Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay consists of 44 schools stretching from Willoughby on Sydney’s lower north shore to Lake Munmorah on the Central Coast. For over ten years, the diocese has used a mix of BYOD and school-owned devices to enhance learning, and each school decided what technology fit best for them.
Colin Phelps is the ICLT Projects Officer at the diocese and has the responsibility of managing the devices across every school and ensuring they have the correct apps, settings and policies to be suitable for learning. After stepping into the role, he discovered plans to increase the number of devices across the diocese was going to be close to impossible with the system he inherited.
“Prior to my arrival, what was happening was a local member of staff such as a librarian or a classroom teacher would use Apple Configurator to install apps, etcetera, on the devices,” Colin recalls. This would mean that the devices would have to be physically collected and updated for any changes to be made.
iPad were the primary devices introduced to the diocese, and the majority of schools continued to roll out newly purchased iOS devices. Some schools, however, tried different approaches to their deployments.
“It works on a school-by-school basis” Colin explains. “The individual school decides their mode of operation in relation to the technology. Some schools will also have Windows devices as well as Chromebooks.”
Colin knew that to successfully increase the number of devices they would need a scalable and customisable mobile device management solution that would work across different devices and operating systems. He looked at various options but was aware his predecessor had already installed Lightspeed Mobile Device Management™ (MDM) for the BYOD devices across the schools. After testing the other capabilities of Lightspeed MDM he realised it was exactly the solution they needed and began working with the schools on the enrolment process.
“We held a pre-project meeting with the schools,” Colin tells us. “We learnt what apps they had installed, how their devices were set up, if they were set up uniquely for a class, year, or stage, and if they all needed the same apps. We gathered all that information, wiped the devices, and enrolled them into Lightspeed MDM.”
One of the main benefits of choosing Lightspeed MDM was the cloud-based nature of the solution as well as the integration with Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, which allows large quantities of devices to be enrolled remotely from any location.
“Being cloud-based is critical to us. It means that there’s no infrastructure or anything we have to maintain” Colin explains. “I’ll give you an example: In 2018, we leased 3,022 iPads. Without the service being cloud-based and without my success in convincing the CIO to allow me to set up Apple’s DEP system, we would not have been able to deploy those to the schools in 13 days.”
Another key factor of Lightspeed MDM Colin appreciated was the hierarchical nature of the system which allows him to have full control of different user’s apps and permissions and gives each school in the diocese as much control as they need over their own devices.
“We manage the devices on a school-by-school basis,” Colin tells us. “We have some schools where all their devices have the same apps and policies and are treated as one group. Whereas we’ve got other schools that will break it down to a year level and have different apps installed for different age groups.”
This customisable control means that schools aren’t stuck with blanket policies and apps which could restrict learning for students of different ages and abilities who might need specific resources and access. School admins now have more of a say over what apps are beneficial for their schools and teachers requesting apps no longer means an increase in workload for themselves.
“When I started, it was indicated to me that staff during school holidays were generally spending somewhere between two to four days of their own time physically installing apps” Colin recalls. “If a school wants an application now, they put in a request to us in IT, and generally they will have that app deployed within 48 to 72 hours.”
To ensure devices are just being used for educational purposes and are safeguarded, the diocese also wanted to ensure that any distracting features were disabled, and students wouldn’t be able to download any inappropriate apps.
“All of the student devices in Lightspeed MDM are what I will refer to as fully managed,” Colin explains. “They’re locked down. They can’t install apps. They can’t delete apps. That is a standard setting for a fully managed device in our environment.”
If the devices were to be taken home or a school wanted to change the policies for a lunch break or out of hours, as well as being able to customise policies for individual students or groups, they are also able to enable timed policies with MDM.
“I remember we had a circumstance where we had to relax a restriction after school for a couple of hours and we just ran a timed policy,” Colin says.
One of the downsides of allowing school-owned devices to be taken off-site is the unfortunate likelihood of them being misplaced or stolen. Fortunately, Lightspeed MDM gives the ability to use geolocation to track down any lost devices and gain the necessary remote controls to ensure that they’re inaccessible.
“If a device goes missing, I’ve set up a group where I’ve got restrictions locked down very heavily. What I’d do is I’ll move the iPad into that group. For the most part, it makes the device unusable,” Colin says. “The camera, FaceTime, messaging is turned off. They can’t install or delete apps and they can’t log in. They can’t do very much with it. I just let it sit there until the school reports A problem or locates it.”
Colin knew that having such a wide variety of devices in multiple schools would mean a greater workload for his team, so finding the right MDM that would save precious time and effort was essential. If any technical issues were to arise during any of the deployments, or they needed advice on the best setups for individual schools, Lightspeed Systems 24/7 support is always on hand. “We got the most outstanding support from Lightspeed that I would have to put it in my top two or three support services from my entire IT career, which is well over 30 years.” Colin proclaims.
Since installing Lightspeed MDM across the entire diocese, each school has had a greater input into their apps and settings. The tech team and teachers have more time to focus on other important aspects of their role and the diocese is fully confident in the scalability of the solution moving forward regardless of what operating systems is used.
“We would be lost without an MDM rather than managing them separately. Teachers’ time is precious. They need to be focused on teaching,” Colin says. “Lightspeed MDM allows us to centrally manage and report on the devices and be aware of what’s installed on them, whether it’d be the software version or applications. It allows us to serve you as a customer, to give you what you need in the classroom. You can’t manage something unless you measure it, and you have visibility on it. That for me is prime.”
iPad, Chromebooks, Windows Laptops