School turns to BYOD as government laptop program ends

School turns to BYOD as government laptop program ends

Summary: The end of the laptops in schools program in Australian schools could see schools turn en masse to BYOD programs to fill the gap in funding for student tablets and laptop PCs.


The cessation of the previous Australian government's laptops in schools program is likely to see the mass adoption of bring your own device (BYOD) programs by schools as they seek to shift the cost of purchasing and maintaining iPads and laptop PCs from the government to parents.

One school, Georges River Grammar School, has already begun a BYOD program for its 2014 students following confirmation by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) in May that the laptops in schools project would be discontinued at the end of this year.

The school has just completed a major upgrade of its wired and wireless network in order to be able to support an anticipated influx of BYOD devices, as well as better enforced BYOD policies.

Its new wired network features HP switches with two 10Gbps links and redundant core switches. The previous network was also based on HP switches, and featured a 1Gbps backbone.

The new wireless network is also based on HP gear, and features 66 access points serving every room at the school, and four access points serving external sites. It also features 11 VLANs, allowing it greater control over network access and security. Previously, it ran a Meru wireless system with one access point to cover about four rooms.

The result is an increase in connectivity speeds of around 20 times, as well as a range of new capabilities to help enforce and manage the policy supporting the school's new BYOD program. The school has also adopted the vendor's Intelligent Management Center platform to help it more quickly troubleshoot and manage its network.

Speaking to ZDNet, Georges River IT network manager Matthew Gebran said the major driver for the upgrade was the push toward a 1:1 student-to-device ratio, and the need for a BYOD program following the end of the government's laptops in schools program.

"To support the sheer number of devices that will come onto our network next year, we had no choice but to upgrade the whole network infrastructure that we have here," he said.

"The [device] funding for schools has dried up now, and all those machines we had for years 9 to 12 are all out of warranty, and the three years [of funding] is up. The school doesn't have the money to re-buy new devices — and students are used to having their own devices now — so [a BYOD approach] is the only way to go without the school having to fork out too much money."

Gebran said that while the new approach would save the school money, it does pose management challenges for its two-strong IT department. The school is addressing that by using its network firewalls and switches, rather than a mobile device management solution, which would have required installing clients on each student's BYOD device and the purchasing of multiple licences.

"We went down the path of having a wireless network for BYOD devices," he said. "When they connect to that, they are prompted for a user name and password ... which authenticates them against certain polices in the firewall and web filter so that they can only get to certain things — their surfing is restricted.

"Our HP core switches have access control, which if someone is on our VLAN means that people can only get to the certain things we allow them to; otherwise, they just go straight out to the internet."

Commenting on additional IT initiatives under way at the school, Gebran said that about 20 Apple TVs are being rolled out to allow better student and teacher collaboration, as well as wireless printing for iOS7 devices. The school also uses the Moodle e-learning solution and ClickView Online to access educational content.

Topics: Networking, Mobility, Security, Wi-Fi, Education, BYOD and the Consumerization of IT

Tim Lohman

About Tim Lohman

Tim has written about the technology sector since the mid 2000s. He covers innovation across the business, education and government sectors.

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  • BYOD for school is just plain wrong!

    What happens to people who can't afford these device's? Not to mention bias, on school goes with iPads because that's what the staff likes and another goes with MBP's and another goes with windows tablets or laptops. Bloody stupid!
    • I guess it prepares them for the real world

      The schools that go with Apple products are just plain stupid. Why would a buyer ever corner itself into single source is beyond me. I am not a big fan of MS, however if I do not like Dell, I can move to HP, Samsung, etc. But if you do not like what Apple does you have no choice but to bend over or change your WHOLE infrastructure.
      • MS is single source

        I have news for you. MS is copying Apple's strategy. MS control everything from OS ( you don't like Windows 8? Tough, we will stop XP support ) to apps ( Only Windows Store can approve your apps ! ). So the king is dead, long live the king
        • Open source (preferrably GPL)

          If you don't like vendor lock-in, then go for free and open source software (FOSS).
          If Google is too bad for Android users, someone will fork it and everyone (except Google) will be happy again.

          o... wait... it already happened:
        • it's nearly 2014 and you're whinging about loss of support for XP?

          just how many year and how many OS is XP in the past? I'm guessing close to 14 year and 4 OS? But please correct me if i'm wrong? Hardly thinking fair if you ask me
        • Seem to off on some rant!

          Rather than discussing BYOD in schools. Bad day perhaps?
  • Schools should only use thin clients

    The government department that handles schools should make sure that everything is web based.

    Then they can use cheaper thin clients, such as Chromebooks or the upcoming Firefox OS. Making families pay for expensive PC-OS devices is just not right.
    • May work in the cities!

      Not so good in country areas! Better to have desktop PC's with the programs you want on them. Better for speed and better for security!
  • Schools Should provide the facilities

    In every other country, schools provide CS Labs. Students are paying fess well maybe not here in public schools which is the problem. Nothing comes Free, if you get free education then spend for your Kids LAptops
  • Re: Government laptop program ends....

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it could to out to be very environment friendly if handled the correct way by the schools.

    Laptops aside. If a school were to purchase refurbished monitors, keyboards and mice then the pupil could bring along a small form factor PC.

    For example a Standard 2009 Mac Mini (which are inexpensive) with OS X 10.8 installed running Windows 7 in Boot Camp.

    Such an approach would be a solution and a responsible one at that.
  • Linux on "old" laptops?

    "all those machines we had for years 9 to 12 are all out of warranty"

    .... so they're all destroyed soon?

    If they do not perform enough on recent Windows/MacOS, install a Linux distribution on them (Ubuntu, Mint, ...) and select a proper desktop for the hardware.

    If most of the software is used over the network, you'll probably only need a good browser.
  • bad idea

    they live in a false economy with wifi because you have to rely on power otherwise your power be gone within 2 hours on wifi with battery being used...

    don't matter if you use a 9" tablet-15" laptop you're pretty much going to kill your battery if you don't have an active power source to connect too..

    linux is likely be a bad idea given all the program you'll be running will be windows based.. unless your family have the apple fetish..
    Jason Howe
  • can the schools really afford to install

    can schools really afford installing 56port switches to cater for 40+ students per classrooms + cater for 40+ monitors, mice and keyboards...

    it would e cheaper to supply the kids with 13-15" laptops..

    mind you i would consider investing in a laptop that can see atleast 4-5 years use before the need for replacement.. with minor os and program replacement.
    Jason Howe
  • May be some argument for BYOD in the last couple of years of high school!

    Not in Primary/Public schools, here in NSW, Leeton the public school is trying to get support for BYOD. Bloody silly, the students have NO lockers and bags are left out side on the verandah during and between classes. Not to mention class rooms aren't locked up much! The chances that some devices would get broken or stolen are way to high to consider BYOD in Public schools!
  • BYOD vs 1:1

    With the price of tablets and notebooks coming down (Chromebooks start at $199), 1:1 computing programs can stay affordable at many school districts. Some districts require parents to pay a fee for the provided tablet (which the student will eventually own). BYOD programs can help a district reduce their budget, but there certainly must be a program to help financially disadvantaged families to participate.

    If the district does go the route of BYOD, they need to make sure that they can monitor and control access on the network based on a full range of factors including: Device, User, Location, Time-of-day; and Application - see