The Go Go Gadget Project

Guidelines for the Effective Use of BYOD in VET Research Project

Funded by the National VET E-learning Strategy

All posts in BYOD literature review

Caveat Emptor

The results from our National BYOD in VET survey show that BYOD implementation isn’t always a seamless process. Buyers should beware when selecting an external IT provider to work with to safeguard against potentially expensive disruptions down the track. Irrespective of whether your RTO has an internal or external IT provider, care should be taken to establish a clear brief ahead of time to manage everyone’s expectations.

Before selecting an external IT provider to partner with, it pays to ask these questions:

  • What is the capacity of the IT provider?

Find out whether they have sufficient skills and workforce to deliver your BYOD solution in a timely fashion. Also, it’s worth finding out whether they can provide close ongoing support and respond to any ad hoc requests down the track.

  • Have they had any experience in BYOD implementations before?
    Every industry is different. Check that the IT provider has an understanding of the sensitivities relating to VET, your demographic of learners and your duty of care towards your RTO community.

  • Can the IT provider offer the sort of financial terms you require?

  • Will external contractors will be required?

Formalise and document a memorandum of understanding or contractual arrangement between the RTO and the IT company responsible for sub-contracting. Be wary here and clarify exactly which party is responsible for each aspect of the job, both at the time of implementation as well as for ongoing maintenance and support. Try and find any potential gaps that can yield potential for “passing the buck” if things get tricky later on – and address them up front, before any problems actually arise.

  • Are all contractors qualified and/or licensed to carry out the work that they’re being hired for?
  • Are the contractors are included in the overall project cost?
  • Will all labour and parts will be itemised when invoiced?
  • What are their hourly rates?

Some other hints for selecting an external IT provider for your BYOD implementation:

  • Get three quotes for the solution to find the best return on investment for your organisation.

  • Be careful if switching between multiple companies for hardware and service. This can be trap for passing the buck if things go wrong.

Ask yourself this: Does the IT provider feel right for your organisation? They might answer all your questions well, but check your gut feeling too.

Ultimately the IT contractor should remain responsible for all work carried out – they are your “go to” for any problems or questions. They need to be in the loop the entire time. There should be no changes made without direct consultation with the IT provider, regardless of any recommendations made by the contractors. External contractors’ work needs to be tested fully before signing off, and it should be articulated that this is the responsibility of the IT provider.

It’s all in the brief!

Regardless of whether you’re working with your RTO’s internal IT department, or with an external provider, it is important that a clear brief is compiled before the initial engagement.  

This is the first step to managing the expectations of both the RTO and the IT provider. The process of compiling the brief doesn’t need to be technical at all. In fact its probably better if it compiled in plain English. This process should be discussed with key members of the RTO. This allows a clear message for all involved, as well as provides opportunity for everyone to ask questions and give input. Every RTO is different and every single location can be different, so past experiences or what other businesses have is usually irrelevant. If your RTO has multiple locations, each location needs to be assessed individually.

But what is a brief?

A brief is simply a detailed description of what needs to be achieved and provides a starting point for discussions between the technical and non-technical team members. Some organisations like to use templates, others write in a narrative style. For BYOD, the IT team are looking for information such as:

  • How many users there will be (now and in the future) – including students, staff and guests.
  • The type of internet connection you have.
  • What you’re intending to do with the BYO devices (Are you looking to video conference? Access the LMS? Email? Browse the internet? Use specific apps? There are lots of ways that you might answer this – and each aspect will impact the plan of attack that the IT dept will devise).
  • How much you can spend on the solution. This will define the parameters and help the IT providers give you a clear picture of what is actually possible within your budget. It’ll also help them prioritise their activities to remain within budget.
  • Where people will physically be while using their own devices (In the RTO network? Outside the network? In their workplaces? Spread across multiple campuses? Every RTO is different, so give them as much information as possible about this).
  • Whether you’ll be placing any restrictions on particular user types, like how long they can be connected to the network for, specific times and days, or restricting the amount of data that individual users can consume. Our research has shown that data use is a particular consideration in states and territories that have less overall connectivity. RTOs in states with more advanced fibre rollout report that downloads are less impacted by introducing BYOD.
  • When might be the best time of day or year to undertake these works. Don’t assume that the IT provider is aware of the ebbs and flows of the VET calendar, and when it will be convenient for there to be potential disruptions to RTO life. If all of your learners are away on placement for a fortnight at once, for example, communicate this to your IT provider. If there is an intense assessment period looming, and you anticipate there being a heavy reliance on your network during this period – make sure they are aware of this too. This can head conflict and consternation off well ahead of time and make for a more positive experience for all concerned.

Be prepared for some negotiation. It may be that some activities cannot be achieved within budget, or there may be other limiting factors. However, if you keep communications clear and open, and keep your original purpose for introducing BYOD firmly in mind (you may wish to visit the post about this subject) you’ll be well positioned to minimise any “surprises”.

Still wondering how it’s actually done? For those of you who haven’t created a brief before, we’ll add a sample BYOD brief template for you to consider in the next few days. 

It’s a set up!

Like chess, strong BYOD practice in VET is a game of strategy. Before play starts, make sure you’ve found the pieces & lined them up, ready for play to start.

The literature shows that the key components to identify include:

  • Human resources. These can include the human resource capacity to implement the project and includes determining the current level of skill & confidence in the use of technology that staff and students possess, as well as the level of understanding of e-learning practice existent in the teaching team. Is there someone in your RTO (the literature suggests that this person is best drawn from without the IT department to maximise the chances of success) who take on the role of Digital Champion for your RTO?The overwhelming message from the case studies of BYOD implementation is that it is never too soon to start engaging RTO team members in professional development – at least to ensure that everyone is at a very basic level of IT literacy.The National VET E-learning Strategy maintains a free and low cost professional development calendar of events for face-to-face and online professional development at a range of skill levels. It can be useful to engage in at least some of these activities to allow your team to begin to think about technology enhanced learning and integrated uses for mobile technologies.
  • Existing IT infrastructure. This includes aspects such as internet connection speeds, data allowances, network capacity, existing computers & servers, storage capacity, software, network security and cable and wireless infrastructure.
  • Budget. Determine a realistic and clear budget prior to embarking on the planning process.
  • Support. Get a clear picture of the support that is available to your project at all stages, both from internal & external sources.

Your teaching and administrative staff will need support as they transition to a new way of doing things. Will this come from within your own RTO? Will you need to engage external contractors or mentors? Have you made contact with the National VET E-learning Strategy E-learning Co-ordinator in your state or territory? They provide support, referrals and advice to RTOs and can be an invaluable free source of support for your digital strategy.

Strong, collaborative IT Support is, of course, vital.

Identify who will provide this. Ensure that they are clear about the vision & purpose for the project. Reports continually urge people who are embarking on a BYOD path to include the IT department or external provider from the very beginning of the process to smooth the path ahead and safeguard against technical traps during the implementation phase. It will save money and torture along the way.

  • Time. Make a realistic assessment of the amount of time that is available to your project. This refers to internal factors such as human resource hours for project management, professional development, implementation, development and review. “Time” also refers to the timeframe that the project needs to be accomplished within, the most practicable time to undertake the activity, and another other constraints (such as funding stipulations or seasonal factors that relate to the industries that your RTO serves).


Once you’ve worked out which pieces you have (and whether there are any that are missing) and laid them out in a logical fashion, you’re ready to play a winning match!  More about this in the next Go Go Gadget Grab post.

“The use of personal mobile devices at school will deepen learning, will be personalised and student-centred, and will meet the expectations of teachers, students, parents and caregivers... Schools are in a position to harness students’ connection to their own personal mobile devices for the purpose of developing 21st century learning skills and for fostering digital literacy, fluency & citizenship in a safe environment.”

Excerpt from NSW Department of Education BYOD policy (November 2013)

"In a rare moment of lucid insight I was speaking to a group about why they needed to stop thinking in terms of content or technology and stated: "Educators can get easily distracted, but if you remain focused on the student and the learning process and outcomes, technology and pedagogy follows." OK, dumb to quote myself but the BYOD debate has been hijacked by technology-centric debate and reasons."

Excerpt from an email from Dr Marcus Bowles, Chair, Institute of Working Futures (Jan 13, 2014)

Why oh why?

The overwhelming message from the bulk of the literature is that good BYOD practice and policy stems from clarity of purpose and vision.

The big question is “Why?”

It’s tempting to start thinking about “What” or “How” at this point – but most articles insist that there are some important ducks to get into a row before you start thinking about the actual technology that you will be using, or how to go about using it. So, before you go much further down the path, ponder this:

What is the end game? What is the change that you’re looking for in your RTO?

Remember, at this point, it isn’t about the technology, it’s about the intended outcome.

Work out who is going to be effected by the changes – will this be staff (teaching and administrative)? Learners? Industry stakeholders? Visiting subject matter experts? Everyone? – who are you trying to impact for the better?

Once you’ve established this, it is vital to make sure your management team (or other key stakeholders in your RTO) can confidently understand the vision and purpose – and answer the question “why”. This will make things simpler for them to discuss the issue with their networks when the inevitable bumps in the road appear.

Articles written about the experiences of larger educational institutions stress that involving the tech crew at this point is a vital way to gain their support, specialised insights, creative input and technical expertise. This will help the project will run more smoothly throughout.

If your RTO is new to the BYOD scene, this is a good time to work with your IT service provider or to engage the services of IT consultants, digital mentors or e-learning champions. They can help you to develop a strong picture of what life could look like in your RTO, once you’ve made the changes. They can also save money and pain down the track.

Here are some of the “whys” that have been mentioned as reasons for adopting BYOD practice in RTOs:

A way to add value and competitiveness to my RTO
Address compliance requirements for reporting
A way to add more fluidity to the way that staff and learners interact with my organisation
Appealing to learner’s desire to work with their devices anyway
Teaching learners industry relevant skills that will improve accuracy and efficiency in their industry setting
Saving money and optimising use of existing resources

Stay tuned for the next episode of Go Go Gadget Grabs, where we’ll share what we’ve found out about getting ready to create a digital strategy.