Written By: Nadav Avni

K-12 teachers and administrators have long seen the value of leveraging advanced technology to improve the quality of learning experiences. Now, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, advanced technological tools such as mobile device management (MDM) software have quickly become a necessity for making remote learning a reality.

In survey results released by MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) in mid-2018, some 18 months before the new coronavirus hit hard in the US, fully 82% of K-12 teachers already agreed that educational technology tools such as laptops, tablet software, learning apps, smart boards and student portals “have not only brought the classroom into the modern age but have also enhanced learning and teaching”.

Also according to the report:

  • 42% of student work is now done using pencil and paper.
  • 66% said the school supplies the device.
  • 25% said students bring the devices themselves.
  • 9% said their schools don’t allow laptops or tablets.

Meanwhile, due to closures of brick-and-mortar schools spawned by COVID-19, many K-12 school districts have been scrambling over the past six months to buy up mobile devices for students who don’t already own them.

FutureSource Consulting predicts an increase in shipments of laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks from 14 million units in 2019 to 18 million in 2020, an uptick of four million units. Device sales in the education market for remote learning are being bolstered by emergency funding through the CARES Act and GEER Fund.

Here are five reasons why K-12 schools need MDM software systems to accompany their advanced mobile hardware and software apps.

1 | Curated Learning Environment

Although mobile devices allow schools to expand the classroom, they also give students more opportunities to access inappropriate content, notes EdTech Magazine.

An MDM software provides monitoring and management of these devices to make sure they are being used responsibly, whether in classrooms, at home, or in libraries, parking lots, or other remote locations.

Essentially, MDM suites consist of policy, configuration and management tools, topped by a management overlay for administering OS-specific apps and content. Educators can set up these devices with specific content that is going to be used during remote learning, while also applying certain restrictions and other settings. Some other core functions include OS configuration management; hardware inventory; and mobile app inventory, deployment, configuration, updating and removal.

2 | BYOD Support

Even prior to the pandemic, some K-12 school systems augmented classroom computers with a BYOD (bring your own device) policy enabling students to take their own laptops or tablets to school if they prefer. In light of COVID-19 school closings, school systems ranging from New York City (NYC) to the small municipality of Zeeland, MI are trying to bridge the “digital divide” by providing devices and WiFi services to students who don’t already have access to these tools.

More than 300,000 students in the NYC public schools, or almost one-third of the total school population, don’t have an adequate device at home for remote learning, according to the New York Post. At the same time, schools throughout the nation face a supply shortage caused by increased demand along with reduced production in China, another country badly stricken by COVID-19. However, many MDM software systems today support PCs, tablets, and smartphones running different OS, such as Windows, Chrome OS, and Android, allowing school departments to provide cost-effective support for multivendor BYOD devices already owned by students alongside devices obtained by school systems for kids in need.

3 | Cybersecurity

Unfortunately, taking learning out of the classroom also raises the chance of attempted network incursions. Hacking has happened not just on corporate networks but on school networks, too. Yet MDM software not only manages and monitors multivendor mobile devices but also helps to provide cybersecurity, as well.

Just for starters, these systems let administrators set and enforce security policies. MDMs provide a connection to secure back-end repositories such as SharePoint and Documentum where users can store and back up content and pull it to their devices. Additional capabilities include roaming download restrictions and audit logging to track who accesses files. Features for pushing out content are also present. Many systems can be enhanced with additional cybersecurity capabilities to provide a complete monitoring, management, and security solution.

4 | Remote Help

Many of us have been there as adults, too. You’re working on your laptop at home when suddenly your email goes down, you lose the file you were working on, or you can’t print out your document.

Imagine being a 9-year-old or 11-year-old faced with a scenario like that when your homework is due the next day. Clearly, technical glitches like these can get in the way of positive learning experiences. Consequently, the best MDM software includes remote help features that let an administrator take control of the ailing device, perform troubleshooting, and fix the problem right away.

5 | Theft Prevention

Adults sometimes lose their possessions, too, but kids of certain ages are especially famous for it. Instead of just leaving a paper report card or permission slip on a bus seat or park bench, however, students today can lose mobile devices which are expensive for parents or school systems to replace.

Although theft insurance and warranty programs are available, it makes more sense from both security and cost-effectiveness perspectives to be able to quickly locate, disable and recover a missing device than to obtain and configure a new one. Therefore, focus on finding an MDM system with features such as the ability to track, lock, and wipe remote devices.

Look to Radix

Radix VISO MDM enables school systems, other government agencies, and businesses to provide central monitoring, management and security for as many as thousands of users of multivendor devices. Administrators receive a birds-eye view of all connected devices.

As an anti-theft measure, VISO provides a geo-fence tracking and alert system that triggers a series of visible and silent measures, such as tracking the device location and locking it, sending the device location to base, wiping important content, turning voice and visual sirens on, and more. Geo-fencing also creates active fences or “safe zone” perimeters on the map. The minute a protected device crosses over the “fence,” the track and alert mechanism is activated.

To learn more about Radix’s mobile device management solutions or remote learning capabilities, contact us today!