Bring Your Own Device—does it need to be a headache for schools?

Written by: Paul Sweeney | July 29, 2016

Implementing Bring your own device (BYOD) is understandably popular with both end users (who have a growing expectation that this should be possible at their place of study) and with institutions (who want to save on hardware costs).

BYOD is often considered a sure-fire headache, combining a potential security quagmire with the need for complicated infrastructure.

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But with a proper plan in place, and support from experts if needed, BYOD can be straightforward to implement and brings many benefits with it.

These benefits can include increasing enthusiasm about learning, giving pupils greater access to a wider range of information and resources and providing new and interesting ways for work to be completed. It also potentially opens opportunities for more personalised learning.

There are of course, many questions which spring to mind when considering moving to BYOD. It doesn't need to be a headache—here are some common questions about BYOD, answered.

1. What is the BYOD Policy?

This should without fail be the first question, but it rarely comes up. There should always be a policy that dictates who is allowed access, what devices are allowed onto the network and what level of wireless service people will have access to once network access is granted.
Skipping this step, as many do, will mean the system will grow organically with no plan or forethought. Many decisions which will prove to have significant and far-reaching impacts will be made on the fly during the working day, without the necessary considerations taking place.

2. Will BYOD overload the school network?

The answer here is no, not if you invest in setting it up properly. Once the scope of the deployment has been established you have provided goal posts to aim at. The wireless network can be designed to accommodate the necessary device numbers and adequate service, and the local LAN must be able to facilitate this.

After you’ve introduced BYOD, teachers will start planning lessons on the assumption that there will be multiple devices (or even a device for every pupil) in their classroom. Therefore, the network needs to be able to handle enough devices, otherwise lesson plans might start failing.

The scale of the service intended to be provided, as well as the client device technical capability, will drastically affect the number of APs required. Aim high, but be realistic, do you feasibly see a need for VoIP or any more than a few Mbps per client?

3. What if a student’s device has a virus?

This is probably inevitable—you won't be able to police all the devices that will suddenly start connecting to the school network. But this does not present a serious problem providing that your cyber security solution is adequate.

By adequate, I mean that it should be fully automated. Attackers are increasingly using automated threats, and it therefore follows that your solution must be automated too, so that it can quickly compile threat data from new attacks, and produce protection as needed.
Finally, your cybersecurity solution should also provide you with tools to help deal with any current network infection.

4. How can we protect pupils from inappropriate content?

The need to protect students from inappropriate content is clear, both from a duty of care perspective and because of the need to comply with the Government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

This is best done by surrounding your network access points with security, rather than attempting to police student’s devices. Explicit proxy servers do not sit easily with BYOD and a transparent proxy may be a better solution (for more detail, read our guest blog: 5 BYOD considerations for schools).

5. Will BYOD be difficult to implement?

The answer here is no—providing you have access to high quality advice, and choose a provider who will work in genuine partnership with your IT Manager.

It is crucial that the provider you choose has experience of working with schools. Since most schools choose a provider based on recommendations from other schools, providers who have worked with multiple schools are likely to have done a good job.

BYOD is not the headache for schools that some perceive it to be, but there are certainly pitfalls that need to be avoided. Managing the implementation properly—which is most easily done in consultation with providers who have experience and expertise in BYOD for schools—is key to success.

Update: Have your say for 2018

Is your school struggling with BYOD policies? Have you found the right balance between hardware and network readiness? Put your hand up for the 2018 report and have your say.

The survey collects responses from top educational providers across the UK, resulting in a full report.

Take 10 minutes to contribute your opinion to the report, scheduled for release in early 2018, and gain insights into the challenges faced by education organisations throughout the UK, as reported by the organisations themselves. Use these insights to inform key IT decisions for 2018, improving the state of IT for your education organisation and the pupils it benefits.

State of IT in Education

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