Use these tips to ensure devices are being properly used and cared for

mobile-learningToday’s classrooms, at any level, are drastically different from the classrooms of just 10 years ago. Messy chalkboards have been replaced by interactive whiteboards connected to computers. Personal tablets and styluses have taken over the classic No. 2 pencils and lined paper. In fact, many middle and high school students have access to mobile devices and are using those devices for schoolwork. And, according to a 2014 report by Project Tomorrow, almost a third of those students are using a mobile device issued by their schools.

While mobile learning continues to work its way further into educational institutions, administrators and their team of educators are faced with a new set of issues.

How will our teachers and students learn to use these devices?

What happens when students break or lose their tablets?

These issues and more are bound to arise as the education industry explores new ways to leverage mobile devices in the classroom. Below are three necessities to consider for running a successful mobile education plan and keeping devices in good working order.

1. A training strategy

Although many of today’s students have grown up with smartphones and tablets, there’s no room to ignore training on issued mobile devices—for both students and educators. To get the most out of mobile devices issued by a school system, students and teachers must have access to training and troubleshooting for those devices. When exploring options and vetting providers, ask if any support of training initiatives is offered. If not, it’s important to research other options, or dedicate time outside of regular school hours for training staff. Once the staff is up to speed on the technology, including troubleshooting, students will also need a training program.

Next page: How to protect your devices

2. A service plan provider

A mobile device of any make or model is costly. Purchasing multiple devices for an entire district? You’re looking at an investment in the millions of dollars in many cases. But the cost of mobile education doesn’t end there. When handing over devices to students, particularly younger ones, schools open the door to accidental drops, spills, and misplacement.

Purchasing a new device for a single incident is one thing, but when dealing with district-wide mobile learning, you’re bound to encounter breaks, malfunctions, and lost devices in large numbers. In just one example, when LAUSD had planned to purchase approximately 45,000 iPads, Apple offered them a discount of nearly $200 per tablet (in a deal that’s now been shelved). But even at the discounted rate the buy-in came in at $30 million – and that’s just to buy the devices!

For a cost like that it’s beyond necessary to look into service plan providers that will cover a district’s (or school’s) entire portfolio of devices, not just for part malfunction, but also for the inevitable accidents. When researching providers, consider one that will replace a damaged device quickly to avoid a gap in available devices for students. Also, to conserve time and energy, look for a provider that handles replacements in an easy-to-manage fashion that caters to a school’s availability.

3. An inventory tracking system

About LAUSD and their $30 million implementation price tag? Well, due to equipment loss, that was just the start of their costs. Last year, an audit of computer inventory for the same district revealed that 230 devices worth nearly $200,000 had been stolen or were missing. Additionally, school officials weren’t able to account for another 3,105 laptops, desktops and iPads. Yikes!

And that’s not unique to our LA example. A 2014 audit found that more than 2,200 New York City School computers were missing or unused.

Clearly, keeping track of thousands of mobile devices can be a costly problem for schools and their districts. When planning for a mobile education strategy, don’t rely on manual tracking methods with multiple points of data entry. Instead, implement an automated mobile asset tracking system that eliminates the time needed for manual entry, incorrect or mislogged data, and the efforts required for auditing your inventory at the beginning and end of each year.

When implementing mobile devices into the curriculum, consider a few add-ons that will protect the investment long term and make a mobile strategy truly successful. While training, a service plan, and inventory tracking systems may not seem necessary, all three have proven to be the educated choice to avoiding the most costly aspects that come with utilizing mobile devices in a classroom setting.

Roger High is vice president of warranty for Fortegra.