How To Manage End-Of-Year Device Collection Chaos

By: Jeff Gambrell | 5/10/2021 | 3 min read

As a former teacher, I understand well the anticipation that students and educators feel as the end of the school year approaches. It can never come fast enough.

Of course, the year-end experience is entirely different for IT teams in K-12. For them, it’s a chaotic time when the district’s computers — especially those the students use for learning — must be accounted for and inspected for usability next year. Device collection is always challenging and never more so than now — in a school year that required many schools to rapidly scale their 1:1 programs to enable remote learning.

Learn how to simplify device collection with Absolute

Collecting Student Devices

So what options does a school district have when students don’t return the district’s expensive assets at the end of the year?

Remember, very few law enforcement agencies will get involved. They’ll either see the issue as a civil problem and not a criminal violation, or feel (rightfully so) that their job is to protect society and not to expend strained resources on recovering overdue property.

School Device Recovery 101

The key to recovering student laptops and tablets lies in a multi-pronged approach encompassing both communication and technology.

To recover as many devices as possible, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Outreach to students and parents should begin well before the day the devices are due to be turned in. 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 an end-user message that appears on student devices. Better still – all of the above!

    Regardless of the technique, students and parents should be reminded of their device collection date more than once. We recommend a notification 30 days before the devices are due, again at 15 days, and once again the day before.

  2. After the return date has passed, contact with parents of students who didn’t turn their device should involve multiple avenues of communication. Some parents respond better to phone calls, some to emails, and some to letters that convey a more serious tone. This can also help when some contact info is no longer accurate. These three methods can be undertaken concurrently to ensure the parent or guardian is reached as soon as possible, or they can be sequential to save staff time. In other words, first, an email; next, a phone call; and finally – if contact hasn’t been made or the device is still missing – a letter on district letterhead should be sent.

  3. The communication should firmly state the repercussions for not returning school property. While a student keeping a device over the summer isn’t akin to a criminal breaking in and stealing from a school, the bottom line is that districts are still being deprived of taxpayer-funded equipment that they are accountable for and will need again when school starts in the fall. To convey the seriousness of the situation, parents should be advised that the missing device will be reported to law enforcement, which can easily be avoided by simply returning the device.

  4. When a student fails to return an issued device at any point during the school year, that loss of school property should be reported to local law enforcement. While police may not actively investigate, they can enter the serial number of the missing device into a nationwide database of missing and stolen property. That way, if an officer eventually happens upon an unreturned device, it can be seized and returned.

  5. 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. With Absolute, school IT teams can remotely lock and freeze devices, and display a customized message on the screen.

Thousands of schools depend on Absolute to help track down their devices at the end of each school year. Administrators can manage their entire device inventory at a glance, send out automated reminders and notifications, and alert teams about any unusual device movement.

In the event a device isn't returned on time, IT can lock, freeze, and even wipe devices remotely, and use precise geolocation data to track and retrieve missing devices.

Here’s the formula: multiple communication attempts to parents and students using various channels — combined with the ability to remotely manage, lock, and track a device with Absolute — will minimize device loss, secure student data, and save IT teams countless hours of frustration.

Find out why 10,000 schools depend on Absolute to streamline device collection

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