roanoke County Public Schools, US, has successfully embraced mobility, providing its school with a more personalised learning experience. The Virginia school district is recognised by the Center for Digital Education and National School Boards Association as the 2013 top “digital school system” in the United States among districts with more than 12,000 students.

To create an open, collaborative learning environment, Roanoke County supplies all students with a laptop preloaded with learning and productivity applications. Teachers also use laptops to quickly analyse online test scores as well as recognise and assist students that may be struggling. Meanwhile, the district’s IT department takes advantage of automated systems management to effectively manage and secure all end-user devices.

At Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS), fifth grade students are given personal laptops or tablet PCs. At the end of the final semester, all assigned devices are wiped and re-imaged for the upcoming school year. System re-imaging is a common back-to-school IT strategy that can overwhelm IT unless an automated solution with multicasting has been deployed to speed the process.

Many educational institutions face major hurdles when it comes to BYOD and secure access to key applications. Such was the dilemma at Sweden’s Södertörn University, where IT was overburdened trying to respond to requests and hampered by the lack of automated tools to manage an ever-increasing trend among students, faculty and staff.

Fortunately, the university was able to improve how they manage downloads of updates to key software. As a result, the school can be more responsive in offering all users access to the programs they need, when they need them. Moreover, Södertörn University now has the tools to rapidly deploy system images campus-wide to hundreds of PCs, laptops and Macs while confidently pushing ahead with BYOD programs and policies.

As laptops, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices become more prevalent and BYOD becomes the norm, mobile technologies will enable the fast delivery of unprecedented amounts of digital content. For some educational institutions the opportunity to bring BYOD into a managed environment is the preferred approach.

BYOD has a long history at Pepperdine University. The school strives to maintain an open network yet secure access for faculty, staff and students. The increased use of personal devices across different platforms, however, brings security challenges, including “drive-by” malware, which threatened student data and drained IT team resources. Pepperdine also realised that traditional antivirus solutions proved inadequate in stopping malware.

So, the university took a proactive stance to stop the vulnerability and streamlines patch management for multiple devices across different operating systems. Through automation and systems management best practices, Pepperdine eliminated malware threats, reducing security risks and empowering IT to focus on strategic initiatives, such as assisting the faculty.

It’s clear that mobility will play an increasing role in the development of next-generation learning. The key is to embrace the right tools and follow best practices for managing devices securely and reliably without overwhelming IT resources or compromising educational excellence.

Bill Odell is vice president of marketing for endpoint systems management at Dell Software.

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