Microsoft is doing some pretty amazing things when it comes to helping customers set up multiple devices, fast. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the education space.
Windows Autopilot and the Set up School PCs app are proving invaluable in schools big and small, where IT resources are always stretched and teachers are pressured to make the most of every precious learning moment.
Windows Autopilot and the Set up School PCs app do similar things. The Set up School PCs app is designed to configure PCs with the apps and features students need, and remove the ones they don’t. Like Autopilot, the Set up School PCs app configures devices automatically, significantly reducing the burden on time-poor tech managers in schools. So, when would you use one over the other?
Consider this scenario. On the first day of the new school year, teachers across 20 classrooms hand out devices to 400-odd students. The IT team has deployed these devices with Autopilot, so that students can unbox their device and immediately log into their new PC. Keen to kick-start their learning, the students attempt to set themselves up via Windows Autopilot … all at once.
However, Autopilot uses internet connectivity to set up devices, so if your school has a huge internet pipe, then Autopilot is a great option. Yet if bandwidth is limited, those 400 Autopilot deployments running at once could cause the internet connection to flatline.
Instead, to get hundreds of devices set up and ready for that crucial first day of teaching and learning, you may be better off using the Set up School PCs app on the first day of school.
The Set up School PCs app – a free application available on the Microsoft Store – enables you to create a ‘provisioning package’ of configured settings and applications. This package is basically one big file that will profile a machine to the configured standard, doing all the heavy lifting that Autopilot would normally do through an internet connection.
The key advantage for schools is that the provisioning can be done offline from a USB stick or network share. The provisioning package can be used in lieu of SCCM or MDT.
If the school has an IT team, then they can get the machines ready before the first day of school. If not, then staff and students can simply pass around the USB stick to run the program themselves. Another option is a device fulfillment service like that offered by Data#3.
Either way, it’s a fast, effective option for quickly onboarding student devices.
Beyond the first day of school, the Set up School PCs app proves its worth if a school performs a tech refresh midway through the year – for example, replacing ageing laptops with Microsoft Surface devices. Before all the Surface devices get issued out to students, the machines can be quickly configured with the right settings.
The Set up School PCs app is also valuable in BYOD scenarios, where students bring their own devices to school but need the school’s apps and settings applied to the machine. The USB stick containing the provisioning package can just be passed around – students can double-click the file and sit back while their machine gets provisioned correctly.
As the school year progresses, students might need to rebuild their device. This is where Windows Autopilot shines.
The IT department can simply do a remote wipe of the device and the student can run Windows Autopilot from home, school or anywhere with an internet connection – and rebuild the machine to the same configuration as all the other devices at the school.
It helps them get their device back into shape for learning with minimal disruption – the IT department doesn’t even need to touch the machine.