The popularity of “bring your own device” is growing. But have you considered the disadvantages of BYOD?
BYOD (bring your own device) has caught on like wildfire, and K–12 schools throughout the country (and world) are madly adopting it. The benefits are many (see our rundown in Part I of the Pleasures and Perils of BYOD).
However, BYOD is not all a bed of roses. Beware the challenges you may face—and prepare to meet them head on with these tips:
Problem: When students, teachers, and administrators are all vying to get online with their mobile devices, they’re sucking up bandwidth and taxing your school’s wireless network. Expect poor throughput and lots of complaints about slow load times.
Solution: Design your network’s infrastructure to accommodate the level of activity you expect. Be sure you’ve integrated the new 802.11ac [LINK Glossary] standard for higher throughput in the 5-GHz band, plus better reliability and improved robustness. Ask yourself:
- Can the network support a lot of devices simultaneously, for example, at the beginning of class when everyone’s logging on at once?
- Is your network scalable? Can it grow as your needs grow?
- Does your bandwidth accommodate multimedia and other bandwidth-hogging apps?
Problem: This is a big issue for many schools and a major deterrent to implementing BYOD. Security concerns—including data protection and CIPA Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliance—are real and must be addressed.
Solution: Install the appropriate protection, such as firewalls and Internet filters, and implement protective features such as:
- Robust reporting and monitoring tools, so you know what’s happening on the network—who’s online, what they’re accessing, etc.
- Role-based access for different groups of users—teachers, students, administrators, and guests—and restrict them accordingly
- For beefed-up security, consider a multi-factor authentication tool [LINK Glossary] when users log on
Problem: At first glance, BYOD seems like a simple, straightforward arrangement: students bring their devices to school, the school supplies network access, and everything goes smoothly—until it doesn’t. Good planning is key to the success of your BYOD program. You’ll need to consider:
- How will students charge their devices? Is it their responsibility? Will the school provide charging stations?
- What happens to devices during tests, sports, assemblies, and the like? Will they be stowed in a secure place?
- How will you discourage distractions, such as gaming, watching videos, texting, etc.?
- How do you deal with theft?
- What if students can’t afford to buy their own devices—will you have a loaner program?
- Mobile devices can be status symbols; how will your school cope with potential problems surrounding the “digital divide”?
- What’s your stand on tech support—will your staff troubleshoot/repair students’ devices?
Solution: Establish a BYOD policy that’s distributed to students and parents, included in the student handbook, and visible on your school’s website.
Problem: A huge benefit of BYOD is that it passes the cost of devices on to parents. But that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. You’ve got a lot of expenses to consider, including:
- A robust, reliable wireless-network infrastructure; does yours need upgrading?
- Adequate security measures, such as firewalls, anti-virus software, etc.
- Ongoing network maintenance and updates
- Loaners for kids without their own devices
- Tech support—do you have adequate staff to handle maintenance and repairs?
- Energy costs
- Installation of charging stations
Solution: Create a realistic budget that includes everything from your controller to your access points.
Problem: With BYOD comes an array of gadgets, software, and platform. Are you prepared to support the deluge—Android, IOS, OS, Blackberry, Linux, Windows, and all the rest? How will you deal with incompatibility issues among devices?
Solution: Avoid conflicts by using cloud-based tools and applications.
Do you have more solutions to offer? Let us know in the comments section below.