Will BYOD Pass the EdTech Test?

Will BYOD Pass the EdTech Test?

University of Southern California's Annenberg Innovation Lab supports various user devices. An Elite Screens Insta-DE pliable whiteboard-projection screen helps turn the wall into a projection screen for further collaboration.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), a component of the consumerization of technology in the business world, refers to the strategy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to the workplace, with the ability to use those devices to access an organization's privileged information and applications, as well as communicate over the network.

A February 2013 study conducted by iPass (a provider of enterprise mobility services) and MobileIron (a provider of Mobile Device and Application Management solutions) specified that IT departments are becoming more responsive to mobile employee demands. 81% of companies stating that they now accommodate personal devices in the office, according to the study. 56% of companies have changed their corporate policies in the last year to support employees' mobile devices.

Strategic mobility applications exist in other vertical markets as well. In the healthcare industry, more providers are carrying their own devices for access to patient information, health records, and even telepresence. Through Unified Communications (UC) solutions, remote medical facilities can be connected to doctors in major cities over mobile devices. In a study performed earlier this year by Jackson & Coker, it was discovered that four out of five physicians regularly use their mobile devices for medical purposes, exhibiting the proliferation of personal mobile devices being utilized by medical professionals.

In higher education, students have been bringing laptops to campus for quite some time, and in most cases, it is a specified requirement. Faculty have also brought devices to interact both in the classroom as well as with other faculty and administration. In a recent article “These 14 BYOD Statistics Tell a Story of Opportunity and Danger,” Jimmy Daly cited that 85% educational institutions allow students, teachers, and faculty to use personal devices on school networks.” BYOD can allow these institutions to minimize the costs of bringing distance learning and other educational services into schools, especially those with reduced budgets.

Such cost savings can mean the difference between students having access to these services or not at all. The ECAR 2012 study of Undergraduate Students and Technology looked at statistics concerning student device ownership (including desktops) and which things, such as checking grades, they did most with devices they utilized. It was stated that laptop use was predominant at the time (86%) with smartphone use next (62%). The influx of smartphones and tablets since this survey was published have likely caused their usage to rise significantly.

Higher Ed BYOD: A Complex Equation
The higher education market faces its own unique set of challenges when addressing the consumerization of technology. Stephen diFilipo, Vice President and CIO at Cecil College in North East, MD, addresses the separate needs for BYOD policy development for student, faculty and staff in an Educause.org article “The Policy of BYOD: Considerations for Higher Education.” diFilipo referenced the ECAR study in outlining student-based policy development and cited accessing course websites or syllabi (66%) and using course or learning management systems (64%) as heading the list. He also determined that faculty want to leverage the portability, ease of use, and access to device-specific apps that enhance the learning experience and certainly make their lives a bit easier. In relation to institutional staff, diFilipo specifies industry surveys which indicate how employees currently use their personal mobile devices in the workplace: the top three activities are accessing the employee intranet/portal, accessing e-mail and/or calendars, and reading or viewing documents, spreadsheets or presentations.

Implementation and Enforcement
Once policy is developed encompassing all users’ needs, the question concerning management of said devices relates to the IT department’s responsibility of implementing and enforcing said policy, as well as providing the necessary secure access to the network. Though policy has been developed and implemented, it’s still possible that institutions may not be fully aware of the importance of viewing both users and devices trying to access the network, or the necessary control measures upon network access.

When a mobile user attempts to gain access to the organization’s network, this laptop, tablet or smartphone must go through a procedure defined as Network Access Control (NAC). NAC is a solution that uses a set of protocols to define and implement a policy which describes procedure to secure access to network connection points by said devices. This occurs upon initial attempt to gain access to the network. The information exchanged through the network is governed by rules that are set out through communication protocol standards.

In simpler terms, when a computer or device connects to a network, it is not permitted to access anything unless it complies with that organization’s defined policy (which can include anti-virus protection and system update levels). The computer or device is then checked by a pre-installed software agent and can only access resources that can remediate and/or resolve any issues brought about when trying to connect. Once the policy is met, the computer or device is able to access network resources and the Internet, dependent upon guidelines defined within the NAC system.

Private Data and File Sharing
Along with device network management, application as well as file sharing also becomes a part of IT management concerns as sensitive files and documents need to be confined to share, view and download in relation to BYOD policy. Policy enforcement and network security now becomes a key to the overall implementation process. Implementation can introduce cost, risk, and usability challenges that traditional mobile device management (MDM) strategies cannot always address. MDM industry providers’ solutions secure, monitor, manage and support mobile devices deployed across the enterprise organization. MobileIron, referred to earlier in the article, is a leader for the third year in a row in the prestigious Gartner Magic Quadrant for MDM. MobileIron deploys a solution strategy which secures and manages apps, documents, and devices for enterprise organizations. It supports both organization owned and individual devices, offering multi-OS management across leading mobile platforms (i.e. iOS and Android). Their end-to-end management services are available either as an on premise system or as a SaaS cloud hosted solution. With a SaaS based solution, an organization can realize lessened IT management responsibility as well as cost reductions in terms of having their network security and policy enforcement procedure hosted in an offsite securely managed data center, instead of adding servers and other hardware to their existing network infrastructure.MOOC Mania

Along with BYOD deployment strategy in the higher education institution, the much-hyped MOOC (massive open online course) and mLearning (mobile learning) are influencing secondary education mobility strategies. Instructional Design for Mobile Learning (#IDML13), a professional development based Micro-MOOC course, introduced participants to instructional design principles for teaching with mobile technology. The course was hosted by Academic Partnerships using the Canvas Learning Management System, and course participants would explore principles for designing mobile learning; pedagogies for teaching with mobile technology; and tools for creating mobile instruction.

One attendee of the course blogged about his experience in an article entitled “Mobilizing the MOOC: A Review of Instructional Design for Mobile Learning.” mLearning is essentially a learning experience that happens when the learner is not at a fixed or predetermined location, or when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. mLearning can occur over iPods, notebooks, mobile phones, and tablets.

Advantages for IT Administrators
As a rising technology strategy in the higher education market, BYOD, even with its challenges, can be presented as a strong solution to enhance learning experiences on the secondary level. IT organizations and departments will continue to face the challenges of increased onboarding of personal mobile devices as well as the policy enforcement and management of said devices over the next several years. With developments in mobile device management (as well as other managed services), however, along with the ability to have these services managed on servers in remote data centers, IT administrators will find that the challenge will be mitigated in terms of overall management and support to the institution. Along with this, institutional executives should realize a significant cost savings both in hardware and services as trends in consumerization and BYOD increase in the future.

Corey Moss is the CEO/president of DC Smart AV/IT Solutions and Consulting.

  • http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/policy-byod-considerations-higher-education
  • http://insidehighered.com
  • http://moocnewsandreviews.com/