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Mobile device management ensures safe digital learning

It would be irresponsible to allow the use of mobile devices in schools without a security-based solution, says Thuthukani's Charl van Niekerk.

It would be irresponsible to allow the use of mobile devices in schools without a security-based solution, says Thuthukani's Charl van Niekerk.

It is evident that when pupils leave school without having been exposed to the extensive use of digital devices for an extended period during their school career; they may find it difficult to cope with digital learning at tertiary level. This will have a significant impact on their progress when they enter the work environment.

This is according to Charl van Niekerk, chief executive officer at ICT service company, Thuthukani Technology Solutions. He says the introduction of e-learning in schools not only ensures access to more relevant information by pupils, but it also allows them to pick up the much-needed skills in order to operate and use these tech devices.

However as with most technological innovations, Van Niekerk says, digitisation in the learning environment also comes with its own disruptions.

"Due to the uncontrolled information exposure, parents and educators alike, face a new challenge to monitor and manage students, when the mobile devices are used in the classroom and at home for studying.

Van Niekerk believes without a comprehensive and robust mobile device management (MDM) solution that can control the utilisation of the mobile devices in the learning environment it is nearly impossible to avoid the misuse and abuse of the mobile devices.

"It is therefore imperative that the implementation of a digitalisation strategy be managed, planned and coordinated very carefully at school level and not at department level. The department of education should only provide guidelines and assistance in this regard and allow each school to determine their own policies and rules of conduct.

Security in schools

"The various security challenges of digital learning range from theft and corruption, to the protection of personal information, risks of cyber bullying and the misuse of the device by students may make it easy for them to become victims of paedophiles," he reveals.

Van Niekerk points out Thuthukani has a special program that helps education institutions implement enterprise mobile management (EMM). Its solution,  Mobile360, is specifically optimised for the South African education sector.

"Mobile360 simplifies EMM with rapid deployment, and comprehensive security control that spans

across mobile devices, applications, and documents. It provides security software solutions such as a secure browser, secure productivity management, mobile app management, secure mail, secure document sharing and more.

Explaining the implementation process, Van Niekerk says his company first installs the cloud software as a service (SAAS) solution at schools, an implementation process which takes up to four days. During this time there are consultation sessions with the school to understand specific requirements in addition to the base configuration.

"Next we deploy the agreed configuration onto the school's portal account. Upon completion of the deployment, a user acceptance test is performed in collaboration with the institution. Portal administrator training for the teachers takes place once the installation is completed," he explains.

Based on an identifier of the scholars (eg e-mail address) as provided by the institution, he says, the devices are then enrolled as soon as they connect to a network. For the scholar, is as easy as installing an application from an app store.

Through the software, the guardian or teacher is able to locate the pupil, lock the phone, remote wipe, track and manage activity on the mobile phone or tablet and more.

As an additional option MDM cameras and voice recordings can be installed on the school premises to monitor the safety of pupils. This allows the school to handle matters within the context of the school environment.

Talking about what parents can do to safety-proof their children from digital harm while at home, he says they can acquire a mobile device management solution (MDM) where the parent will be in control.

"If their school is not making use of a MDM solution you can subscribe your child on the Mobile360 for the consumer offering that is available for individuals.

"An alternative is parental control software which is a good solution that allows parents to monitor and track their child's activity on their phone."

Van Niekerk concludes that EMM is critical in the education sector and that it would be naïve and irresponsible to allow the use of mobile devices in any education institution without a security-based solution.

"It would be even be more irresponsible not to progress with time and embrace mobile devices as part of the medium for education," he adds.

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