Noosa District State High School is committed to implementing a 1-to-1 computer to student ratio to ensure all students gain maximum benefit from our curriculum.
When the National Secondary School Computer Fund (NSSCF) came to an end, we considered our options of how to fulfil this commitment.
After consultation with staff, parents, students and other key stakeholders, we chose an open and flexible BYOx model.
However, it wasn’t a case of just letting students bring their own devices into school and plugging it into our network. School-owned devices are filtered, protected and supported technically—privately-owned devices are not.
The purpose of the technical trial is to work out a solution of how we can allow students to ‘on-board’ up to two of their own devices to the school network taking into consideration licensing, software, protection and filtering concerns.
Three main elements were identified as being central to the successful implementation of an open and flexible BYOx model:
- Integration with DETE’s filtered internet solution.
- A connectivity solution to provide secure access to the school’s file storage system and printing resources.
- An ability to identify users and their device/s to maintain security and network integrity.
Most importantly, the solution needs to be simple. We want our students to connect to our network and access their learning materials without the need for technical support or cumbersome workarounds.
As a BYOx research pilot school, we were aware of the work occurring within DETE’s BYOx project team in the Information and Technologies Branch. This team had invited vendors to participate in a proof of concept to demonstrate they could meet the requirements of schools by providing simple connectivity in a safe and secure manner.
Cisco was able to effectively demonstrate the required functionality. Bridge Point Communications (BPC), a Cisco partner, was chosen to perform the integration.
We also needed to ensure we were technically ready, which involved conducting trials in a test environment to identify issues and develop solutions. The BYOx project team conducted a review of the hardware specifications at the school and produced wi-fi heat maps to measure the wireless capability in each part of the school.
The BYOx project team incorporated this information into a technical readiness assessment report, which helped identify network hardware that needed to be upgraded prior to implementation. This work was performed at no cost as we are a trial school.
At Noosa District State High School, we have been fortunate to participate in the BYOx trial as a pilot school. In doing so we recognise that technical trials don’t always go according to plan and work with the project team to provide feedback every step of the way. In turn, our participation to date has been subsidised by the BYOx project.
However we are mindful that schools following the trial will need to carefully consider the potential costs. These include a technical assessment readiness report, possible network upgrade, wireless infrastructure and vendor-managed solution and hardware. We will also need to carefully plan for any ongoing maintenance costs associated with this solution.
The hardware for the BYOx program was installed at the school for testing by technicians during the week prior to students returning to school at the start of 2014. Everything was going well until the final testing day when we identified some issues. We delayed the implementation by 10 days to allow DETE, BPC and our technicians to fix these issues.
These issues include security upgrades for certain devices, reducing steps required to on-board devices to the BYOx server, integration of legacy infrastructure, proxy concerns and changing passwords on BYOx non-domain joined devices.
As part of our requirements, the system had to cater for a range of devices, including smart phones, tablets and laptops. To date, we have been able to on-board most devices. However, Windows XP and Vista Home operating systems have been unable to join the school network, given the age of the operating systems.
The process to on-board is relatively straight forward but can be somewhat lengthy, depending on the device. We have provided feedback to the BYOx project team and have been advised that DETE is currently working on implementing a simplified process using transparent proxies. This should greatly reduce the support and steps required during the on-boarding process.
The Google Play store is not accessible with the existing filtering mechanisms and this will cause issues for Android devices. Users were unable to download the Cisco Network Setup Assistant via the school network as part of the on-boarding process. We communicated to Android tablet owners the need to download the Cisco Network Setup Assistant, prior to attending the school, as a current solution to this issue.
We are also using a concierge/sponsor model to enable guest users to access the school’s network, after they have physically signed in to the visitor’s register in the administration building and requested guest access. This service is currently not fully operational—there has not been a high demand for guest access and our priority has been to ensure the functionality of the program for students and teachers. We will continue to expand guest access over coming months.
Password reset issues
We anticipate password resets are likely to be the biggest issue we will face with students returning from holidays having forgotten their passwords. This was our main issue when on-boarding students at the start of the 2014 school year.
Password resets are also problematic for the non-Windows devices, which are unable to on-board, when the user’s password has expired. At present, the school technician has to reset the password, without choosing to force a password change at the next login. The other underlying issue is that passwords require changing on a regular basis and a non-domain joined device does not have the ability to support this. The BYOx project team has advised our school that they are investigating solutions for a web-based, self-service password reset tool as a way of mitigating this issue.
PaperCut is being used by the school to manage printing processes. At the moment, students convert their documents to PDF format for printing from their BYOx devices. We are currently exploring the technical and financial considerations of upgrading our software to allow other formats to be printed.
The pilot of the BYOx technical solution at Noosa District State High school is providing the school and the BYOx project team a valuable opportunity to understand school usage patterns and demands.
Our comprehensive planning and close partnership with the BYOx project team has meant that we identified most potential issues prior to implementation. We were then able to develop solutions to mitigate these issues.
We will actively monitor and develop our BYOx approach by continuing the trial in Term 2. We look forward to the other four research schools joining in with the trial and learning about how BYOx works in different school environments.