Many of us are aware of the potential benefits mobile learning can offer. It can allow learners to communicate with tutors and peers, as well as providing access to learning resources whenever needed. However, utilising technology to offer such a flexible environment can provide a number of challenges that need to be met.
The AoC Annual Conference is taking place this week. I work for one of the Regional Support Centres at JISC and as part of the conference we are focusing on mobile learning and the benefits of using mobile technologies in the classroom. Part of this is the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), where students being their own devices into the classroom.
BYOD is a hot topic at the moment with numerous articles extolling its benefits, which range from organisations reducing their capital expenditure, to users having the option of using familiar and customisable mobile devices to support their personal learning styles.
Benefits of BYOD
There are many benefits that BYOD could potentially offer organisations and students:
- By allowing users to use their own devices rather than imposing technology upon them an organisation can make reductions in end user training
- Permitting users to use their own mobile devices provides them with an opportunity to personalise their device, which in turn allows them to access and engage with their learning in ways which meet their individual needs
- Users who are empowered to select, personalise and maintain their own devices are more likely to care for their equipment and to make technology work from them rather than dismissing it early in the adoption process.
- Learners who can use their own devices engage more with the topic area, therefore improving in learner engagement
- By adopting mobile learning and allowing users to utilise their own internet capable device, organisations can increase student satisfaction, retention and widen participation
- Flexible access means that students can access materials whenever and wherever they need to.
Considerations for your organisation
As the saying goes “there is no such thing as a free lunch” and before adopting BYOD at your organisation there are a few things to consider as these challenges or requirements will need to be met in order for you to reap the benefits:
- Interoperability between existing systems and non standard build devices. How can you make this workable?
- Existing online learning objects and other resources will be accessed from a wide range of devices, all with different web browsing capabilities, using different media players and different screen resolutions. How can you offer a seamless and consistent end user experience to all users?
- A diverse range of devices used within your organisation may increase technical support overheads. This may be an additional cost, but will the long term cost savings outweigh this?
- Increasing the number of diverse wifi-enabled devices on your network may have an adverse effect on wifi reliability and performance. How can you ensure your network can meet the requirements?
- Externally acquired devices may need to undergo safety checks to ensure they meet existing health and safety standards with your organisation. How will you arrange this?
- Equality of students – not all students can afford the latest tech, but as long as the materials are compatible on all devices, this shouldn’t be a problem. Is this something that can be investigated?
- Changes to course delivery and the way that classrooms are managed – teachers are used to not allowing devices to be switched on during lessons and some may struggle to adapt. What rules will need to be laid out for what students can and can’t use devices for?
I think from the above that is is becoming increasingly clear that when you consider the benefits and challenges of BYOD, you need to have a clear strategy. Guidelines and expectations need to be set, as well as a degree of accountability. Organisations need to weigh up the pros and cons to ensure that BYOD works for them.
BYOD requires a change in attitude – not just from the end-user’s perspective, but also to any organisation’s IT hierarchy.
Ultimately, I believe IT is now about promoting flexibility and supporting inclusivity and this is one way of encouraging this.
Next steps with BYOD
For more advice on BYOD and how it could put your organisation at the cutting edge, talk to one of our mobile technology experts at your local JISC Regional Support Centre.