Kevin Papworth, UK director at education IT supplier Ellucian, describes how bring your own device (BYOD) is changing the use of IT within higher education.
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The global evolution of computer technology in higher education continues apace, with students setting the IT agenda.
Not so long ago, they looked to academic departments to guide them on which computing products to purchase, but the current trend is for BYOD programmes to access the web element of the university and college experience and higher education establishments need to plan for this brave new world.
BYOD – now a buzzword in education circles – was first coined in the business sector in 2009 by American multinational, Intel. The company recognised an increasing tendency among its employees to bring their own phones, laptops and devices to work and use these to connect to the corporate network.
In the world of education, institutions in the USA report device-to-student ratios as high as 3.5 to 1 and, according to the 21st Century Campus Report, 87% of current students consider technology offerings when deciding on which higher education establishment to attend.
For colleges and universities to work with this trend they must have the needs of a BYOD environment integrated into their long-term academic and technology strategies.
For true integration and mobility to be possible, pervasivewireless connectivity in all corners of the campus should be the aim. Ideally, this should provide a secure connection for users while maintaining an open connection for campus visitors.
The BYOD movement promises easier access to resources such as textbooks and educational services for students as well as increased productivity and enhanced collaboration among faculty and staff.
It does, however, also create challenges for IT and administrative staff. With thousands upon thousands of devices and apps, these include information security and privacy, support costs, network capacity and bandwidth.
There are products that can help meet these needs, such as Ellucian Mobile, which gives deep integration with its own solutions and flexible options to help customers extend the digital campus to include non-Ellucian applications.
In addition to providing the IT infrastructure, centres of higher education also need a coherent and comprehensive BYOD programme to address potential issues and manage the growing mobile device population. It is advisable to have a clearly-written BYOD policy that everyone on campus understands and agrees to before they can use their own device to access the university or college’s network, internet or email accounts.
There are considerable benefits to adopting a BYOD environment; research shows that access to mobility and wireless connectivity creates new kinds of learners who are more self-directed and engaged in classroom activities. With careful planning and an integrated approach, colleges and universities will benefit.