Common Problems with BYOD on School Wireless Networks
With Christmas over and students across the country returning to classes, many of them with shiny new smartphones, laptops, or tablets, it’s time to take a fresh look at your school’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) capability. Technology never stands still, and it is becoming increasingly hard for schools to keep up, especially when operating on a limited budget.
You can envision the scene – first days back in class and instead of pulling out paper and textbooks, your students bring out their personal iPads, Netbooks, Tablets, iPhones or Galaxy phones. The class may be almost silent as they fire up these new devices, but undoubtedly your WiFi network is working overtime!
BYOD typically means a major reviewing of a school’s Internet delivery technology, specifically their advanced wireless capabilities. Any initial installation costs with regards to upgrades or even investment in a new more capable network, may prove to be less than you think. And the alternatives of not investing in a reliable, secure and robust network may be a lot costlier.
Mobile technology in the classroom is now a reality, and if you haven’t yet implemented a mobile device learning policy, now is the time to seriously look at how your school tackles the issue of BYOD. However, there are several challenges associated with incorporating BYOD in education, primarily around ensuring that your IT infrastructure and IT resources can support multiple devices running on multiple operating systems all at the same time.
Invest in Infrastructure
A sufficiently robust infrastructure will be required to support the increase in number of devices and traffic. The school needs to make sure that the network can handle the sudden increase of devices accessing wireless resources along with internet bandwidth. One of the first tasks is to have the school’s wireless capabilities checked and to ensure that the internet speeds of the school would be able to cope with a lot more devices accessing the internet – the last thing you would want to do is have BYOD set up only to find that the school’s infrastructure doesn’t perform well under the increased use.
Assess and Upgrade Your School’s Wireless Infrastructure
BYOD devices connect using WiFi, meaning that the school will need to have a ‘fit-for-purpose’ wireless network in place, so that multiple devices can simultaneously access the network or internet. As more and more diverse devices are introduced to the classroom, a robust wireless infrastructure is essential. As an ISP and Managed IT Service Provider, we offer a free assessment of your network’s current capabilities, as well as advice on any necessary upgrades should they be required.
End Point Security
This needs to be addressed right from the beginning, whether it’s running the school’s chosen anti-virus on the student devices or setting up network policies that keep your network safe. While the BYOD trend and digitisation of the classroom is incredibly beneficial, it also introduces a host of security challenges. One key concern for BYOD is that you are in danger of opening up your network to all sorts of viruses and malware programmes – this is one of biggest security challenges faced by school IT departments. These security challenges range from authentication and authorisation through to having a granular visibility of all users and devices. It is essential that internal and external firewalls are in place. In most cases, a school should set-up virtual LANs, enabling it to separate access from school databases and other sensitive data.
It’s also advisable to implement Network Access Control (NAC), allowing you to monitor the students and others who are connecting to your network, the device they’re using and the content they’re able to access. Furthermore, a Mobile Device Management (MDM) policy allows your IT department to access any device connected to your network, as well as making use of a secure Cloud-based VPN tool that replaces individual IP addresses with a generic IP address.
Web Filtering & Caching
A secure and filtered Internet gateway ensures that students have access to only appropriate resources on the Internet. A well-managed web filter also allows the school to control the use of bandwidth and to stop bandwidth hogging activities such as file sharing and large file downloads. Local web caching appliances when deployed properly, reduces Internet traffic through pre-fetch and storing of frequently accessed images and files.
Broadband Connectivity and BYOD
With more devices constantly connected and accessing the Internet at the same time, you may need to consider increasing your bandwidth by looking at the packages and options available from quality ISPs.
Schools considering BYOD need to have a reasonable quality of broadband connectivity to the school. The level and quality of broadband required to support student BYOD devices will depend on the numbers of staff and student devices being used, as well as the levels and type of usage. If the school is large and the number of devices being used is substantial, these factors will place a greater demand on the broadband connection, and this will most likely limit the users experience when using any online resource. Pupils will most likely be using their devices for accessing online content along with ‘apps’ that support learning and for personal use activities.
Overwhelmed Tech Support
From a technical perspective, those individuals that are supporting your school in a technical way probably turn pale and tell you BYOD is a terrible idea. The reason for this response is that the set-up of these devices could result in a lot of extra work and some IT departments think that the negatives outweigh the positives.
The management of and working with, multiple devices and operating systems can be a headache for internal IT departments. It requires an onsite or dedicated remote IT manager or support team to enable teachers to spend their time teaching instead of troubleshooting any IT issues. And they need to have clear and readily available channel of communication with whoever is providing IT support.
With varying types of equipment, and dissimilar configurations and software levels, come a wide variety of technological hurdles. How do you manage to bring all those devices online without touching each device or handing out a pre-shared key? Students are unlikely to allow IT to put their hands on their beloved mobile devices to program settings. In any event, no school has the IT manpower to programme hundreds or even thousands of mobile devices.
There needs to be an automated device registration process. Users should be able to enter in their active directory credentials and register themselves, which can be done with an appropriate mobile device management solution.
When it comes to tech support and troubleshooting every little problem all these devices have, it’s just impossible for any school’s IT staff to handle no matter how big they are. In an age where education establishments are faced with the challenge of budgetary constraints while providing a range of emerging and innovative technologies to their students, our advice is to engage the services of a professional Managed IT Services company that can help you achieve your educational outcome, while saving you both time and money.
Using contracted IT services in schools allows educators to focus on helping students learn rather than focusing on keeping the technology up and running and worrying about keeping up with changes in technology. Some common opportunities that managed IT companies offer include, but are not limited to:
- Manage computers and networks and prevent problems before they occur—less downtime for the system which is an advantage for students, and for adults in the school
- Keep up-to-date with the installation and management of anti-virus software, spam, spyware, and malware security
- Keep servers backed up and in compliance with various laws
- Host email services that allow students and teachers to have access at school and away.
Working together, a dedicated IT out-sourced team and the school will determine a process that will benefit the school both educationally and financially.
BYOD is a fantastic solution for schools and it will only continue to grow in popularity. There is a lot to consider when implementing a BYOD solution and we at Syscomm are happy to help answer any of your questions and offer advice – just contact us here. We work with schools all over the country and have become experts in helping schools plan for mobile devices.
Speak with Syscomm today to understand how we can work with you and your school to provide a WiFi solution that offers fantastic value and significant cost savings
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