Choose your language

Choose your login



The challenges of BYOD compatibility in schools

Love it or hate it, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is here to stay. The days of students and staff doing all their work on school desktops, sitting snug and safe on the network, are gone – and they’re not coming back.

Unfortunately, while personal devices like laptops and tablets have opened up an amazing world of remote study, they do come with certain challenges. Compatibility issues. Cyberattacks. Device inequality. Network management headaches. Tech support and maintenance. Patch rollouts. The list goes on and on.

In this article, we’re going to run through some of the BYOD benefits and risks, along with BYOD compatibility best practices. I’m writing this for those brave souls who are about to embark on their own BYOD policy rollout in their school. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be TOO big a challenge. Let’s get cracking, shall we?

BYOD simply means that students can bring their own devices – smartphones, laptops, tablets etc. – and use them on the school network. BYOD has been growing in popularity, particularly in schools, because it lowers operational costs. With students supplying their own hardware, institutions don’t have to put so much energy and time into procurement and maintenance.

BYOD also has some obvious educational upsides. Students can study and work remotely, from home, on campus, or even public transport, accessing critical lesson plans and documents and shrinking the burden on IT. At least, that’s the theory.

What are the main challenges of BYOD for schools?

BYOD involves integrating students’ personal devices with the school’s on-site digital infrastructure, and that’s an inherently tricky thing to do. You need all sorts of security systems, user access protocols, and risk management strategies in place to implement BYOD successfully. And the truth is: not all institutions have the time or expertise to actually do that.

So what are some of the common challenges with BYOD?

BYOD compatibility. The elephant in the classroom. With hundreds of students running different devices, operating systems and hardware specs, compatibility can be a nightmare. Synching educational software and trying to rollout patches on BYO devices often gives IT departments major headaches.

Security risks. BYOD is notorious for introducing security vulnerabilities in schools. Students may be using their devices with all sorts of different levels of protection. Combine that with poor cyber awareness and unsecure home WIFI routers, and you have a recipe for cyber disaster.

Network management. School IT managers have to accommodate a huge range of devices with different operating systems, software versions, and security protocols. These all need to sync seamlessly with remote learning software and cloud storage, not to mention the school’s own network.

Maintenance and troubleshooting. School-supplied laptops can be inefficient and expensive, but they have one advantage: they’re all the same. With BYOD, sysadmins are faced with time-consuming tech support and maintenance tickets for all sorts of devices. This can disrupt workflow and compromise kids’ access to materials.

Device inequality. One aspect of BYOD that doesn’t get talked about much is device inequality. Not all students can afford the same level of device, so how can we ensure an equitable learning experience? BYOD, if not managed correctly, can severely exacerbate existing inequalities.

How to implement effective BYOD policies in schools

So how can we overcome these BYOD compatibility challenges? Well, the good news is, none of this stuff is insurmountable, and there are several things schools can do to implement BYO best practices. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). All schools should have a clear, easily accessible BYOD policy, that students, teachers and parents can check at any time. This AUP should outline the acceptable use of BYOD devices in schools, specify any prohibited activities, and outline consequences for policy violations.

Security measures. We’ve gone into more detail about cybersecurity in schools before, but if you’re implementing BYOD, you should (at the very least) require students to install and maintain common, up-to-date anti-virus software. It’s also a good idea to enable common network security measures, like encryption, firewalls, data segmentation, intrusion detection systems, and a robust password policy.

Data privacy. Student data privacy in schools is crucial (in many cases, it’s a legislative requirement!). So make sure you have secure, encrypted data storage facilities, and encourage students to enable encryption features provided by their device’s operating system (or use third-party tools). You should also have a policy in place for remotely wiping data from lost or stolen BYOD devices.

Compatibility guidelines. To ease the burden on IT, and minimize any teething issues, it’s a good idea to provide guidance on compatible devices, operating systems and software apps. Recommend minimum hardware specs and software versions for student devices, and offer resources to help students troubleshoot compatibility issues.

Network access controls. It might go without saying, but you need to restrict access to the school’s network to registered BYOD devices. This means authenticating all users through secure login credentials. We also recommend using network segmentation to separate BYOD traffic (or guest traffic) from administrative or sensitive network resources. There’s absolutely no reason for these two things to run on the same system.

How schools use cloud print solutions

The next phase of BYOD integration, after you’ve got your basic system setup, is to give students a safe, easy way to print from any authorized BYOD device.

At PaperCut, we’ve developed our own solution for this, called Mobility Print. It’s a free product that can be installed on its own, although it generally works better in tandem with PaperCut NG or MF. With something like Mobility Print, you can deliver network print services for iOS, Windows, Android and Chrome, all at the same time, across missed fleet environments. In other words, all managed and unmanaged devices can print securely, using any approved printer on the school network.

How schools can monitor and manage cloud print

Cloud print is one thing. Cloud print management is how you monitor and control your cloud print ecosystem. It’s more or less essential for schools, especially those running BYOD, because it gives your IT team one, centralized dashboard, through which they can control the entire print environment. Authorize users, track certain printers, monitor print activity, implement print rules and quotas, rollout driver updates – print management software allows you to do all these things, without your IT manager tearing their hair out. We’ve run through some of the benefits of cloud print management over here.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your BYOD environment

How do you know if your BYOD environment is actually working? Well, there are a few metrics you can look at.

IT workload. Listen to your sysadmins and IT team, because they’re the ones on the BYOD frontlines. If they’re overworked, if ticket numbers are spiraling out of control, that’s a sign that your BYOD integration isn’t up to snuff.

Device adoption rate. Are students actually using BYOD? Are teachers finding it easy to distribute lesson plans and learning materials? If adoption rates are low, that’s another sign that you haven’t configured your system properly.

Network performance. Monitor stuff like bandwidth usage, latency, network uptime and speed to make sure your school’s wireless network can actually handle BYOD. You’ll need to account for seasonal server stress too, like during exam time, or the first week of school.

Security compliance. Make sure you monitor compliance with security policies and procedures, including device registration, security configurations, data encryption and user guidelines. Conduct regular security audits, and track known breaches over time.

At the end of the day, BYOD in schools has risks and rewards, just like anything else. It’s an educational tool, and with the right management and configuration, it can be very effective. To learn more about BYOD, and how cloud print can benefit your school, give our friendly team a call .


Subscribe for the latest in print management and product updates!

By filling out and submitting this form, you agree that you have read our Privacy Policy, and agree to PaperCut handling your data in accordance with its terms.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.