BYOC vs. BYOD (Weighing in on the debate)

In late 2012, an article was written by a Technology Writer named Bridget McCrea. That article was published in Campus Technology (which is geared toward Higher Education) and was designed to walk readers through the pro’s and con’s of BYOD. There is a distinct line supporters of BYOD and those that denounce BYOD in all forms. I belive that BYOC, in an education specific context can bridge the divide around BYOD and help students more actively use technology. The reason I have chosen this article is because Bridget did a great job of taking the perspectives and backing them up with expert testimony (if you want to read the entire story click here).

For the sake of keeping this article less than 20 pages long, I am only going to examine those Pros and Cons regarding BYOD (not those focusing on Provided Devices). The comments from Bridget’s article are quoted, and my rebuttal follows each quote from Bridget.

“More and more students are coming to class fully enabled with their own devices,” said Shaya Fidel, a researcher focused on IT trends in the classroom at Stanford University. “That’s leading many institutions to look at the affordability and accessibility of BYOD.”

By this quote, I think that Shayla is referencing the idea that 1) students are bringing their own devices, and 2) students are able to use wireless devices for classroom work. Using that assumption, most BYOD implementations will use the existing infrastructure – with possible upgrades needed to increase bandwidth for so many new users. From a TD perspective, this means that we can cut budgetary “device” costs due to the fact that students will bring their own personal devices with them. Just for the record though, that is not a net cut of cost since internet filters, MDM, and safeguards will also need to be purchased and maintained to support BYOC.

Researching mobile options, soliciting equipment bids, purchasing the mobile devices, and then training students on their use is cost intensive. Schools looking for a more affordable route should investigate BYOD’s viability for their specific applications and usage.

Okay, so where to start? First and foremost, if you think BYOD will save you money, you do not understand what will be required. Instead of thinking of BYOD as a “cost-cutter” think of it as a priority change. Current trends in Ed Tech have focused on how we provide the devices to students and then how we train teachers and support staff. Using a BYOD/BYOC system, we place our priority squarely on developing Professional Capital. I look at BYOD as an opportunity to invest in my people, rather than investing in the Devices and Technologies that will need to be replaced in 3 years.

“Any institution that doesn’t have a budget for mobile devices this year is going to be forced to consider the BYOD model,” said Stephen Landry, CIO at South Orange, NJ-based Seton Hall University, which for 14 years used a university technology fee to purchase laptops for students.

Many private institutions follow this model and simply make the device a part of tuition. Landry is a proponent of BYOD for small institutions but the college that he represents is more than likely using a corporate partnership with Dell or IBM to provide the laptops to students – making them homogeneous rather than a BYOD environment. So, how do we walk the line? Make corporate partnership with Content Providers, not hardware producers. Lets say we have an agreement with Pearson to get E-Books for all of our in-print texts. That allows us to get digital content that is hardware indiscriminate, allowing a broader range of learners and technologies to access the material.

Where a school-supplied mobile initiative can take months to plan, finance, purchase, and implement, the BYOD model can be rolled out within days, if necessary. “The biggest advantage to BYOD is the fact that professors can start using mobile in their classrooms tomorrow,” said Fidel. “There’s no equipment to buy and no software to install. Everything is ready to go right from the student’s existing technology bank.”

Ha! Really?! The problem you run into Fidel is that not every student is pulling from the same technology knowledge bank. What if students have no technology at home? What if the student is working four jobs to go to college and cannot afford a laptop? This methodology and thinking is what has caused so many BYOD initiatives to fail. Many Corporate TD’s think that they can roll out a BYOD tomorrow if they need to. Translated: we have wireless that works. Most Technology departments do not have the training and skills necessary to support a wide range of hardware and software.

So how can BYOC support BYOD?

Well, that is the million dollar question. BYOC is a shift in your frame of reference – but, it relies heavily on the BYOD Model for actual implementation and infrastructure. As a TD, my biggest concern is that learning is occurring. The BYOC change is a focus on student learning, and away from the essential technology and device arguments. Under the BYOC model, students are tasked with locating and bringing the best resources that they can to enhance their own learning. This could be books, apps, videos, games, or anything that will enhance the learning environment. Lets make sure that the students are learning, and then we can focus on the devices that they use to do it.

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