BYOD vs. 1:1 Debate Creates Opportunities for the Device-Agnostic Designer

Written by Gauri Reyes | Jan 26, 2015 10:19:16 PM

Here’s where the opportunity comes in for learning professionals: Forget the BYOD versus 1:1 versus hybrid model versus anything else. Design and deploy learning content that is device-agnostic.

The Debate: New for Schools, Not So New for Corporations

Technology is increasingly being integrated in schools, and a hotly debated technical decision is to follow a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or a 1:1 (schools provide access to standardized devices to each student) strategy. But this same debate has been playing out in the workplace for decades.

Corporate mobile devices of twenty plus years ago were notebooks and pagers. Now employees use laptops, Smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, game consoles, among others, for workplace activities. Initially, employers generally supplied these devices following a 1:1 strategy, meaning the devices were chosen, subsidized, and owned by the employer. The BYOD strategy, however, is starting to come into play in the workplace more frequently—either intentionally or because employers cannot stop people from bringing their personal devices to work and connecting them to work devices.

Device-Provisioning Strategies

People—students and employees—want a seamless experience between the devices that they use at home and those they use at school or work. Why would you want your work calendar, for example, to be completely separate from and inaccessible to your personal calendar? The separation and duplication adds unnecessary complexity to life. People—students and employees—want to increase productivity and balance their personal and school/work lives on one device, or on multiple, inter-connected devices.

At a high level, the advantages and disadvantages of the BYOD vs. 1:1 debate include the following positions.

1:1 Strategies Enable:

  • Bridging the Digital Divide: Providing equal access to devices for both students and employees.
  • IT Simplicity: Fewer device variants to support, and greater negotiating power for corporate bulk discounts from equipment and service providers.
  • More Control: Standardized learning experiences, gathering of progress and learning data, monitoring of on-line behavior.
  • Clearer Ownership of Equipment and Data: Upon graduation or upon termination of employment, the device returns to the school/employer. There are no content ownership questions, even if the student/employee put personal data on the device.

BYOD Strategies Enable:

  • Leverage of Device Familiarity: Reduced learning curve on device operation. People are more willing to spend time using new devices with which they are already familiar.
  • Possession of the Latest and Greatest: Better/more advanced/”cooler” technology available to consumers. School/corporate technology usually lags behind the consumer market.
  • Respect for Personal Property: People are inclined to take better care of their own property.
  • Lower Equipment Costs: No upfront costs by the school/employer for device/accessory purchases.

And, of course, hybrid strategies can mix and match advantages ad hoc to create a custom organizational device provisioning strategy.

The Opportunity for Learning Professionals

Here’s where the opportunity comes in for learning professionals: Forget the BYOD versus 1:1 versus hybrid model versus anything else. Design and deploy learning content that is device-agnostic.

Device-agnostic content transcends the discussion about who owns the device, provides the device, how much the device and accessories cost, IT considerations, etc. Device-agnostic content separates the learning conversation from the device provisioning conversation. Both important conversations to have, but why mix them unnecessarily?

To be clear, “device-agnostic content” as defined here is learning content accessible without any special apps or software and across multiple devices (including Smartphone’s, tablets, and laptops). Device-agnostic content also allows learners to start learning on one device, physically relocate, and finish learning on another device. People are empowered to learn as they wish while living their life as they normally would—starting and stopping learning on multiple interconnected devices at their convenience, whether at home, at work, at school or in between.

Making Content Useful for Device-Enabled Learning

Whichever authoring tools or technologies you choose to use, consider the following design ideas to create learning content that can run on the most common systems:

  • Design for the Self-Directed Learner: Mobile learning lends itself to self-directed learning. Provide learning resources or nuggets to the learner, and let her choose which ones to consume.
  • Stop “Command and Control” Teaching: Enable richer learning experiences by allowing people to “BYOL”, Bring Your [Their] Own Learning to the discussion forums to augment formal learning.
  • Empower Content Curators: In a similar vein, allow learners to curate content of relevance to share with others.
  • Optimize Mobile Experiences: Mobile learning lends itself to learning in short bursts of activity. Include microlearning, performance support, video, audio, and tutorials/steps.
  • Look to the Cloud: Often, cloud-based applications allow for organizations to access propriety content without having to host and administer it. When looking for an LMS provider, or any other cloud-based provider, ensure that content on multiple devices is supported.
  • Encourage Socializing: Social interaction and collaboration is a cornerstone of device-enabled learning. Integrate social media tools, such as Yammer, with learning experiences.

BYOD or 1:1 or Hybrid—Which Way is Best?

The best solution for learning professionals is to be device-agnostic when it comes to designing learning. Each school/employer, must make their own device provisioning decisions based on their organizational learning agenda, learner profile, budget, and risk tolerance. Separate yourself from those decisions and create content that will enable learning on any device, irrespective of the final device provisioning strategy chosen.

Thoughts? Ideas? Lessons learned? Please share your comments using your device of choice.

Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She currently owns four interconnected devices (relatively few) and uses them all every day. Gauri is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.