Education

Mobile Device Management for the Education Industry: Addressing the Challenges Introduced by Hybrid Learning

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Hybrid Learning: The New Reality

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered learning modes and these seismic changes will be here with us for the foreseeable future. Schools, universities, and other educational institutions adopted online learning and now, hybrid learning is a growing trend. The effectiveness of online learning is obviously determined by access to devices and learning facilities; it has foregrounded regional disparities and the existing digital divide globally. Yet in spite of these issues, a recent report by the World Bank states that hybrid learning is a permanent fixture of our world. 

Even before the onset of the pandemic, digital pedagogy was on the rise – particularly in universities, where many students access their learning material online. University students either use the university’s devices or their own devices using the university’s internet connection. With the onset of hybrid learning, increasing numbers of educational institutions will deploy devices that will require secure managing and monitoring at scale for successful online learning.

How, then, can educational institutions implement online learning systems that address pressing challenges such as device access and internet connectivity to deliver learning material that aligns with educational goals? By adopting a mobile device management (MDM) strategy.

Mobile Device Management and Hybrid Learning

The students of today are digital natives and they require immersive learning environments. A well-thought out MDM strategy will thus ensure that students and teachers are able to make the best use of digital technologies whilst protecting sensitive information and devices.

Primarily, MDM enables IT teams in educational institutions to manage a range of devices that operate on varying operating systems through one centralized platform. Centralized device management provides many benefits. These include:

  • Manage an unlimited number of devices and scale with minimal interruption to operations to add more devices over time as needed.
  • Customized dashboards featuring data on device usage, technical faults/malpractices, reports, and analytics. This is particularly useful when IT administrators want to ensure that staff and students are using the devices for the intended purposes only, in accordance with the educational institution’s IT policies.
  • Remote monitoring of devices to understand how university devices are used and when replacements are needed. Geolocation features to track devices in case of loss, theft or misplacement. 
  • MDM products provide identity and access management (IAM) features. IT teams can implement single sign on (SSO) and authentication policies to onboard users easily and devices. Moreover, strong identity management capabilities are the cornerstone of securing personal information and sensitive data.
  • Purchase required apps from an app store; block distracting or harmful apps on university owned devices.
  • Administrators can ensure that all devices accessing networking resources are continuously up-to-date with the latest versions of the software (i.e. security patches, virus guards, operating systems, etc.)
  • For younger students, administrators can restrict network access over short periods of time on devices to prevent over exposure to apps or websites that may have a negative impact on these students.

Improved Access to Learning Material and Content Delivery

Once a comprehensive MDM strategy is deployed, educational institutions and teachers can focus on delivering engaging learning material to students. MDM is especially useful for facilitating remote learning. Students who do not have reliable access to WiFi connections can use mobile hotspots on devices. IT admins can ensure that devices are used as hotspots and for educational purposes only. Moreover, multiple users can use the same device as personal data is secured. This is particularly helpful if students are sharing their devices with other family members. Whilst a MDM strategy cannot solve the digital divide entirely, it can help improve access to online learning material where devices are available.

A Checklist For Selecting a MDM Solution

When looking for a MDM solution provider for your educational institution, these are the top features and capabilities that IT admins must consider:

  • Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)/ centralized device management
  • Identity management
  • Integration options with third party platforms
  • Data analytics and dashboards

If you’re getting started with a MDM strategy at your educational institution, do let us know. We’re happy to help you with your requirements.

Virtual Classrooms: From Chaos to Collaboration

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

As the world continues to battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing is our daily reality and how are teachers and students faring in virtual classrooms?

Not so well, apparently, as attested unanimously by Parents Anonymous.

Most schools in Colombo already have a functioning distance learning system in place and well established mechanisms through which schools communicate with parents and students.

During periods such as these when schools are closed unduly and indefinitely, schools usually take measures to send out SMSs alerting all parents regarding any important news, changes in schedules, and guidelines to follow in times of crisis. Individual class teachers have WhatsApp groups created for the class, informing students about study packs, assignments, exam schedules, and such. Then there is the actual online distance learning system through which the teachers conduct interactive virtual lessons routinely.

This system functions fairly well most of the time with students managing by themselves.

So what’s all this fuss about?

A deeper look into the matter reveals several underlying problems, some of which are so banal that they would not have occurred to your IT administrator.

In one instance, for example, half of the students of Class A had completed an assignment that was meant for the whole Grade. The specific assignment for Class A, however, had been posted on the class WhatsApp group only. The students who worked on the wrong assignment somehow did not have access to that update, mostly because the phones were with their parents while they worked on some other device.

Another common issue encountered with running virtual classrooms is the disparity of devices and platforms used by individual students. The use of a variety devices such laptops, tablets, and smartphones are commonplace in today’s era of digital flexibility.

The Challenges

The main technical challenge posed here arises when integrating into existing or implementing new systems with the complexity of various disparate operating systems, hardware, software, and network requirements. The different devices and platforms for communication used by students also have to be taken into consideration as well.

A centrally administered platform, with precise User Profile Management can easily address the issues above.

The varying degrees of computer literacy among students, teachers, and parents using the system have to be taken into consideration as well. This plays an important role in deciding on a solution that works equally well for the not so tech-savvy.

The Benefits

The benefits of smoothly operating virtual classes far surpasses the concerns outlined above. This is going to be the trend in the future, so the focus at hand should be on ironing out the hindrances and adapting to the future and beyond.

Virtual classrooms are aimed at providing a fun, interactive learning experience that encourages students to individually explore, share knowledge, and learn through collaborative experiences.

Similarly, the age of digital pedagogy presents a novel teaching experience to tutors too when the right mix of trending technological techniques are employed.

The figure below summarizes how students, teachers, and parents can benefit from virtual classrooms.

Figure 1 — Empowered classroom collaboration with Entgra

How Entgra’s Solutions Can Help

Applying the right technology and using optimal solutions that cater to your specific requirements enable you to tap into the convenience and effectiveness of digitalization.

The right kind of implementation would allow students to explore without restricting their freedom of access to knowledge, and with right protection from misuse and abuse on the internet. Moreover, such potential need not be hindered by concerns of security and adverse accessibility to a plethora of unwarranted information for the students.

Entgra’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions for empowering classroom collaboration offers just that, tailored to the specific requirements of an educational institute.

Given below is what we are capable of in a snapshot:

Figure 2 — MDM solutions by Entgra for education

With over hundreds of companies around the globe already empowered by our enterprise-grade solutions, your virtual classroom problems are safely dealt with by our team. Built on extensible plug-in architecture and enhanced by world-class engineering expertise, the Entgra IoT Server is capable of empowering the best MDM services available today. Get in touch with us via contact@entgra.io and learn more about us here.