Aiming for Interoperability (making BYOD work)

Interoperability has emerged as a buzzword in education. It’s a broad term that represents the ability of various devices, systems and platforms to communicate seamlessly. Because many colleges are incorporating student devices in classroom learning, it’s essential for campus technology to be compatible with a range of platforms and operating systems — and for printers, laptops, scanners and other hardware to connect easily. At a software level, interoperability means instructors and students can access tools such as the learning management system (LMS) from mobile devices, desktop computers or laptops.

While interoperability is becoming easier, a number of barriers remain. Here are three strategies for increasing interoperability between devices, systems and hardware on your campus

1. Adopt Open Standards

Universal interoperability standards enable higher education technology to function as an ecosystem of software tools rather than a single, overarching system (like the LMSs of the past). A number of education technology developers and vendors are building tools that align with open standards, making them easy to integrate with each other and to operate on various devices. If you’re in the market for new software, such as an LMS or student information system, find out whether it’s aligned with one of the interoperability standards, such as those from the IMS Global Learning Consortium.

2. Create a Single Sign-On Portal

Adopting a single sign-on portal is a great way to streamline access to multiple systems, campus apps, and learning tools for faculty, staff and students alike. With single sign-on, users need only one username and password to access all of the institution’s digital resources. Many single sign-on providers include additional user authentication to enhance security. Besides making it easier for students and staff to access systems and other tools, single sign-on provides clear cost-savings benefits by reducing the administrative costs of setting up multiple accounts and passwords — and significantly decreasing help requests from users who have forgotten their login information.

3. Consider Compatibility

Hardware is another piece of the interoperability puzzle — printers, scanners, projectors and similar technology need to connect seamlessly with existing systems. When shopping for these hardware devices, make sure they’re compatible with operating systems of all computers or mobile devices they will be used with, as well as any document management software, AV applications, and file management solutions you have in place. It’s a good idea to vet any new equipment before procuring a large order for your campus. For example, install one projector in a classroom and see how easily it connects with other devices in the room. Observe a few class periods to evaluate its effectiveness, or ask instructors to report back to you with any technical problems.

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