The School District of Janesville, Wisconsin, is the tenth-largest school district in the state. Its 21 schools and 1,400 employees work to educate around 10,000 students. Select staff members, such as administrators, nurses and special-ed employees, use district-provided mobile devices for work communications.
Systems Administrator Cassandra Anderson envisioned a mobile device solution for the school district that would standardize employee procedures, protect sensitive information and prevent device losses. It also needed to work across different operating systems, as employee Smartphones and Tablets were split among platforms. “When I stepped in,” Anderson says, “there were no standard procedures for cell phones. We didn’t know who had a lot of the lines … I inherited this project and needed to get a grasp on things.”
Anderson had a mobile device management (MDM) certification, and was already well-versed in the technology when she began seeking a provider and a plan for Janesville Schools. Although the district was not initially looking for an MDM solution, its existing relationship with UScellular™ helped illuminate the path. Anderson met with the district’s UScellular representative on a regular basis, frequently remarking on the fact that there was no standard procedure or monitoring in place for school employee cellphones. When the representative mentioned MDM as a potential solution, Anderson began researching solutions.
The district chose the MaaS360 MDM solution from UScellular, which offered all the functionality Anderson and the district were seeking and more. The district’s trusted relationship with UScellular was also a key factor in the decision.
The School District of Janesville worked closely with UScellular to purchase the IBM MaaS360 MDM solution for all employee Smartphones. To enhance MDM functionality and provide additional protection, all devices were also enrolled in platform-specific mobile security programs.
To accommodate the different types of employees and ensure a smooth transition, Janesville Schools implemented the MDM solution in phases rather than all at once. This allowed Anderson to spend personal time with each employee as they enrolled, holding open sessions for people to come and ask questions. They also configured a custom demo to test the program. “During the demo period, I was building things as if this was how we would be using them,” Anderson says. “By the time we decided to implement the product, everything was done.”
As an additional incentive, UScellular sponsored a raffle with prizes (e.g., a Bluetooth headset) to motivate people to bring in their devices and enroll them in the system. Another method of securing employee buy-in was starting with staff members who were close to upgrading their Smartphone, so they would be willing to “start fresh” on their new device.
Thanks to this preparation and the district’s relationship with UScellular, implementing the MDM solution was a smooth, fluid process. The demo began in May, with the full program up and running by late summer. The solution retained all the customization built for the demo, without having to reprogram or learn new features. And the new MDM charges were added seamlessly to the district’s UScellular bill, making the upgrade simple. “We trust UScellular,” Anderson says. “It was really fluid to have MDM come with the UScellular bill and not have to worry about it being separate.”
The School District of Janesville employees and administrators have been pleased with the performance of the new system – particularly its ability to locate lost phones.
Major Victory: Loss Prevention
Losing devices was once a problem for the district: If an employee went to report a lost phone, but hadn’t enabled tracking functionality on their own, there was no way to track it down. The staff are thankful that MDM can track and locate their devices at any time. “We have had zero phones be unrecoverable,” Anderson says. “It’s doing its job.” In addition to device loss prevention, MDM has helped the district in a number of other ways.
Without MDM, there was no standard way to track employee-issued devices or maintain records on their deployment and use. MDM ensures continuity between school years, allows administrators to keep records on each device and enables them to mandate the same device use procedures for everyone.
Before MDM, devices were collected by the district at the end of each school year without necessarily being wiped or reset. This caused problems when it was time to reset devices for the next year, with administrators unable to bypass old passcodes. With MDM, the school district can remotely wipe and reset their entire supply of devices painlessly.
MDM enables enforcement of passcode and password policies on all devices, a critical function for protecting sensitive health and education data.
Program administrators can now build a centralized employee app catalog and purchase licensing. Employees no longer need to use their own accounts; instead, they can access and download necessary apps to their work devices through the app catalog. “Most people don’t even realize that it’s there,” Anderson says. “It’s not intrusive.”
Future Program Plans
Because MDM has been a success for the school district, program administrators are now exploring ways to integrate the technology into the classroom, particularly STEM classes. Students could use this technology to enrich their learning by using VR headsets, learning computer programming and even developing their own apps.
Unlike the employee MDM program, a student-facing system would focus on monitoring device usage, encouraging appropriate behavior and permitting the right educational apps on Smartphones and Tablets. “We’re never trying to create a bottleneck. We don’t want to be a hindrance to the classroom,” Anderson notes, pointing out that the right MDM solution will make teaching easier, not more complicated.
When it does come time to add new devices, Anderson anticipates another smooth transition. “We just add a device’s serial number to our MDM,” she says. “You power on, you connect to Wi-Fi and you sign in with the same information you use for anything else in the district.”
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