September 06, 2022

Is BYOD a case of ‘bring your own disaster’ in education?

Scott Burridge
National DaaS Specialist at Data#3
As schools nurture a generation of digital natives, guiding them through learning and into further education and the workplace, the jury is still out on the best type of student device program. In recent years, BYOD programs have outnumbered 1:1 models of acquisition but is that truly the best option? Did anyone ask what the parents think about it all? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of both options.

Is BYOD a case of ‘bring your own disaster’?

As laptops and portable devices became more widely used in the classroom, the popularity of BYOD programs rose. There were a few reasons for this: schools didn’t have to make a large capital purchase every year; families were free to choose the device that best suited their needs and budget, within agreed specs; and busy school IT staff didn’t spend endless hours researching devices and negotiating prices.

BYOD programs, though, come with their limitations. A teacher may find themself supporting 30 students with 30 different devices and a handful of operating systems. Getting everyone ready to start a lesson can be time-consuming and frustrating even for the most technically adept teacher. Imagine asking your cohort to downloaded a language learning tool in Chinese class – while most children will be quickly up and running, one student’s laptop starts running absolutely everything with Chinese characters, a problem that could take the teacher and IT department days to resolve. Likewise, preparing for standardised NAPLAN tests has support teams working themselves into the ground, managing a myriad of devices and operating systems.

The security landscape has changed, too, from the time when most BYOD programs were implemented. Students spend more time online, not only in class, where there is a higher level of supervision, but at home, where they are likely to spend time on social media and non-educational sites. Devices may not have updates and security patches applied as promptly as IT Administrators and Managers would deem appropriate. As every IT department knows, unmanaged devices connecting to the school’s network – pose a huge increase in risk of exposure and  breach. Discover how The Southport School in Queensland improved device security and student safety online in this customer story video.

For many parents, BYOD can be stressful. Towards the start of a school year, most parenting pages on social media are littered with pleas for help choosing a suitable device. Armed only with a list of specs, they are at the mercy of any vendor with available stock, and making the right decision is daunting even for the reasonably technically proficient. With the school year starting right after Christmas, finances can be drained, and many families find themselves tied into high interest finance options they can ill afford. Little wonder, then, that parents indicate they would prefer a 1:1 program with a nominated device.

There are, of course, schools that make a BYOD program work for them – and work well at that. The most successful have very well-resourced IT departments, with high level of technical competence and ability to provide level 1 support, as and when required to staff, student and parents. In these schools, strong IT policies are essential, with a very clear set of device purchasing guidelines.

Traditional 1:1

On the flip side, a 1:1 program avoids the equity challenges that occur with BYOD. Parents escape the stress of choosing the right device. Students have the same device, with the same operating system, and teachers find it much quicker and easier to troubleshoot. The consistency makes it easier to get every student logged in and ready to learn quickly, losing less learning time.

1:1 also offers greater control to the school IT department, something which becomes important when you consider consistent security measures. Updates can be more consistently applied, and security software kept up-to-date. A standardised environment makes it easier to enforce policies designed to protect students from malicious or unsafe threat actors online and can restrict what a laptop is used for at given times of the day. The ROI of 1:1 device programs has been impressive for a number of years, here’s a Forrester study on the impact of 1:1 Microsoft Surface devices in classrooms.

For many schools, though, that big capital expense is hard to get past. Budgets are hard enough to manage, and purchasing processes are not always agile enough to capitalise on point-in-time vendor offers. Then there’s the ongoing management and maintenance of devices through their lifecycle, and sustainably responsible disposal of laptops at end of life.

When there is a problem with a device, the pressure is on to repair or replace and get the student back to learning online as quickly as possible. Worldwide device shortages have proven especially challenging for schools, both with 1:1 and BYOD programs. The advantage of a 1:1 here is that by holding spare machines, a familiar device can be in the student’s hands and ready to go almost immediately, although holding spares does of course come at an expense.

If a 1:1 model is most beneficial to your school, but you lack the resources and expertise to manage this school owned model, Data#3 can assist by removing the overhead or effort through a Modern Device Management offering. Modern Device Management is an efficient, affordable and equitable way to procure and provision devices in your school, before taking the next step to Device as a Service (DaaS)… more below.

Device as a Service (DaaS)

The game changer that has tempted many schools back to a 1:1 program is the emergence of Device as a Service (DaaS). It can be a best of both worlds scenario in most cases: the consistency and control of a 1:1 program, as an operational expense instead of a huge up-front capital sum, as well as the option of stock-hold, so that so that schools aren’t waiting for a device to come from overseas.

One of the big differences between an old-style 1:1 and DaaS is the range of services that can be included in that predictable monthly payment. While it varies by provider, the potential is there to hand over some or all device support and maintenance to someone else. The benefits of this approach were especially evident during COVID-19 lockdowns, when students followed a learn from home model. School IT teams, already overloaded with enabling remote learning and having to navigate changing health guidelines, were relieved of much of the device administration burden.

The remote learning phases, too, reminded us once again why device equity is so important. Those DaaS schools have students with appropriate, modern machines. They had good quality cameras and clear audio that made online lessons run smoothly, with tech-support just a phone call away to make sure that every app worked as it should.

The parent perspective

In the discussion about device programs, the voice of the parent community is often lost. Yet they are the people who navigated remote learning connection problems with their grade fours, who stress over what their teens are accessing online, and who pay the high interest rates of finance agreements made out of desperation.

Put simply, parents just want their children to learn unimpeded, with a device that best suits their child’s needs without breaking the bank. The switch to remote learning was hard enough on parents trying to juggle their own jobs with their children’s needs, and troubleshooting devices was something they could have done without. As a result, even now that schools are back to some kind of normality, device programs are top of mind and parents are conscious of the impact their choices can have on their child’s learning experience.

That COVID-19 era experience has highlighted the advantages of consistent devices in the classroom, and a recent article showed that parents understand well the difficulty teachers experience when faced with up to 30 completely different machines. They want learning time to be maximised, and teachers able to focus on engaging with their class. A whopping 78% of parents indicated they would be prepared to purchase a nominated device from the school to avoid these challenges associated with BYOD. Perhaps it is time to listen to those affected most by BYOD challenges?

While there is no simple, or one-size-fits-all approach to building an education device fleet, Data#3 is well positioned to help you navigate the path from BYOD to a DaaS model.

Let our education specialists help you choose the right device program for your school.

Reach out to a Data#3 DaaS specialist below.

Additional resources:

Microsoft Surface Laptop SE : Designed and built for education
Welcoming the HP ProBook 440 – A new classroom champion
Set up your students for success with the Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga Gen2
Webinar on Demand : Digital tools to encourage productivity, engagement, and collaboration for Education
Next Generation Document Management in Education
How VR can help students succeed in the age of experience