UCISA Bring Your Own Device

featuredheaderA few weeks ago I made the trek up to Birmingham for a UCISA seminar on Bring Your Own Device – a bothersome concept for more than a few IT departments, even though (as was pointed out a couple of times) we’ve basically been doing it since the days of floppy disks and home computers, we just didn’t have a name for it yet.

The day didn’t present any epiphanies or “wow” moments, but it was interesting to see what others are up to and where their focus is.

The main things I took away from Bristol’s presentation (slides here)were some different ways we could organise and provide support (and not just for BYOD users).

Bristol's mobile support portal

Bristol’s mobile support portal

I was very impressed with their Ask IT website, a community driven support portal, while the concept of having a clear definition of what devices can be supported and at what level appealed to my sense of structure (as well as fitting in – albeit in a reactive way – with some of the corporate view of device support presented later in the day).

It’s good to see the “virtual team” concept we’re employing for managing our personal IT services being used elsewhere – it’s a cultural shift (especially for a federated structure like ours), but it definitely has advantages.

Andrew Cormack (with a great sounding job title – I need to get “Chief” into my job title) offered possibly the broadest view of the day (slides here) of the issues around managing BYOD in an organisation – albeit through the medium of questions, rather than answers!

We had more questions from Edinburgh’s Brian Gilmore (along with some photos of castles and more than a little Comic Sans) which offered more of an HE specific view (slides here), followed by the reasonable suggestions that policy should be based on risk and that, like a castle, we should apply security and access in layers.

Castles as analogy for data security - Brian Gilmore

Castles as analogy for data security – Brian Gilmore

I didn’t get much from the supplier/trade presentations.

  • The Cisco session (slides here) was a summary of implementing BYOD at Cisco and presented few surprises (other than the device/usage stats – let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be Blackberry right now).  There was no sales pitch, but implementing BYOD in a corporate culture is very different to how you might do it in HE.
  • The Khipu talk (slides here) was offered a different perspective to the “how we’ve coped” story, charting their progress in supporting BYOD for customers, how that market has changed over the years and how the technology has tried to keep pace.
  • Sorry, the Prolinx presentation made no impact on me whatsoever – even looking at the slides (here) again draws a blank.

Derby’s Simon Birkett reminded us that we have students in Universities too and (in a presentation – slides here – reminiscent of Toni Kelly’s at the UCISA Conference in March) talked about the requirements that teaching add to how we plan and provision learning services and spaces. Not that I imagine students would call it “BYOD” – we need to remember that it’s just normal for them to rock up with a laptop and work!

Experimental teaching space - Simon Birkett

Experimental teaching space – Simon Birkett

Simon showed us some “learning space porn” (it seems learning pods are the future) and mentioned how they used one room for testing new ideas and technologies, adding “I imagine you all have a space like this” – a comment that led to my having a slightly incoherent (I was very tired) 10 minute rant about how we “don’t experiment” enough, as most of our rooms still look like both Birmingham and Derby’s “before” pictures…

Simon Furber’s talk (slides here) was focused on infrastructure, albeit in a more roundabout and entertaining fashion than that description might suggest. I agree that the idea of hosting an Olympic team from South Korea, the most connected country in the world, sounds daunting. I guess the fact that it never made the technology or HE press means they managed it without a hitch!

Brunel's Connect Portal - Simon Furber

Brunel’s Connect Portal – Simon Furber

Brunel’s home grown Connect Portal looked like a useful way of bringing together not just management of devices and service sign-up, but also getting help, timetables and information.

We were also shown some stats on OS, device and usage, but the thing that really caught my eye was the bandwidth chart which revealed that students never seem to sleep!

Brunel, the University that never sleeps - Simon Furber

Brunel, the University that never sleeps – Simon Furber

Keyboard trousers

Keyboard trousers

The day ended with Martin Hamilton taking a look into the future (slideshare here), starting with rooms filled with (primarily Apple) laptops through to cheap netbooks, smart watches, printed ears and that most wearable of technologies – keyboard trousers.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, the day presented no epiphanies and no one presented a complete approach – but there was enough there for us all to put together a framework that should work. More on that next time.


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