Personal devices are a reality on campus today. No doubt you’ve seen students on smartphones, tablets and laptops in the classroom, the library, the dorm, the quad, the student union building and any other location that students congregate to learn or socialize. This trend has been a reality on campuses for as long as mobile devices have been in existence, but recent years have seen a proliferation of mobile devices unlike ever before. Students today expect to have robust cell phone service, limitless Wi-Fi and the ability to access network files at a moment’s notice. The reality for campus CIOs, IT staff and faculty is quite different. The advent of BYOD (bring-your-own-device) brings with it many challenges. BYOD college policies need to reflect those challenges, which include network security threats, meeting the data needs of students and allowing access to applications, content and media while protecting student information under the guidelines of FERPA. To help you prepare for the start of a new school year, Higher Ed Hero presents these 5 tips for managing a BYOD campus.
Preparing for Constant Change: Controlling Access, Not Assets
The turnover rate of new technology is so high that it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with it. Instead of trying to plan for the next technology, be it a new tablet-laptop hybrid, mega smartphones or wearable technology, plan for the need to access your network. Build robust Wi-Fi networks that are able to handle the data usage of new phones. Ensure that your cell phone service is strong at all points. Cecil College CIO Jeremy Campbell, went as far as to invite Verizon out to his campus to add repeater antennas throughout the college to ensure strong signals (AT&T and Sprint already had nearby towers). Next, understand that students are accessing your network all across campus, so be sure to test accessibility all over the campus.
Gain Control Over Student Devices: Limiting Network Access
For student just trying to connect to the internet as well as campus guests wanting internet access, you can create simple Wi-Fi access with a username and password. However, students will need to access your network from college email to research databases, virtual classrooms, file sharing, etc. Understanding that a single network-connected device could create a potential vulnerability, have students sign over rights for you to remotely swipe a compromised device. While it would be impossible to have complete control over all of the student-owned devices on your network, having the ability to shut down a device is certainly manageable.
FERPA and Other Special Considerations for Higher Education
Students may want to save notes, papers, projects etc. on your network to have cloud access. While this is one of the benefits of a BYOD campus, FERPA protects all of these materials as an educational record. Therefore, it is imperative to have permissions built-in to the network that limits what individual students can access. Furthermore, students will need to access articles, books, etc. some of which are copyright protected and others are in the public domain. Work with your research librarian to ensure students are not accessing restricted materials.
BYOD in the Classroom: What Faculty Should Consider
Some professors have a policy of no phones or laptops in the classroom. Others have a policy of not paying attention to device use in the classroom. Students will argue their right to use devices for research and note-taking in class as vehemently as their right to use devices to play games and chat during class. It would be helpful to have the faculty agree on a campus policy regarding classroom use. This will allow professors to have working guidelines regarding appropriate and inappropriate use while allowing IT staff to have more manageable data usage during classes – a period when there would be a higher than normal device usage.
Sign Here Please: Getting a Recognition of Rights & Responsibilities
Once you’ve scaled your infrastructure, built-in security protocols, and gained faculty input, it’s time to draft your BYOD policy. Part of this policy will be the aforementioned access to student devices and the guidelines regarding FERPA requirements. Add to it students’ rights and responsibilities and include any additional information specific to your school. The next step is to get students to sign off on the BYOD policy. However, this might not go far enough. While it may protect you from potential liability, it might not protect your network as well as it could. Some additional considerations would be to have a brief seminar on best practices and what you can and can’t do. This could be incorporated into orientation.
With students accessing your college network with anywhere from 2-4 devices at a time, it is a necessity to have a BYOD policy in place at your campus. While there are challenges presented by BYOD, there are also great new opportunities. Being able to boast a modern and comprehensive BYOD policy that grants reliable access while ensuring security will become a potential competitive factor in recruiting new students.
We here at Higher Ed Hero hope you found these BYOD college tips helpful.
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Kevin – Higher Ed Hero