Enabling virtual learning through tablets: Best practices

Noel Rivera

Jun 14, 2021

8 min read

When the pandemic struck last year, all industries around the world took a hit, and organizations were forced to adapt to the new normal. One of the most severely affected industries was the education industry. The mass shift towards virtual learning altered the plans educators had set for the foreseeable future, especially for K-12 education. New technologies were adopted to improve virtual learning for both the students and the institutions, some even elevating the learning experience for the students. But now, as the world is slowly moving towards normalcy, will virtual learning still continue to be the norm?

In a study conducted by RAND Corporation last fall, it was found that about 1 in 5 schools across the USA have already adopted a virtual learning plan. It was also found that many of these schools opted for virtual learning because of the demand shown by both parents and students. So, as more and more institutions, students and parents are opting for virtual learning as a viable means of education, it’s pertinent that we establish few best practices for some of the most commonly used devices in education. Tablets.

First, we’ll go through some general best practices to be followed, then we’ll dive into practices suitable for devices based on their ownership.

Decide what devices would be used for remote learning

The first obvious step is determining which of the school’s devices would be taken home by the students or staff. And if you are opting for a BYOD route or a hybrid route, formulate a BYOD plan that would accommodate all the needs of the students and the management.

Deploy an endpoint management solution

An endpoint management solution like Hexnode can help a lot during a virtual learning scenario. With no-touch enrollment methods for both Android and Apple devices, you can easily deploy new devices for students. Hexnode also has Android Enterprise and Apple School Manager integrations, for privacy, content, and app management. Hexnode can also help the IT admins in establishing a solid BYOD plan.

For institution-owned devices

The policies applied to the tablets used by the students also depend on the ownership of the device. When the device is owned by the institution, the IT manager has much more leeway when it comes to enforcing restrictions on the devices used by the students. The following are the best practices to be followed in the case of school-owned devices.

Establishing and enforcing an acceptable use policy

When you are issuing devices to your students for virtual learning, it’s important that you establish an acceptable use policy. This acts as a set of rules that you can enforce while the device is being used by the student. These rules could be restrictions that allow the students to use the tablet for its intended purpose only. With Hexnode UEM, you can establish this set of rules and enforce them on the tablets used by the students, remotely. The stipulations that can come under this policy could include, web content filtering and restrictions on the usage of device features such as the camera, Bluetooth, etc.

These rules can be applied on supervised iPads and on Android tablets as well. It can be set up as a policy in the Hexnode console and pushed to multiple devices at once, remotely.

Adding a layer of VPN

VPNs add an extra layer of network security by redirecting network traffic via a virtual network. It ensures that there is no accidental data disclosure due to an unsecured network. In a virtual learning environment, a VPN is really important because the tablet that the student is using is no longer within the school’s network. The student might use a public network to access content and this can cause nefarious entities to attack the device and incite a data breach.

The IT admins can push VPN configurations remotely from the Hexnode UEM console to a number of enrolled devices all at once. These can be pushed to Android tablets and iPads.

Tracking the devices’ whereabouts

Reiterating on the point, the devices or tablets owned by the school are not within the school’s premises and hence are at high risk for the device being lost or stolen. By tracking the tablet’s whereabouts using geo-location tracking, you can pinpoint where the device has been and where the device is right now.

Devices that are enrolled with Hexnode UEM can be tracked right from the console. This would aid in recovering any lost devices. The admin can initiate lost mode on the tablet and the device would lock itself until the lost mode is revoked. If in case the device is unrecoverable, the admin can choose to wipe the entire tablet’s memory so as to avoid any data breach.

Encourage good password etiquette

No one can deny the effect a good password can have on the overall security of a device. But just setting a password is not ideal. Students should be encouraged to change passwords during regular intervals and do not use the same password over and over again. Good password etiquette can go a long way when it comes to stopping accidental data breaches.

Hexnode UEM lets you turn these password etiquettes into solid password policies that would define, the length, character composition, password age, grace period, and many more factors. This policy can be pushed to all devices with Hexnode UEM in a platform-agnostic manner.

Manage apps efficiently

Deploying devices such as tablets for virtual learning is often described as a double-edged sword. Tablets are a very intuitive medium to transfer knowledge. Students can easily grasp the lessons and thus quickly understand the lessons being taught. On the other hand, many apps can be installed on tablets of all platforms that could hinder productivity. The most obvious way to mitigate this problem is through managing the apps that are being pushed.
Hexnode UEM allows IT Admins to push only the required apps onto the enrolled device. Admins can either whitelist or blacklist apps that they deem as troublesome. The admin can also create app catalogs and a Managed Playstore to ensure that students have access to all the required content within an arm’s reach.

Online classes with Hexnode

Virtual learning made easy with managed tablets.

For student-owned devices

Not all schools have the bandwidth to provide their students with a tablet of their own in a virtual learning situation. In this scenario, the students have to make do with the devices they themselves own. The power IT admins have over these devices is limited but there are few best practices they could follow to secure and manage such devices.

Separate school and personal data

This is a practice all IT admins should try to incorporate into their own schools. When work and personal data get mixed up the chances are that a data breach could occur. The student might open the content sent by the school in an app that is not managed by the school. This is a no-no. The content sent by the school should only be opened in the apps managed by the school.
With the help of Hexnode UEM, admins can separate the school and personal data of students on Android tablets with Android Enterprise’s work profile functionality. A work profile is an encrypted container within the student’s personal device. This container could house all the required school apps and content the student could require while they do their virtual learning. For Apple devices or iPads, the IT admin could deploy a business container to control the flow of data between personal and work profiles.

Never compromise on privacy

While using a personal device, that is being partly managed by the school, a student is bound to have doubts about their privacy. It is the school’s responsibility to communicate to the parents and students regarding the data the school would have access to. In both Android and Apple’s BYOD case, the scope of an IT manager only extends to the work profile deployed and not the personal profile. Hexnode can make sure of that.

What does the future look like?

As more and more parents and students demand virtual learning, schools across the world are adopting online classes as an equivalent methodology to in-person classrooms. With virtual learning allowing students to personalize their studying schedules and letting them complete lessons at their own pace, the future of virtual learning is certainly looking up.

Noel Rivera

Existential and Curious.

Share your thoughts