Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

BYOD is the most notable concept I learned about at the "Bringing Mobile Learning to Your Institution" workshop this week. Basically, it means that rather than mandating a specific device and either providing it or requiring it to be purchased, the devices that individuals are already using are accepted regardless of size or operating system. Duke employs this and they have a loaner pool for students who need a device. The rental time period depends on the need. They also have a general rental pool for students to check out devices for a week just to try them out. BYOD is gaining momentum in the business world - searches for "BYOD" will primarily bring up corporate examples.

It was a timely concept for a few reasons. The definition of mobile learning is "any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on an regular basis [emphasis added], has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse" (Wexler et al., 2007 as cited in Quinn, 2012). If we are to achieve true mobile learning, we need to leverage the devices students are carrying on a regular basis.

This reminds me of the laptop initiative at UW-Stout. When I worked there I heard a lot of feedback that students did not appreciate it for two main reasons:
  1. They saw it as less expensive for them to buy their own laptop rather than pay the extra fees for the Stout issued laptop since they didn't get to keep the Stout laptop upon graduation. On the other side of the coin, they don't know how much time and money goes into deployment and support, and they did get a new one every two years. 
  2. Also, they didn't have a choice in what type of laptop they would get; they needed a specific reason to get a Mac like being an art major. 
The main presenter at the mobile learning workshop was from Abilene Christian University (ACU) which is well known for their iPhone/iPod Touch program that started back in 2008 - eons ago in the mobile world. He now works for Concordia University up in Canada, which is an expensive, private institute with about 2000 students. He said that their students have devices and BYOD is the only thing that makes sense. I think the demographics of his students are quite different from those at UWEC but it is likely we will get there, especially if high school students, or more likely, the parents of high school students, are informed that a mobile device such as a tablet is helpful in college - especially if (excuse me, WHEN) e-books become a feasible reality. Back in the day, the phrase was "one computer per child" and now it's changing to "one tablet per child." This is not an unreasonable expectation. 

I did ask questions about BYOD: 
  • Are the Apple and Android platforms similar enough that the same apps and functionality are available? The presenters said yes, because the solid apps are developed for both platforms. Other thoughts are appreciated. I feel I need to see this in practice more. 
  • Is it reasonable to expect students to purchase apps? Again, the consensus in the room was yes. Most apps are in the $1-5 range. 
  • How does support vary for BYOD vs a managed, mandated deployment? Another person at the workshop formerly worked for Abilene Christian University and she knew more about the details of managing the iPods/iPhones. Basically, she said it was a ton of work. I'd like to talk to her more though. My humble opinion is that if students are already using these devices for their lives in general, using them for school is less of a stretch than learning a new device. Although Apple products are quite user friendly, there are still some things to learn. Regardless of the model chosen, support would need to increase - the question is just in what area? BYOD support would primarily fall on the front end user support like the Help Desk and cross platform research would need to be done, whereas a managed device program would more support from the back end people and administrative staff to manage the process and purchasing. Which is more work? What other concerns exist? The BYOD articles about corporations might lend some insight. 
What other questions do you have? Another one I thought of since the conference is whether anything other than Apple and Android should be on the radar. Maybe BYOD has limits...

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