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Device reclamation doesn’t have to be an onerous process for school IT teams--here’s how to make it a bit less complicated

School’s offline for summer: 3 tips for easy device reclamation


Device reclamation doesn’t have to be an onerous process for school IT teams--here’s how to make it a bit less complicated

Across the country, millions of students have been learning remotely since March 2020. According to the US Census, nearly 93 percent of people in households reported their children engaged in some form of distance learning this year. With that in mind, as another school year ends, device reclamation is more distributed than ever.

For school IT teams, this means a chaotic time when the district’s computers–especially those the students use for learning–must be accounted for and inspected for usability ahead of the next school year. Device collection is always challenging, but never more so than this past year that saw education institutions rapidly scaling 1:1 programs to enable remote learning.

Whether you’re approaching the device reclamation period or are looking for ways to improve it next year, there are a variety of decisions and steps that IT teams can take to ensure that end-of-year device reclamation is as painless as possible.

1. Decide which devices have to be returned

As a first step, determine whether devices need to be returned, and if so, how many will be part of this transition. Some schools may choose to provide students with opportunities to ‘catch up’ on learning gaps created during COVID-driven remote learning with summer school programs that require in-home devices. Others want to finally complete a thorough device inventory since they purchased thousands of new devices to support remote learning and haven’t yet had a chance to complete a real-time inventory.

Regardless of these more subjective decisions, end-of-year device collection must still be carried out for graduating seniors, students who are transferring out of the district and, in many cases, students moving up to the next phase of schooling. By addressing these questions early in the process, IT teams will be better equipped with the information needed to provide updated, protected devices come fall.

2. Set a timeline for returns

Once these groups of choice and goal numbers for device reclamation have been established, it is then critical to create a workback plan, or timeline, to reach these goals. The collection process is time-sensitive to ensure licenses are freed up in time to serve other students in the fall–emphasizing the importance of an internal timeline to achieve external deliverables.

IT teams must decide how they want to organize this collection–by class year, location, device type, or by the need for devices to be updated. From there, notify these groups. This can be accomplished via a notice on the school district’s website or newsletter, a blast email to all parents, sending a note home with students, or a message that appears on student devices. Better still: all the above. Let them know of the final date for returns, and make instructions clear on how to return devices. Do this more than once–start notifying as much as 30 days before the devices are due, again at 15 days, and once again the day before. Use technology capabilities to accomplish this, with home screen notifiers upon starting a device, or email communication. By establishing this timeline and sticking to it, IT teams have grounds to incentivize those who follow the rules or penalize those who don’t.

3. Provide incentives, establish penalties

Establish a set of guidelines for what will occur if students return their devices early, and conversely, if they return them late or not at all. Perhaps offering first access to activity choices for those students who return their devices on time, or imposing holds for those who do not.

Once these standards are decided on, IT teams can begin the act of device reclamation enforcement.  Once the return date has passed, contact with parents of students who didn’t return devices should involve multiple avenues of communication. Let parents know that their child’s device will be remotely disabled via IT-managed control tools and could potentially affect their child’s ability to take home devices in the future.

Finally, IT staff should have the ability to remotely freeze or lock devices not turned in on time. This prevents students from using the device and serves as a reminder that even though the school doesn’t physically possess the device, it is still under their control.

By implementing these practices, IT teams—which are already stretched thin managing remote learning–can minimize device loss, secure student data, and save themselves countless hours of frustration. Deciding when devices need to be returned, establishing a communication plan, and sticking true to that timeline will help IT teams collect more devices and optimize their health. Once devices are reclaimed, they can be updated, protected, and prepared for a productive school year ahead.

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