IT leaders in K-12 school districts face a mounting challenge as they attempt to manage and oversee mobile device programs aimed squarely at improving education. The theory is that giving students access to smartphones and tablets as part of their school experience will help them be more productive, access a wider range of materials and be better prepared for the workforce. These goals can be achieved in practice, but doing so also creates a great deal of risk.
CSO explained that mobility strategies in academic settings create an inherently less controlled tech ecosystem, often leading to high-risk web surfing and similar problems. The result is a situation in which technology teams must work diligently to create controls and protect endpoints. A key issue to remember in all of this is the simple fact that mobility strategies in K-12 schools lead to the creation of significant amounts of data. That information is valuable to attackers, and it’s up to school IT teams to safeguard students, faculty and staff.
Mobile device management technologies are emerging in response to these developments. With many schools embracing smartphones and tablets to empower students, they end up facing a management burden that can leave IT teams scrambling to keep up with everyday demands. What’s more, while many programs are out there to help schools access apps and services for students and teachers, most of the underlying IT support systems in place are still built around older technologies. As such, tech departments often find themselves lacking intuitive tools to help them manage mobile devices. This is where modern mobile device management technologies come into play.
Selecting an MDM solution can seem daunting, especially considering that many systems are built with the enterprise as a focus and may lack key features that are beneficial in K-12 settings. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the essential issues to think about at when considering an MDM platform. Here are six of the most important issues to assess:
1. What are your specific needs?
Every school district will have a slightly different strategy for how it handles mobile devices. Is bring your own device an option? Are you using Apple devices and related app sourcing programs? Are you going with the Chromebook option? What’s the blend between the two? How do these tactics vary from grade to grade based on available applications and learning resources?
Make sure you can answer all of these questions before you choose an MDM solution. TechTarget explained that organizations can’t create criteria to help them identify the right MDM system for their needs until they’ve carefully evaluated their specific strategies and goals.
It can be tempting to look at mobile device security as a problem in need of a solution. Instead, it is vital to remember that mobility represents a larger strategic and educational decision, and the way you resolve security issues must align with your overarching plans or you risk undermining your primary goals.
2. Cloud or On-premise?
TechTarget explained that deploying a premise-based MDM system requires a great deal of technical knowledge, as well as resources to manage the solution on an everyday basis. In many cases, organizations can eliminate day-to-day support and administrative issues by using a cloud-based MDM solution, but this requires schools to put data into the hands of third-party providers.
Both options come with pros and cons, and it is vital that IT leaders carefully analyze their capabilities beside the potential for risk as they assess which is best. The cloud is often easiest, and security improvements are happening across the sector, but there are situations in which an on-premise option can be a better choice.
3. Is the interface intuitive and easy-to-use?
Your team shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to register, configure and manage devices. If an MDM system requires you to write custom code to properly track components of your configuration, or forces you to go through complex directory management processes, then chances are your teams won’t have time and resources to sustain a high level of oversight.
Simplified, streamlined user interfaces allow your IT users to quickly and easily manage devices, ensuring they can spend more of their time on tasks that directly impact the educational experience.
4. How will you enforce policies across devices?
Most MDM solutions will offer some form of functionality around creating internal policies and ensuring users abide by them. However, the capabilities of such setups can vary wildly between solutions, with some severely limiting your capacity to control device settings, a major problem in academic environments where students may download assets or change settings in diverse ways.
To counter this, organizations should look for solutions that allow for easy delivery of system settings, ensuring information is protected at all times by safeguarding the actual device configuration.
5. Can your apps integrate with the system?
Regardless of which types of app deployment programs you choose for your school, it is essential to understand the full scope of the applications faculty and students need, and to ensure that those solutions can be managed within your MDM platform. TechTarget explained that, at a basic level, an MDM solution should enable IT teams to establish some basic controls over app use within the system. MDM shouldn’t just provide insights into your device environment. It should also help you manage apps.
6. How are groups managed?
Group-level management is extremely important in K-12 settings, where students are constantly divided based on class, teacher, club or similar designation. Trying to control all of these authorizations for each student is unrealistic and overly time-consuming. However, robust group controls enable IT departments to create structured segments for different user types, ensuring that individuals who are authorized within a certain group can access what they need.
Managing mobile devices in K-12 environments comes with a unique set of challenges that IT teams need to contend with. A careful analysis of MDM solutions is necessary as school districts work to find the right option for their needs. Deep Freeze MDM can provide a comprehensive, easy-to-use option in many situations.