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BYOD and personal device policies in K12 and schools

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BYOD in schools is an effective method of improving and increasing software access and digital learning without the need to invest in hardware.

It may be easier to manage, cheaper to implement and much more realistic to scale in comparison to its higher education counterpart. This is due to a greatly reduced number of students to deliver to and software titles to deliver in K12.

What are the benefits of BYOD in schools?

Costs

With fewer students to deliver to and fewer software titles to deliver, schools are able to provide better access to software for a lower overall investment than is required in higher education. Enabling BYOD reduces the hardware investment necessary for computer-aided learning as, without it, schools would have to fill classrooms and learning areas with managed machines, or provide each student with a machine. This is compounded by higher demand for support and maintenance on IT to ensure organization-owned machines are set up and running correctly. 

Current technologies are capable of leveraging and delivering to a multitude of devices, including ultrathin or zero clients such as Chromebooks. Windows applications can be delivered to iPads and Android tablets, or even smartphones and games consoles. While this doesn't immediately sound useful, it's important to remember that all of those devices are keyboard and mouse compatible, allowing virtualized software to be used exactly as it is on computers. 

Student familiarity with devices

Pupils and students’ lives are heavily weighted toward digital media. They’ll likely be more comfortable with software and computers than textbooks and handwriting. Familiarity helps to improve students’ capacity for learning and performing in almost all aspects; especially when it comes to digital devices used as it directly correlates with productivity and how effectively time can be used. The concept of cognitive ease is highly relevant, and familiarity and comfortableness are two key contributors to this.

Increased engagement

Greater familiarity with the medium they’re working in, and with the device they’re working on removes obstacles to learning and achieving. Digital platforms, by their nature, also provide countless additional avenues to keeping students engaged with their learning, caters to a multitude of different learning styles, and allows students to use a wide variety of methods for work output.

Greater results

Engaged students working in the ways most comfortable and familiar to them are capable of higher results, and better retention of subject matter. There are many studies showing how engaged students are more likely to meaningfully learn rather than just memorize.

Continuity in education

2020’s COVID19 pandemic is highly demonstrative of how:

  1. Learning has the potential to be interrupted at any point by circumstances beyond anyone’s control or prediction. These circumstances may affect every member of an educational organization at once or on an individual basis.
  2. Prolonged interruption to learning can have long-term negative effects on performance and many other aspects affecting results and student experience.

With BYOD policies implemented, students have access to the same devices at home, at school, and when off sick or away. This helps to mitigate interruptions to teaching and working.

Prep for higher education and the world of work

It is likely that students will be either required to or able to use their own devices once in higher education and in professional employment. Even if not, it is also likely that they’ll have a one-to-one relationship with the machine they use. This is especially true for employment, should their job entail computer use. For students who are used to working from their own machines regularly and to needing their own machines on a daily basis, the transitions between various life stages will be smoother and less turbulent, helping them succeed and perform more consistently.


What are the disadvantages of BYOD in schools?

Students without their own machines

Requiring students to own their own machines could result in exclusion/less opportunity for those of a lower socioeconomic status. In the very worst-case scenario, students who do not own their own machines may not have access to the same opportunities and learning experience as other students. They may need to be provided with machines or lessons may need to be structured with both groups of students in mind.

Potential for distractions

While this is much less of an issue in higher education and employment, it is worth considering in schools and K12 organizations. Younger BYOD users have the potential to be distracted by their own personal machines as they will have access to resources not related to their lessons, such as websites, video games, and video content. Novelty plays a part in this, and so if BYOD is not new to that student, distraction will be less of an issue.

Less exposure to varying devices and operating systems

With BYOD enabled, students will most likely be using their own personal devices and nothing else. This could result in a lack of exposure to other device types and operating systems, making them less agile in how and when they can work digitally.

Security

Enabling BYOD requires giving students access to organizational networks on unchecked machines that IT doesn’t have access to. There are obvious security risks associated with this, many of which can be mitigated through the use of various firewalls and VPNs.

Troubleshooting

Should any issues arise, schools are less likely to have dedicated IT departments with staff on hand to help in the event of issues. Troubleshooting and fixing any issues will likely be entirely down to teachers of any given session and whether or not a problem can be fixed is dependent on that teacher's IT expertise. This is compounded by unique device types/models per student.


Security considerations for BYOD in schools

Protecting student and user data

BYOD involves capturing user and usage data on end-machines in order to select the most appropriate delivery technology for any given context. A lot of the data collected isn’t sensitive personal data, rather information on device type, platform, whether the end-user is on-site or off-site. However, it is still a responsibility of any school that collects user data from its students to keep that data safe.

Protecting school data

According to research by trendmicro.com 40% of data breaches in US organizations were caused by lost or stolen devices and 50% of organizations that allow BYOD were breached by employee-owned devices. This is demonstrative of how BYOD can result in a weak point in data security for organizations. It is safe to assume that these statistics may be higher in organizations whose users include younger children due to a higher frequency of lost devices. School students may also not be the only user of their personal device, perhaps sharing it with siblings or parents.

BYOD security breach statistics

Data from https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/us/security/news/internet-of-things/the-case-for-making-byod-safe

It is important to consider each layer of security carefully. With the previously mentioned statistics in mind, limiting the use of SSO as an authentication method. If stolen or lost devices are a leading cause of data breach and devices themselves are being used as identity-verification then there is a potential compromise to security. Two-factor authentication (2FA) may be a useful tool here to keep workflow smooth and security tight.

Password protection will be a necessity for BYOD policies for many reasons, however, the frequency of requiring a password should be considered. Will your users be required to input their password every login/launch (most secure option, compromised user experience), will they be prompted to re-enter it at regular intervals, such as monthly (middle-ground for security and UX) or will they only need to enter it once after checking a ‘remember my credentials’ box (best UX, compromised security)?

Openness to viruses/malware

BYOD entails allowing users to connect to organizational networks, files, and resources from unchecked and non-managed devices and networks. This opens up organizations to more potential points of infection from malware or viruses. VPNs and firewalls help to mitigate these risks and keep resources clean and uncompromised. With younger BYOD users there may be a higher likelihood of their machine having become infected, therefore increasing the chance of exposure to infection for an organization’s IT systems.


Best age groups for BYOD

Obviously, there are unique cases and nuances to what each school needs. The following recommendations are generalized to represent the majority of schools’ needs. In reality, the best advice will differ from school to school based on a wide variety of variables, such as number of students, specialisms of the school and ever geographical/logistical features, such as local weather or distance travelled by students to attend classes.

BYOD in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten

BYOD at this stage is useful as an introduction to educational software and academic usage of digital devices. However, students of pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten age will likely be learning key life and soft skills such as handwriting, reading, mental arithmetic and social interaction. While specialist software and hardware can help with this, it may be detractive to offer BYOD to these young age groups.

BYOD in Elementary school

With digital devices becoming ever more intrinsic to modern society, kids will begin using them from younger and younger ages. Students of this age may well already be more familiar with digital devices than they are with other forms of information consumption. However, despite being used to working on and learning from computers, tablets and smartphones, they may still lack the discipline to avoid becoming distracted by their own devices. Elementary students may still be too young for BYOD to represent a viable tool for educating them effectively.

BYOD in Middle school

At middle school age, students will be used to working more independently and using available resources to complete schoolwork and projects. They will also need skills and experience with digital devices going into high school, and so middle school age is a good age to begin introducing the principles and routine of BYOD.

BYOD in High school

By high school, students will be well into the routine of completing work and projects at home for school. They will likely be using their own devices to accomplish this and familiar and comfortable with their specific personal device. Allowing them to continue using their own devices in school and even offering academic software to them on their own devices helps to remove obstacles to learning and achieving and opens up the options of where and when they can work on academic projects.


Frequently asked questions

Why is BYOD important in schools?

BYOD in schools helps to introduce students to completing work from their own devices in preparation for higher education and employment. In an ever-more-digital world, getting used to using personal devices to complete work can help desensitize students to the potential distractions offered by those devices. BYOD can also help students learn to manage their time effectively in a society where the lines between work time and free time are becoming more and more blurred.

Why BYOD is good for schools?

BYOD reduces the hardware investment needed for schools to offer equal access to digital academic resources to all students. By leveraging student-owned hardware, schools can increase the resources available to students, such as software, digital media and digital learning environments, at a fraction of the cost of ensuring there are enough organization-owned machines for every student to use. Furthermore, BYOD allows students to access school resources outside of school and outside of teaching hours.

Does BYOD save schools money?

Yes, it can do. While BYOD technologies may be expensive, with the correct provisioning and tools implemented, the decrease in hardware investment required from schools and insight from reporting data can help schools save money on their software delivery.

How communication is improved in school with BYOD?

With a BYOD policy implemented, schools can begin working to introduce centralized communication points such as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) or Learning Management Systems (LMSs). Software delivery tools such as AppsAnywhere also provide areas that can be used to communicate with students. Once BYOD is enabled, schools can be more confident that students are actively accessing digital academic resources through specific channels, and that communication propagated through those channels is much more likely to be seen.

How to implement BYOD in schools?

To implement BYOD in a cost-effective and sustainable way, schools will need a clear idea of a number of key data points to understand which technologies are necessary and how many licenses of each technology are required:

  • Number of users/devices
  • Weighting of device type/platform (Windows vs Mac vs Linux)
  • Software titles to deliver
  • Usage data on software titles for licensing
  • User groups requiring specialist software

You can read more about implementing BYOD policies in schools in the SecurEdge article, ‘How to successfully implement a BYOD program into your school’ >

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