Category Archives: byod

Merging the Distance

Yesterdays sunrise in Iceland near Bifrost University

One of the interesting talks I listened to at the BETT show was from Bifröst University who had merged their distance online courses with their campus based courses.

From a learner’s perspective they received the “same” experience regardless if they accessed the course online or on campus.

The learner feedback was very positive as it allowed them to pick and choose how they accessed the learning on the course depending on their personal circumstances and context. You can imagine how one week due to snow or holiday they accessed the course online, the following week they were in a face to face session on campus.

In this blog post I am going to look at and discuss some of the technical issues that Bifröst University had to consider and out into place before moving forward on merging online and campus based courses.

Bifröst University in their presentation made some key points on the technical requirements. They needed to have in place a robust IT infrastructure in place to host and distribute the various types of content and video for the courses. They also needed to ensure there was solid scalable WiFi available to all users, taking into account the changing landscape of devices that learners would be using. As well as campus connectivity there is the issue of external internet access and bandwidth, as far as Bifröst University are concerned, they see really essential for learners to have access to high speed internet.

The other main consideration, that Bifröst University mentioned, was the need to have a robust Learning Management System (or VLE) and interesting for this to be backed up by good communication software and group productivity tools.

This is a very similar concept that I have spoken at length about in various bog posts and conference sessions, notably the VLE is Dead debate back in 2009 at the ALT Conference. What I said was that the VLE was an important portal for learners, but that didn’t stop organisations from adding in external tools. These tools could be Google+, Twitter, Google Docs, Office 365, or other communication and productivity tools. The tools that the learners use would then be accessed or linked to from the VLE.

Bifröst University also embraced the concept of BYOD and making sure both learners and teachers understood the limitations of this, but also ensure they re was a willingness to cater for the variety of devices that learners would be using.

One aspect that Bifröst University put a lot of emphasis on was on the importance of training and the large amount of training that would be needed. They certainly understood that even with a so called digital generation there was a need to provide training for learners before the start of the course, and this training would need to be repeated throughout the year. Training sessions were also run for staff at the start of the year, with additional micro sessions run throughout the duration of the course. Bifröst University also made sure they had good support materials for all key systems backed up by a range of guides and handouts.

In a future blog post I will look at the curriculum design implications of merging online and campus based courses.

Photo Credit: Iceland by Jakub on Flickr

Restrictive Practices

Two years ago I wrote a blog post about PAT Testing in relation to students bringing their own devices to college or BYOD.

…sometimes the question of PAT testing student equipment arises from someone within the organisation. It is then decided that students can only bring in their laptops if they have been properly PAT tested or they can bring their devices in, but can not plug them in or in extreme examples students will be banned from bringing in their own devices.

Rather than just believe the hype… I did some of my own research and investigations.

I have read and checked the relevant legislation and I have phoned the HSE to confirm this.

There is NO legal requirement to PAT test student equipment, a formal visual inspection is sufficient under the current legislation.

I was recently at a conference at a university somewhere in England and it took place in a completely new build. The building was less than a year old. As we were talking about bring your own devices there were two things about the building that struck me.

Firstly, in the big lecture theatres there were no power sockets for student devices. Now I am guessing this maybe because they feel that modern devices such as the iPad can last a day without charging, personally I think this was unlikely and was much more likely to be a strategic decision not to allow students to charge their devices. It may have just been a design flaw, or wasn’t even considered.

The second thing that struck me, was a power socket in one of the seminar rooms. There were very few power sockets in the rooms I went into and in this particular room the solitary power socket at the back of the room looked like this…

Despite the advice I did use it!

I did find in one room, the conference table had sockets in it, so maybe all was not lost.

The key question that arises when you are strategically thinking about BYOD is you have to consider lots of different aspects. As well as designing the curriculum and the delivery, you also need to give careful consideration to building design and internal space design too.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #085: Bring it on…

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Devices. Is this the future of using technology for learning? What are the issues of using learner owned devices? What do institutions need to do to be able to ensure that learner owned devices can be used within the institution for learning? What about e-safety? Bring it on…

With James Clay, Lilian Soon, Dave Foord and Ron Mitchell.

This is the 85th e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Bring it on…

Audio MP3

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Bring it on…

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Buy your own laptop!

There was a recent interesting BBC News article on bringing your own device to work.

Do you dream of a world where you have your choice of laptop, smartphone or tablet at work; all of which connect seamlessly one to another, and are constantly updated?

Sitting at your desk, feeling the red mist descend as your ancient XP desktop computer tries and fails to open your inbox, this might seem like an impossible dream. But for some people that day is already here.

There is a lot of discussion around learners bringing their own devices to support their learning, I wonder where we are with staff in colleges using their own devices in the workplace.

Of course, working in a college, I am more than aware of how many staff use their own computers at home and lots of staff bring in their own smartphones and tablets to use in the classroom.

There are many issues with staff using their own devices, data protection and safeguarding probably at the top.

However using thin client technology, desktop virtualisation, and tools such as Citrix Receiver, it is very easy to deliver college systems securely to any device.

Strategically there is a need to build a robust infrastructure to support external devices, but there are a lot of potential benefits.

Downside is then there is an expectation that staff will be using their own devices and new equipment won’t be bought for existing staff to replace redundant kit. “You don’t need a new laptop, you use your Mac!” I suspect though that view is one that will often be the one of some managers.

I personally don’t see Bring Your Own Device as a replacement for providing equipment to staff, it’s a complementary strategy that allows staff to be more efficient and effective.

So what are your thoughts on staff bringing their own devices to work?