Devices – from tablets to front of class displays and other technologies – are increasingly being used in schools to support student learning and to help teachers. But, the more equipment is used, the more complex and time-consuming ICT management becomes.
However, not implementing a strategic approach to device management isn’t an option. Because, how schools manage their devices can have a significant impact on their effectiveness.
Providing IT managers with the tools they need to simplify their setup and work more efficiently, centralised IT device management can help. And, for IT managers keen to embrace this approach, here are three key benefits to include in any business case to help secure SMT buy-in.
The job of school IT manager would be much easier with the right infrastructure. But all too often, the technology available in schools is disparate. Over the years, different systems have been brought in to be used for a plethora of tasks, and keeping everything up-to-date becomes a significant time drain.
Such disparate systems make the role of IT manager increasingly complex. Not least because they have to keep up-to-date with, and be proficient in dealing with a whole range of devices and operating systems.
Today, amongst other tasks, modern school IT managers have to keep on top of things like:
- Hardware management (inventory, warranties, etc.)
- Software/Apps (licencing, deployment, updating and removal)
- OS configuration
- Mobile device management
- Remote IT management
- Content access
- BYOD policies and usage
- Security (e.g. antivirus management, encryption, blocking, access control, etc.)
The ability to manage PCs, Chromebooks, Android, iOS and macOS devices centrally, using a cloud-based solution, can remove some of the burden from the shoulders of IT managers.
For example, with centralised IT device management, it is easy to create pupil and teacher profiles, and set unique passwords, all from one dashboard with one login. So, IT managers don’t have to waste time collecting devices and doing this manually. IT managers can also set role-based access management, so that the right people have access to the apps that matter to them (e.g. by age group, classroom, department, etc.).
Schools will also enjoy time-savings when apps and software are bulk installed, updated and disabled centrally. And, with modern schools reliant on numerous educational and productivity apps (used with the ActivPanel, iPads, smartphones, laptops and other devices), the time saved can be substantial. Indeed, with zero-touch deployment, it is possible to set rules to ensure cross-platform updates happen automatically.
Because of the evolution of technology, schools must incorporate commonly used devices into their curriculums if they are to prepare students for our digital world. In response, more and more schools are using mobile devices and BYOD schemes to support modern pedagogy. But allowing pupils to use their own smartphones creates a new set of challenges for IT managers, especially in relation to online safety for pupils.
A simple yet secure solution, with a centralised device management strategy, enables IT managers to unify their security across software and devices from a single point of access. It also means that network managers can:
- Monitor and manage both school-owned and home-owned devices used in school – whether the device is in the classroom, or further afield
- Track the physical location of devices and use geolocation-based management to apply different rules depending on the location of a device (e.g. what apps can be used within a school’s geofence)
- Establish the access and configuration allowed by the school network
- Associate devices with users
- See all devices at-a-glance and identify which ones have problems
- Disable hardware remotely
- Apply firewall rules and enforce data encryption to devices
- Decide what apps, websites and content to restrict and help to protect students from harmful online content
- Lock a device down or wipe it remotely if it goes missing or becomes compromised
- Enable parents to track and monitor online activity
Furthermore, with centralised device management, school devices will be closely monitored for any threats – with anti-virus checks and custom alerts. This helps to maintain the integrity of a school network and stop attacks before they become a problem.
Centralising IT device management in the cloud isn’t just time-efficient; it’s also cost-efficient.
Firstly, schools get back the time that would have been spent on ICT management and firefighting. By optimising IT manager time, this frees up valuable resources for education-based initiatives.
Also, with centralised device management, user productivity increases and the negative impact of unplanned downtime is reduced (e.g. from outages, attacks, software incompatibilities and upgrades). The cost of a security breach or data loss is also significantly reduced.
With centralised support, IT managers also have more options over hardware and software, as issues about firewall restrictions, security, and compatibility are taken care of for them.
Centralised usage monitoring also allows schools to identify infrequently used devices and software. This helps to determine where they could be redeployed and put to better use. So schools no longer have to worry about continually purchasing more technology that they don’t need.
Moreover, once an IT manager knows what devices and software are not being used, they can also establish why. For example, do teachers need training on how to use the technology they are given? As IT experts know, too often the problem isn’t always bad edtech, it’s that educational technology is sometimes neglected or not used to its full potential. This can be down to a lack of confidence or understanding when it comes to using it.
As schools continue to adopt a range of different devices to enhance 21st-Century learning, they must find ways to manage and maintain them. Centralised device management services provide a cost-effective solution to this challenge, while delivering a range of additional benefits to schools.
Ultimately, by helping to reduce the burden of firefighting and admin, centralised device management simplifies the role of school IT manager. This leaves them free to deliver more strategic and proactive support to schools and teachers, and demonstrate genuine value.