November 15, 2023
5 Benefits of Standardizing Student Devices in Higher Ed
Programs that deploy a common device to all students on a college campus help deliver a unified learning experience — and a lot more.
This fall, I visited Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and watched as school staff (with some help from members of the university baseball team) passed out new MacBook Air laptops, Apple iPad devices and Apple Pencils to incoming students. The freshmen were delighted to get their hands on the new tech, of course. But I was also struck by how excited the parents were. I heard more than one say, “This is one less thing I have to worry about.”
Shenandoah started its universal device program in 2009, but these sorts of one-to-one initiatives are still fairly uncommon in higher education. That’s a shame, because schools that equip their students with common devices see several important benefits.
When instructors know exactly what digital tools students have at their disposal, they can plan lessons and assignments that allow students to make the best use of their devices. This might mean something as simple as asking students to mark up a PDF using their Apple Pencils, or unleashing their creativity by editing short documentaries using iMovie.
We sometimes think that every 18-year-old is walking around with a brand-new laptop and mobile device, but many students arrive on campus toting a parent’s slow, outdated computer — or no device at all. By rolling out the same device to every student, colleges and universities can ensure that everyone has access to high-quality digital tools, regardless of their economic background. This effectively levels the playing field. Many students already face hurdles that make it a challenge for them to achieve in the classroom at the same level as some of their peers. Access to technology should not be an additional hurdle.
In almost every conversation I have with leaders in higher education, someone eventually brings up the 2025 cliff — the demographically driven drop in college enrollment that schools expect to see in just a couple of years. A significant number of colleges and universities have closed since the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the remaining schools will be competing with one another for their very survival in the coming years. Device programs can not only help persuade prospective students to enroll but also create a better experience for students once they’re on campus.
More device types mean more to manage, more to secure, more to fix and more staff to support it all. It follows, then, that the maintenance and support burden will be reduced dramatically at a college or university where all students (and even faculty in some cases) are using a common device. Instead of scrambling to familiarize themselves with the hardware quirks and patching requirements of myriad device vendors, IT staff can focus on developing deep expertise on a single platform. In fact, at schools with standardized devices, many troubleshooting issues never even make their way to the help desk. With thousands of students all using the same type of laptop, they often end up working together to fix minor problems.
A standardized device program does more than streamline IT operations and ensure equity; it can also play a pivotal role in shaping campus culture. A common device creates a shared experience. Additionally, these programs send a powerful message about a school’s commitment to innovation. In a way, more than just a tool, the devices become an integral part of a school’s identity.
Story by Greg Henderson, the Mid-Atlantic sales manager for CDW•G.