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Gearing Up for BYOD

Average Number of Internet-Capable Devices Accessing Institutional Networks

Bring Your Own Device or BYOD is a current technology trend that is taking off in organizations and in education. While many organizations still rely on restricted systems, the mass consumerization of mobile devices is helping fuel the BYOD trend. Students, faculty, and staff in many organizations are bringing in their own mobile devices to use in the classroom or on the job. As mobile technology trends reshape learning models they also create new challenges for information technology (IT) departments.

The recent BYOD ECAR Research Hub report from EDUCAUSE focused on the implications of BYOD for IT groups. With so many people bringing it their own devices IT staff are often faced with many questions about the level of support they can offer and the security risks these devices might create. In additional one of the most important aspects of IT and BYOD is the creation of a network infrastructure that can support the many mobile devices being used.

According to the report’s key findings IT leaders in higher education express support for BYOD as the model offers opportunities to diversify and expand the teaching and learning environment. They also report the greatest challenges with BYOD are issues that pertain to faculty and staff use of their own devices for work-related purposes.

The report found that few (18%) of the institutions surveyed had an plan or policy in place to deal with the proliferation of BYOD but despite formal policies or plans action to accommodate BYOD was common. 52% of those surveyed were planning for a formal strategy to better accommodate BYOD demand.

BYOD

Regarding the hot button issue related to security in BYOD environments the report “approaches security issues from the perspective that data are the paramount institutional asset and are therefore the most important consideration when discussing BYOD security issues. From this standpoint, the most important risk management issues for BYOD are securing data, carefully managing access to systems and services, using secure networks for enterprise-based activities, and authenticating identities.” The report suggests that financially speaking investment into the security of data, system access, and secure networks is better than approaching the unique security issues of user-owned devices. The report goes on to suggest that “educating users about sound security practices will raise their awareness of security risks.”

While BYOD sounds like an alluring option for institutions seeking to cut costs, the report demonstrates that cost saving with BYOD is elusive as the investment into infrastructure to support devices and secure data can be high. “Middleware that bridges users/devices and systems/services/data is an
increasingly significant part of IT frameworks. Middleware components are the commodities that bridge users, their devices, and their consumer-level applications to the institution’s data, services, systems, and enterprise-level applications.”

Positive aspects of BYOD in the field of education include the ability to create extended classrooms with the use of mobile technologies. BYOD is set to transform classroom and campus space into technology hubs assisting in the development of new learning models and techniques which take full advantage of the benefits mobile technology offers.

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