The Challenges of Supporting BYOD Culture on College Campuses

April 2, 2015 Kristen Hicks

Equipping every student with a laptop or iPad isn’t always a practical expense for institutional budgets – especially considering that most students are already coming to campus with multiple devices of their own. The BYOD (bring-your-own-device) approach acknowledges three widespread and related issues in higher education:

1. Students need access to technology to succeed in modern higher education.
2. Schools can’t always afford to equip students with the basic technologies needed.
3. Most students wouldn’t need their help anyway, since they’re often coming to campus with a laptop, smartphone, and possibly a tablet already in their possession (and any day, now the list will expand to include wearables).

Combine these three points and it’s no surprise that BYOD was on the top of Educause’s list of top IT issues for 2013.

BYOD can mean colleges save money they would have spent on tech devices, but it comes with its own costs and challenges.

Bandwidth

A recent survey of college students revealed that 67% have 2-4 devices connected to the college network at any given time. Many of those students regularly use at least one of those devices to stream TV shows. A few students on Netflix or YouTube at once are no big deal, but make it hundreds (some while also browsing the web on their other devices) and your network may have a problem.

If your institution hasn’t invested in the infrastructure to handle many people using the network in bandwidth-intensive ways at once, students trying to study or even take exams on their devices while others catch up on the last season of Mad Men won’t have the access they need.

In a 2013 roundtable of leaders in higher education IT, participants agreed that intermittent use of different devices on a BYOD campus doesn’t make much of a difference, but when students are clustered in a common space – like the library or a testing center – the wireless network has trouble. In the latter case at least, schools can alleviate the drain on the network by using offline exams, which has the added benefit of increasing exam security.

Security

Every device connected to your network brings a little extra risk – especially devices in the hands of students taking online actions that increase the system’s vulnerabilities. Building the right infrastructure and developing the best policy to protect the school’s wireless network can help, but as long as you’re committed to BYOD, you’re still taking a chance.

All those extra devices can also create a greater risk of cheating. Savvy students often have the wherewithal to hack into the tech that professors store their questions in, take screen shots, or save notes for the tests on their device. Schools have to take special measures to keep exams secure in a BYOD environment.

Financial Costs

Investing in a stronger wireless network to support all of those extra devices can be a significant cost to colleges, but the many (and more varied) IT needs that come with having students with devices of different brands and types can be even more considerable. BYOD can solve many problems colleges were facing, but at the end of the day it contributes to one of the biggest challenges every college struggles with: stretched budgets.

We can’t do anything about the popularity of Netflix – that bandwidth drain is probably here to stay. However, we can help with the challenges that testing can put on your network. The offline testing enabled by Examsoft’s secure testing software ensures that connectivity issues won’t interrupt exams and that cheating opportunities are minimized. If you would like more information, just let us know.

 

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