What’s Your Strategy for Collecting Student Devices?

By: Sarah Brooks | 5/10/2021 | 5 min read

The 2020-2021 school year has been unlike any other, and most schools continue their struggle to manage their now sizable off-network device fleet deployed to support remote and hybrid learning. With the end of the school year fast approaching, it’s time to address yet another unplanned aspect of pandemic-driven remote learning – collecting student devices.

As we hear time and time again in conversations with our education customers, most schools remain undecided on how they will handle end-of-year device collection this year. Pre-pandemic, schools with 1:1 computing programs would make strategic, district-wide decisions on whether or not to collect student devices at the end of an academic year. Their rationale would include a few top-line considerations, including:

  • Device inventory — How current, and therefore accurate, is the district device database? Does it need to be updated? A precise device view can have a significant impact on next year’s budget.
  • Device health — How long has it been since devices and their applications – both learning management and security tools - have been updated? Do those updates align with your school’s overall clean up goals and policies? Do any machines need to be reimaged or recycled?
  • Device storage — If devices are collected for the summer, where will they be stored? Can the IT team effectively update, repair, and redistribute them in a timely fashion?

Collecting Student Devices: It Can be Complicated

Student device collection was already a complex process before the rapid shift to distance learning. If you’re like nearly every other school that now relies on a 1:1 program at least in some form, you’re trying to determine what to do next as you balance student learning outcomes with program efficacy and budget.

Some schools hope 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 last year, and haven’t yet had a chance to complete a real-time inventory.

Regardless of administration’s perspective on these and other realities, 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 from middle school to high school. And, the collection process is time-sensitive to ensure licenses are freed up in time to serve other students in the fall.

Once administration makes a decision to reclaim or not, there is the potentially tedious process of collecting the high volume of devices out in the hands of students this year. Because IT teams are already stretched very thin, savvy administrators are turning to an automated approach to efficiently collect, count, and update school-owned devices.

Help is Out There

With Absolute Control®, you can see, manage, and secure every device, no matter where they are, on or off campus, from a single console. It serves as an unbreakable digital tether to devices, data, and applications and supports a more effective and efficient collection process.

Using Absolute there are 5 basic steps that will streamline your end-of-year device collection and audits:

  1. Plan
  2. Execute
  3. Collect
  4. Control
  5. Monitor

For more, read: 10 Ways to Protect Your Laptop At School and the Absolute Chromebook Collection Guide outlines each of these 5 best practices in more detail as well as highlights the Absolute features that assist you through this process.

Device Reclamation-as-a-Service

To avoid any potential learning disruption and a possible security risk to the district posed by unreturned devices, some districts choose to outsource their device collection process. Absolute Device Reclamation-as-a-Service is a well-versed group of specialists who save schools time and manpower by handling the communication with students and, when necessary, their families, to ensure collecting student devices is a smooth process.  

Our expert team works with you to indicate which devices are missing within the Absolute console, sets up end user messages (with the text pre-approved by you), conducts email and phone campaigns to students and families, and informs district officials when shipping labels are required for device return. The entire process is designed to make collecting student devices as painless and hassle-free as possible. In most cases, outsourcing the process also means you don’t have to escalate missing device situations to law enforcement for assistance.  

Remote Device Management

For the districts who decide to leave devices with students for the summer break, Absolute customers already have the tools needed to support safe, effective learning and up-to-date devices no matter where they are. Maintenance can be performed remotely, and you can ensure your devices are back-to-school ready even when they aren’t in the hands of IT over the summer months.

Read: A Summer Plan for Student-Held Devices.

Fresno Unified School District is the third largest school district in California and they now must manage and secure more than 100,000 remote-learning devices. Even without physical access to devices, the Fresno Unified IT team can mitigate vulnerabilities in a timely manner and automate needed fixes using Absolute. Read how they do it in How Fresno Unified School District Secures 100,000 Remote Learning Devices with Absolute Resilience.  

Even as you ready for the end of this school year, you can start preparing for next fall now. Get a jump start on preparing your devices for a successful 2021-2022 school year by downloading our Back to School Guide.

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