Oct 25 2019

K–12 Schools Need Strong Mobile Device Management Services

As BYOD and one-to-one programs spread, K–12 IT teams must sure they are able to control, monitor and update devices regularly.

K–12 students and teachers rely heavily on mobile devices for learning and teaching, respectively, which means IT leaders need solutions to manage these endpoints.

In 2018, the demand for mobile devices in K–12 rose 10 percent in the United States, with sales rising from 5.5 million to 5.8 million compared with the previous year. 

With one-to-one device and BYOD programs now commonplace in K–12 schools, IT leaders need to ensure they have control over the myriad personal laptops, tablets and phones K–12 stakeholders use on a daily basis. 

What Is Mobile Device Management?

A mobile device management system, basically, is a platform that offers control over students’ and teachers’ devices to ensure they are being used safely and responsibly. 

According to technology professionals, mobile device management covers a number of factors, from application deployment and management to device maintenance and security. 

Some of the most common features included in a successful MDM include single sign-on integration; the ability to push applications onto K–12 user devices; the ability to identify and monitor devices connected to the school network; license management; and user management. 

Many schools are now opting for cloud-based services, which make it easier for IT leaders to manage devices without having to worry about maintaining their MDM platform on-premises.

For example, Microsoft’s Intune for Education is a cloud-based platform that lets IT leaders control user access and productivity from a single platform. Google’s G Suite Enterprise for Education has similar MDM services built into its offerings.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how mobile devices are benefitting K–12 schools.

Why Do Schools Need MDM?

The growing prevalence of mobile devices in K–12 is a double-edged sword. While mobile devices allow schools to expand the classroom, they also give students more opportunities to access inappropriate online content and expand the number of potential network vulnerabilities

While previously, schools may have simply banned devices from the classroom to mitigate these risks, the current pace of learning modernization makes this solution impossible. 

“Banning mobile devices and restricting access to the internet is not the only way of keeping children safe online,” according to experts from Jamf. “It is critical that schools understand that digitalization of education will mean applying digital technology to a new form of learning that promotes spontaneous collaboration and personalized learning, while enabling greater access to learning resources and the rapid acquisition of new skills.”

5 Questions to Ask When Picking Out an MDM Platform

There are a variety of factors that should go into deciding which MDM solution a school should invest in. According to Faronics technology blogger Matt Williams, there are six basic questions all K–12 IT leaders should ask when searching for an MDM platform:

  1. What needs are IT admins looking to address? Slight variations in mobile device programs from school to school will have an effect on what MDM solution will work best. For example, while two districts may be integrating a one-to-one device program, one may choose to use Chromebooks while the other may choose iPad devices. In other districts, BYOD programs will mean choosing a system that can manage both kinds of devices. Additionally, certain applications and allowances may vary between grades. “It is vital to remember that mobility represents a larger strategic and educational decision, and the way you resolve security issues must align with your overarching plans or you risk undermining your primary goals,” Williams writes.

  2. Should we deploy in the cloud or on-premises? While both cloud and on-premises solutions are viable options, each has their distinct drawbacks. On-premises MDM can be complicated and requires deep IT knowledge to deploy and manage daily. Deploying in the cloud mitigates any complications that may come from handing an MDM platform to someone who is not trained to manage it, but it also means relinquishing sensitive data to a third party. 

  3. Is the MDM platform easy to use? Simplicity is key for an MDM platform. With so many mobile devices now entering schools, K–12 IT teams will already have enough on their plate without having to navigate a complicated management process. Additionally, if the platform is too complex, IT teams may not have the bandwidth or the resources to keep up the level of oversight the program demands, potentially creating more vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

  4. How will IT enforce management policies? Most MDM solutions will allow IT leaders some flexibility to create their own management policies. However, this customization can “vary wildly between solutions, with some severely limiting your capacity to control device settings, a major problem in academic environments where students may download assets or change settings in diverse ways,” Williams writes. “To counter this, organizations should look for solutions that allow for easy delivery of system settings, ensuring information is protected at all times by safeguarding the actual device configuration.”

  5. Do current school applications integrate well with this MDM platform? For an MDM system to be successful, it needs at the very least to enable IT leaders to have control over how applications are used within the K–12 system. Therefore, if an MDM platform cannot be integrated with current school applications, the solution will be useless. “MDM shouldn’t just provide insights into your device environment,” according to Williams.

  6. How are different K–12 stakeholders managed? While teachers, students and faculty should all have different tasks and privileges, their devices will all fall under the same MDM platform. Grouping devices together is a much more practical solution than individually managing devices by user. K–12 schools will want to pick a solution that allows IT leaders to structure various segments of the school population differently and easily, to allow for more simplified control over all groups.

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