Equal Access to Learning, regardless of Technology

We live in a world dominated by technology in the way we live our lives, especially in Education; we are only a few clicks away from having access to any information we need. It is vital that we can support students in preparing them for a modern-day learning world and environment.

Having access to content and access to technology needs to meet somewhere in the middle. We need to empower students with knowledge, as well as future-ready skills. Employers are looking for new skillsets and now look past the traditional 3Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) and aim much more towards the 4 Cs (critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity).

Research evidence shows that students who are the creators of their own learning content and journey are more likely to have a 49.5% uplift in knowledge retention – a move away from the Victorian classroom teaching style.

In addition to this, there are multiple new scenarios coming into play as blended learning is viewed as a necessity, rather than an option, within education establishments.

However, new challenges have arisen in terms of practicality. For example – all students need access to their learning resources both within and away from the physical location of the institution. In theory this sounds simple, but when you begin to look at the context more closely, more complexity arises. If your institution is fortunate enough to have budget available for a full 1:1 scheme, then you’re working within a controlled manner, which makes life very easy. However, not all institutions have this level of budget available – so if this is you, what do you do?

In this situation, you’re usually met with a few scenarios for getting devices into the hands of students. A Student Purchase Scheme is usually the first option. If students have the funds available, then this option is the most straightforward, but what if they don’t? Maybe you have a hardship fund that can be leveraged for certain Students? Also, what if a Student already has suitable technology to use – and if so, how do you provide them with the relevant learning resources? We divide these up into three distinct implementation scenarios:

  • Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) – already owned Student Devices
  • Student Purchase
  • Hardship fund provided – institute purchased

The challenge with implementing various scenarios within one estate is that devices must be managed in different ways. BYOD and Student-purchased devices can’t be automatically enrolled into Mobile Device Management (MDM) as they are devices owned by the Student, not the institution. BYOD devices are already ‘out in the wild’, so are not clean install to begin with and there is no way to know what level of suitable software is already installed. Institute purchased devices are simple in comparison, as they can be set up with automatic enrolment and zero touch provisioning.

So how do we deal with this?
The trick to managing multiple device scenarios efficiently is reliant on one specific facet: making the initiation process the same for everyone. If this is done correctly, students in each scenario can ultimately have an identical experience – we refer to this as Equal Access.

The way we approach this is to have every student – regardless of their given scenario – register on one of our custom-branded portals, which caters for each scenario.

Students that select BYOD on registration will be asked to provide a few details, such as the serial number, to register their device and ensure that it adheres to the minimum specification required. The serial number can then be used to prepare the MDM software of choice to anticipate the device to appear at some point in the future. This is achieved by the user clicking on a link sent via email, which prompts a few brief questions and hey presto! The device is in MDM. Here’s the trick – by enrolling BYOD students into MDM (specifically as BYOD users), the device can be granted access to institute resources automatically and with the ability to remove these remotely at any time. This could be, for example, in the form of a self-service portal, whereby the user can select the correct software to use for their studies, which ensures consistency across the estate. A self-service portal can also be used to grant wireless access on campus, as well as printer installation and configuration, which can all be achieved by the Student themselves with the click of a button.

Students purchasing their own devices will have the same experience as the above, apart from the fact they’ll have bought a brand-new device. Simple!

Devices that are institute purchased, or partly subsidised, under a hardship or bursary fund can be treated as institute-owned devices, and so are subject to automatic enrolment into MDM. From here, the real ‘zero touch’ experience can be achieved as devices automatically provision themselves straight out of the box. As far as the logistics go for this, students who are applicable for funding are given a voucher code to use on our portal – and can even choose to ‘bolt on’ accessories appropriate to their areas of study if desired.

All in all, regardless of the platform(s) you may be using, the result is the same; unify the experience, gather all information via a single portal, and automate wherever possible. If these are all practiced, dealing with all the scenarios is not only automated and/or low touch, but also a completely seamless user experience for the students!

…and in case you hadn’t guessed by now, Academia can help with all of this ?

James Dancer, Technical Director

Tom Able-Green, Industry specialist (Education and Modern workplace)

Please contact the team to discuss further

info@academia.co.uk | Phone: 01992 703 900

Tips, resources, and advice for remote learning Find out more