Apps – The New Challenge for Educational IT Leaders
I recently attended the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia (International Society for Technology in Education). Year after year, the numbers of companies developing their classroom applications are increasing exponentially. The market is becoming saturated with large, well-known players as well as small, up-and-comers. With many apps available in the popular mobile device marketplaces, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, applications are also becoming easier to install and disseminate.
For most educational CIOs this poses a problem of support and management.
CIOs have to ensure their infrastructure is ready to support integrating apps into the classroom environment. This means, not only wireless and device access, but more importantly management and security policies to keep their devices and network safe. CIOs and district leaders must work together to establish a policy and process to support the purchase, installation and support for the new era of the “apps classroom.” While most CIOs let the educational side focus on the “what” and “why,” CIOs must focus on the “how.” How will we install the applications? How will we manage the applications and the devices on which they sit? How do we provide support for those apps? And lastly, and most importantly, how well does this app play with my network and other devices? Here are some critical factors to consider when developing an application purchase and management policy:
Privacy: The process that is co-developed between the educational leaders and the IT department must include a procurement process whether the apps are free or paid. For paid items, this process must take into consideration the organization’s standard operating procedure for procurement. The normal “checks and balances” associated with any purchase within the organization should be followed to ensure compliance with audits and other financial best practices. If applications have the ability to store student data, they must also be evaluated and reviewed for FERPA and other regulatory and privacy compliance.
Device Management: A best practice for any size environment is the management of devices. Proactive device management will dramatically decrease the time spent fixing, imaging, and monitoring your environment. Configuring devices to limit the number of concurrently open applications, providing internet controls, and preventing the unauthorized installation of applications will greatly improve your network performance and limit security vulnerabilities.
Network Management: With the potential of hundreds or even thousands of devices running multiple apps at once, the threat of a network outage due to an over-taxed network infrastructure grows. CIOs should implement network management tools and network configurations to distribute the load across networks and connections in the most efficient manner for which their environment will permit. Separating classroom device traffic with the use of VLANs can help ensure your QoS required devices are able to keep pace with network demands.
I have been engaged with a number of clients who have requested assistance with application deployment and mobile device management projects. The story is the same – organizations suffer due to a lack of process and procedure, NOT a lack of technological solutions. Solid planning and execution in conjunction with open communication about the needs of users and the requirements for IT is essential for success.