Ensuring Take-Home Technology Enhances Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
In this Q&A, Brian Cohen, vice president of the Center for Digital Education, shares firsthand experience gleaned from his more than 20 years as vice chancellor and CIO for the City University of New York (CUNY).
What advice would you give schools as they start on a one-to-one device program?
Bringing in computers and laptops for students to use remotely enables a whole new learning experience in higher education. When starting out, it’s important to bring in the academic community and consider the academic programs that you’ll use these devices in. Programs like engineering and computer science require higher computational usage. Programs like graphic arts require advanced graphics capabilities. Every program has unique requirements, so the process has to be collaborative and well-thought-out. There is no one-size-fits-all in higher education.
How is the technology landscape in higher education different from K-12?
Users in higher education [have more complicated needs], whether they’re faculty or students. They need computational capacity on their machines. They may need more memory or storage. They need the freedom to install software, because not all products in higher education run nicely in the cloud. There’s also a stronger interest in protecting one’s personal privacy and having the flexibility to control privacy settings in academic software. Other considerations, such as device durability and long battery life, are similar to K-12.
Why is mobile device management important in a one-to-one device program?
Mobile device management services enable IT professionals to determine a device’s location. If it’s lost, they can track it when the device connects to a Wi-Fi network, and they can potentially recover it. From a security perspective, they can also protect a lost device by wiping it clean. That’s extremely important in the case of faculty or students who may have [sensitive] data on their machines.
What should CIOs consider as they evaluate potential take-home devices? CIOs want these devices to provide a positive experience for students and faculty. They want devices with operating systems and software that staff can manage without having to build new skillsets. CIOs are also thinking about [user] support. It’s one thing to support desktop computers and labs. It’s another thing to support devices that can be used anywhere. IT departments also need replacement devices, because you don’t want to stop a student from attending class because their laptop is broken. Another issue is increased costs. Institutions now have to extend software licenses beyond the campus to include home-use licensing for remote users.
What should they be communicating to administrators and budget directors? My advice is to prepare administrators and budget people for new costs associated with staffing, licensing, and repairing or replacing these devices. It’s also extremely important that CIOs work with their academic partners when proposing, building specifications for, evaluating and selecting devices. Finally, given current supply chain challenges, you want to be proactive and submit device orders as early as possible.