MDM

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.

How a Mobile Device Management (MDM) Solution Works in the Healthcare Industry

Image credits: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

More Devices Mean More Challenges

The healthcare industry is one of the best examples where a multitude of devices are used daily by a large number of people, ranging from healthcare professionals to patients and visitors. Over the years the sheer number of devices used in the healthcare industry has grown and the Internet of Things (IoT) healthcare market is estimated to grow to USD 260.75 billion by 2027.

Increasingly, mobile computing devices such as phones, tablets, and portable computers  are used to streamline certain administrative operations such as channelling/ appointment scheduling, report storage, set up self-service kiosks, and displaying information on doctors’ availability.

Devices used in this industry broadly fall within two categories – devices that are solely used for medical purposes and hospital operations, and devices used for patient entertainment purposes during their hospital stay (i.e. tablets with a range of apps that patients can use). 

These devices, particularly those used for medical purposes and hospital operations, collect, store, and transmit sensitive personal data about individual health conditions and past medical records. Any data leak, whether accidental or in some cases deliberate, is costly both in monetary terms and reputational damage to the hospital or medical clinic. Moreover, the fact that many hospitals and medical clinics have BYOD policies adds a further level of complexity.

All these developments present a number of challenges to IT teams in this industry. For one, data security is of paramount importance. Secondly, these teams are responsible for device maintenance and oftentimes, this is a manual and time consuming task involving devices placed in many locations where a team member is required to be physically present. Thirdly, devices require frequent security and application updates, and monitoring. Finally, devices have to be replaced when they no longer function properly.

MDM Solutions Have the Capabilities To Empower IT Teams

This is where a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution helps. Recently a large hospital chain that we worked with decided to use a MDM solution to securely manage all of the devices used across multiple hospital locations throughout the country. This hospital chain required the following:

  • Centrally managed system – for tablets, phones, and public signage units used for channeling, bookings, and other operational functions.
  • Automated updates –  presently, security, OS, and app updates are performed manually.
  • Enhanced security – anyone who has access to a device gains access to all the system level settings. Since a majority of these devices are located within public areas, it was impractical to limit physical access.
  • Onboarding and authorization for devices – management software was not used for device onboarding and devices are connected to the hospital network for internal access.
  • Prevention of malpractices – eliminate instances where sensitive data is compromised on purpose by any employees and the separation of access for work-related use from personal use where employees use their personal devices.

After working with several vendors in the past, the hospital chain has identified their pain points and the ways through which data leaks can occur. Through Entgra MDM, we have been able to provide the following capabilities to address the hospital chain’s concerns:

  • Centralized device management

One of the greatest benefits of centralized device management is that IT teams can manage an unlimited number of devices that use varying operating systems (i.e. Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, etc.) using one technology platform.

  • Data security, access controls, and onboarding

A single technology platform also helps with device and data security. IT teams can use the MDM solution to enable authentication (MultiFactor Authentication or Single Sign On). This way, only authorized employees can gain access to devices for work related purposes only. This is particularly helpful when BYOD policies are in place.

  • Device lock-in

Device misuse and loss are common concerns in the healthcare industry. In the event that a device is lost or stolen, or of an attempted unauthorized access, IT teams can remotely lock the devices to prevent any data leaks.

  • Remote maintenance and monitoring

Device maintenance and monitoring are time consuming tasks, requiring many resources from the IT team. Using a MDM solution eliminates this need, as the IT team can now perform these tasks remotely, from any location and need not be physically present at the device locations.

  • Security, OS, and app updates

A MDM solution enables frequent security and app updates are installed in devices in real time.

Image credits: Anna Shvets from Pexels

Benefits for the Long Term

Once the MDM solution is in place, this hospital chain can look forward to several benefits:

  • Fewer resources to maintain devices – as they are now protected. At minimum, only one person is needed per hospital to manage these devices.
  • Improved security – results in minimizing scenarios of data leaks, especially those associated with deliberate intent.
  • Efficient and effective device monitoring – saving time in the process too. It no longer matters if hundreds of devices are in use at any one time.
  • Reduction in costs associated with device maintenance – as large teams are no longer required and resources can be better allocated in the long run.

We are well-placed to help anyone in the healthcare industry who is looking to adopt a MDM solution. Get in touch with us here to learn more.

Post-Pandemic Business Revival: Where Are We Headed?

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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to loom over us. With hopes of opening countries and returning to normalcy, we take one step forward, only to fall back two, with tightened masks. It surely will be a while before life as we once knew it can be restored.

Thrust with incertitude at all levels from economic subsistence, vocational hardship, healthcare exigencies, and the unpredictability of life in general, our core existential strategy for the last two years has primarily been inclined towards that of basic survival centered around us as individuals, our close-knit families and communities, and the associated temporal assets. The pandemic epiphany has brought about drastic changes in our lifestyles, calling us to revise our priorities with a new reality check in life. 

For business enterprises, this is bad news and has been so for the past two years. 

The Trending Story In Numbers

As with every historical industrial revolution, the effects of the pandemic will shape the economic trends for the future. Unsurprisingly, there will be an evident increase in remote working. A recent Gartner poll found that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 compared to 30% before the pandemic. Similarly, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that more than 20% of the global workforce could work the majority of its time away from the office – and equally importantly, be just as effective. A consequent HR trend analysis by them indicates that 32% of organizations are replacing full time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. Prepped up for this, in a recent Gartner poll, 90% of HR leaders said employees would be allowed to work remotely even once COVID-19 vaccines are widely available.

As indicated by these statistics, we have embraced what worked well from the pandemic and are progressing forward retaining the lessons learned. There’s no going back now. Digitally enabled productivity gains have accelerated the Fourth Industrial Revolution powered by technology and defined by operational models that survived above the pandemic predicaments. 

Remote Working or the ability to Work From Anywhere (WFA) is clearly here to stay. So is the hybrid work model as has been discovered in a recent HR trend analysis by Gartner.

Accordingly, the most favorable operational model driving business transformations in the predictable future is that of the Hybrid Work model where employees interact with each other with a mix of distributed, co-located premises synchronously, and/or asynchronously.

Future of Hybrid Working – Gartner

Your employees are now empowered with the choice of how best productivity is accomplished – your job is to ensure they are sufficiently equipped to do so. 

Are We Ready? Fitting Device Strategy for Your Ecosystem

Managing a digital ecosystem of disparate devices on different platforms can be quite a challenge. Even more so are the conundrums involved with the smooth operation of digital systems whilst being caught unawares by the virus. It is therefore imperative that we make the most of what we have for continued existence of operations under the prevailing constraints.

In one of our recent undertakings, we set out to empower public field officers by helping them digitize their routine tasks. Whilst managing to effectively map the skill sets to devices and the appropriate technology during the project, we also analyzed and outlined how the government administrators in Sri Lanka can benefit from a centralized strategy to monitor and manage the devices deployed in the field. 

Ideally, a complete device strategy is woven around the business requirements of the enterprise, its device engagement criteria, product building, operational efficiency, scaling potential, and the extent of available technical support. Value creation from a long-term perspective and sustainability of device deployment with integration are vital aspects to be considered for a productive device strategy. 

With our varied Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, Entgra can help you formulate the most fitting strategy for your enterprise. Our recommendations precede a comprehensive analysis of your device specifications, their functionality and configurations, defined ownership and administrative policies, pre-work device check, monitoring and their distribution,  complete with a pilot run on device deployment in the field.  As part of our assistance in managing your ecosystem, we will also help you with App development, identity and access management (IAM) and storage options. 

Resilience and Agility: The Way Forward

Resilience, in enterprise terms, is a measure of your ability to swiftly adapt to disruptions while maintaining continuous business operations and safeguarding your employees, assets, and overall brand equity. Resilient organizations are better able to respond and correct their course quickly with changes. 

Faced with the adversities introduced by the pandemic, enterprises that are actively taking measures to optimally tackle the changes are positioned with a competitive edge to be able to progressively move forward retaining most of their strength in vying to make the most of the situation. 

Building a more responsive organization in terms of infrastructure and operational flow to increase agility and flexibility with room for flexing is therefore of utmost importance. This in turn translates into facilitating seamless workflows and remote working environments against a backdrop of changing and evolving technology usage, both by organizations and individuals. 

Entgra offers you a single platform for device integration with comprehensive endpoint management capabilities where you are able to expose devices as APIs securely with identity federation for managing human and device identities. Enabling custom integrations with broad built-in capabilities, and for developing end-to-end applications, our secure, customizable platform can manage all types of devices and applications. Complete with device and endpoint data analytics for systematic decision making, our IoT platform together with our Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions will enable you to remain resilient, relevant, and flexible to respond to present and future changes.

Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you.

References

Geofencing Capabilities of Entgra MDM

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We’re pleased to announce that Entgra MDM has yet another new feature – geofencing capabilities. Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) admins can define required virtual perimeters for controlling access over specified boundaries and perform some operations to those which are inside of those boundaries. Geofencing is a very useful feature in governing access for user groups. It can be conveniently set up by drawing boundaries over areas on the map.

Let’s discuss how the geofencing capabilities work through an example. Imagine that the Ministry of Education wants to provide tablets or mobile devices for school children in rural areas for online learning during the pandemic. And they wish to provide all the learning materials to the devices and manage those device capabilities. Additionally, they want to ensure that these devices do not leave school premises. The Ministry can use geofencing capabilities to monitor the devices’ locations, manage capabilities, and perform certain actions.

The Functionality of Geofencing Capabilities

Before you create a geofence, you need to set up the Alerting Configurations under the Platform Configurations. You can provide an email address where you can receive alerts. According to your use case, you can define whether users cross or access boundaries.

After defining the configurations you will be able to create geofences in Entgra MDM. The following data should be provided to create a new geofence.

  • Geofence name: Provide a name for identifying the geofence
  • Description: Add more details about the geofence
  • Device group(s): Assign a group (or groups) that consists of the devices that need to belong to the geofence
  • Event configurations: Add the given alert configuration to the relevant field

Afterwards, you need to mark the boundary line on the map. By using a shape such as a polygon or a circle, mark the area that you want to define as the geofence and then click on the Create button. The geofence table lists all the geofences that you create.

Returning to our example, after creating a geofence by including the school boundaries, if one of the students tries to leave the school with a device, the head of the school receives an alert and he/she can track the device location. The head of the school can also view how many devices in the relevant geofence are active at any given time. In addition, it can check the location of the provided devices and the device count, preventing devices from being misplaced.

Not only that, the group (or groups) that created the geofence can apply the required educational materials at the same time, adding various restrictions to the devices and managing them.

Entgra MDM has extensive enterprise wide MDM features that you can customize for your business needs. Learn more about the product and how we can help here.

You can also get in touch with us via contact@entgra.io

Allow and Block Listed Apps With Entgra MDM

Manage device applications by using our latest feature

Entgra MDM now enables you to allow and block listed apps with the latest feature. Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) admins can manage device applications by using the blacklisting and whitelisting technique.

By way of an example, think of a school or an educational institute that provides tablets to their students for online learning. Admins need to restrict several apps from these devices (such as social media apps) in these scenarios. This means that these apps will be blacklisted whilst other apps, such as educational ones, would be installed in the devices sans interaction with the students.

The app blacklisting and whitelisting feature help you to meet these requirements. App whitelisting means that all applications, except the ones explicitly defined, are blocked. End users can only use apps that have been explicitly defined. App blacklisting occurs when defined applications cannot be installed on target devices. If the given black listed apps are already installed, they will be removed from devices.

The Entgra IoT Platform has an Application Restriction Settings policy with the capability to manage device applications for appropriate users. You can access this policy in the Android policy section on the Entgra IoT Platform. In this feature, you have the ability to select the appropriate app list type. Depending on the type selected, the functionality is as follows:

Allow List

After selecting the allow list you need to add these apps’ names and their package names. When the policy is applied to the device, only the listed app will be available and other apps will disappear.

Block List

Provide the names of the apps and package names that you want to add to the block list. When the policy is applied to the device, only the listed app will be removed and other apps will remain in the device.

In this way, you can change the number of apps on devices according to your preferences.

Let us return to the example. The head of the school or institution can add apps and their package names that he/she wants to block from the devices to the Block list. These listed apps will be removed from the devices while the required apps will remain. On the other hand, if he/she wants to add some educational or learning aid apps to the students’ devices, these can be installed through this policy.

Entgra MDM has extensive enterprise wide MDM features that you can customize for your business needs. Learn more about the product and how we can help here.

You can also get in touch with us via contact@entgra.io

Virtual Classrooms: From Chaos to Collaboration

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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.