Tips on managing distance learning using Apple School Manager

Brendon Baxter

Jan 24, 2023

7 min read

A few years back, nobody would have even thought about a completely remote schooling system, even though minor versions of remote learning were there in colleges and some schools. Although the pandemic forced every institution to switch to remote learning, the shift from conventional learning to remote learning could have gone more smoothly.

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One group of people who had the smoothest transition from traditional learning to remote learning was those who used Apple School Manager and Apple devices before the pandemic. These people might have even started online classes the next day the government implemented lockdowns. So how did they do this? Well, there is just one answer for that, Apple School Manager.

What is Apple School Manager?

Apple School Manager or ASM, was formerly known as Device Enrollment Program or DEP. ASM is a website or an online console that lets schools create an account linked to their Apple sales account. Then purchase, configure and assign devices to end-users based on the account.

Before ASM was introduced, every device had to be configured and set up manually by the IT team. What was done was the IT team would configure one source device with all the necessary apps and settings. Then save and capture all this data onto an image and then copy it to all the other devices. The devices would essentially be a copy of the source device.

With ASM in the picture, the devices purchased by the school would be directly linked to their ASM account. In addition, linked devices will directly be enrolled into a management tool like a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution or a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution.

All this is done with zero interaction from the end-users. They just have to switch on the devices and connect to the internet, the devices will automatically complete the enrollment process. This is possible for almost all Apple devices.

List of Apple devices that can be deployed using ASM

  • macOS devices running OS X 10.9 or later
  • iOS devices using iOS 7
  • Apple TV running tvOS 10.2 or later.

What are some of the ASM features you can use to make managing distance learning easier?

Account management

Account management might probably be the best feature of ASM apart from the zero-touch deployment mentioned earlier. You can create managed accounts called Managed Apple IDs for every user in your ASM account and assign devices to each user.

Managed Apple IDs are entirely manageable by the IT team and you can even assign roles to each account, like a manager, instructor, student or staff. Role-based access is also possible, which means that depending on the account role assigned, the user would have access only to the required resources. In addition, since ASM allows integration with directory services like Azure and AD, student and staff data management is also effortless.

Federated Authentication

By simple definition, federated authentication means the ability of a user to access multiple features and tools with just one set of credentials. For example, once the user logs in to an account, the credentials used to access that particular account will be automatically used to validate access to other services.

With ASM’s integration with directory services, federated authentication can be made possible for every user in an organization, be it staff or students.

Federated authentication not only cuts down on the number of credentials people have to remember but also secure user accounts in a remote setup. Apple takes management a level up, by allowing federation using Managed Apple ID. This opens up a world of possibilities not available to the standard Apple ID, such as limiting FaceTime and Messages to only users within your domain or disabling it outright.

Application licensing and distribution

Pushing, updating and deleting apps might be the most common and recurring tasks the IT team has to do. And when it is a remote system, the task becomes more complicated than it already is.

With ASM, IT teams can purchase and procure bulk licenses for apps, e-books and other media through the App Store. But it doesn’t stop there. These licenses can be delivered to any user device with a few clicks using ASM.

Bulk purchases are often given discounts, cool, isn’t it?

Do you know what’s even cooler? Licenses are not bound to devices or accounts, so they can be redistributed if a user or a device is removed from the ASM account.

Even after hearing all of this, you might be wondering, “what makes this suitable for remote learning”? Have I mentioned all this can be done remotely and for many users at once using the ASM portal? All you need is a stable internet connection for the admin, students, and staff.

Classroom management

Apple helps schools in this aspect by generating class lists and associating them with teachers’ accounts using SIS (Student Information Systems). Also, Apple has two applications made precisely for managing classrooms: Apple Classroom and Schoolwork. One is for teachers and the other is for the students. But both apps help educational institutes in managing distance learning.

With the Apple Classroom, the faculty or teachers can see the details of students in their class, share documents with them, conduct tests and post results, all online. The results will be visible to students just like on a noticeboard. Teachers can also schedule classes, share screens and keep a tab on what each student is doing. The most exciting feature is teachers can limit what students can do or when they can do it on their managed Apple devices.

Students use the Schoolwork app as their primary means of communication. It functions as a one-stop shop for all their work, questions and answers, submitting assignments, collaboration, remote management, and requests for help systems. Almost everything a student can typically do in a classroom, they can do using the Schoolwork app.

MDM/UEM integration

MDM or UEM integration with ASM is solely there to ease IT teams’ life. And when it comes to managing distance learning, the IT department must be able to control and monitor what students and staff are doing on their organizational devices remotely.

With this integration, all devices added to the ASM portal will be enrolled to the UEM or MDM automatically when the device is powered on and connected to the internet. And with a UEM like Hexnode, the IT team will be in complete control over the organizational devices.

The IT admin can send configurations to manage devices, change settings and much more using Hexnode. IT can also monitor and troubleshoot devices using Hexnode.

The MDM/UEM and ASM will constantly communicate through an encrypted channel. As a result, all device management tasks are finished as quickly and effectively as possible.


Apple devices connected to the ASM portal will be connected to the MDM or UEM even if it is lost, stolen or even if the device is reset. Due to this, the schools have the best chances of recovering endpoints owned by them, as the devices are essentially useless to anyone outside the school’s network.

As part of Apple’s unwavering dedication to data security, which also extends to user privacy, the supervision of devices happens automatically when provisioned via ASM. And due to Apple’s security precautions, users can continue to enjoy the functionality of these devices without worrying that someone would steal their Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Wrapping up

As the world is moving to a point where every child has access to education, distance learning makes this task achievable, and ASM makes managing distance learning much more achievable.

ASM’s capabilities are in no way contraint to the features mentioned above. And with Hexnode to support ASM’s features, you can manage your educational institution hassle-free, whether your students come to school or stay home.

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Brendon Baxter

Product Evangelist@Hexnode. Read. Write. Sleep. Repeat.

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