3 Questions for a Neighborhood Faculty Director on Chromebooks

Andy Specht, the Director of Info Know-how Companies at Allan Hancock Faculty, reached out after studying my piece Why So Few Chromebooks in Larger Ed? Andy had some attention-grabbing issues to say in our preliminary e-mail change concerning his expertise with Chromebooks at his establishment. This Q&A is our effort to carry Andy’s Chromebook insights to our broader IHE neighborhood.

Q1. What’s the story of Chromebooks and Allan Hancock Faculty?

Previous to the pandemic we had been kicking across the thought of buying Chromebooks, as a low-cost approach to mortgage computer systems to college students or to make use of within the classroom. As soon as March 2020 hit, and we abruptly had a must mortgage lots of of computer systems to college students, investing in Chromebooks grew to become a necessity. In fact, Chromebooks additionally abruptly grew to become a sizzling commodity and had been very troublesome to supply. We had been lucky that one in every of our friends, Santa Monica Faculty, had bought too many Chromebooks, they usually had been prepared to promote a number of hundred of them to us at value.

The method to get Chromebooks up and working was pleasantly straightforward and quick. We dusted off our outdated Google Admin tenant that we had used a few years in the past for pupil Google accounts, earlier than switching to Microsoft. We related our SSO supplier to Google, enrolled the Chromebooks, after which we had been prepared to start out handing them out. College students had been ready to make use of the Chromebooks for becoming a member of lessons on Zoom and finishing coursework. One factor that’s notable is how few assist requests we acquired for Chromebooks. They appear to both energy on and work nice or they’re lifeless and off to surplus, with out a lot in between. Over the past couple years, our library has maintained Chromebook lending for college students, and Chromebooks proceed to be in excessive demand.

One roadblock to Chromebook adoption that we acknowledged early on was the dearth of Microsoft Workplace desktop functions. Though many college students are accustomed to browser-based apps like Google Docs and Workplace On-line, we have now a great variety of pc expertise programs that particularly educate college students how you can use Microsoft Workplace desktop merchandise like Excel, Entry, and Writer. Usually these college students would use our on-campus pc labs for the functions, however these labs had very restricted availability through the early days of the pandemic. Our resolution was to pilot Azure Digital Desktop for college students. This permits college students to entry a full Home windows desktop setting in a browser. It’s a good resolution for college students borrowing a Chromebook, since they will run a Home windows desktop and all of these Microsoft Workplace desktop functions from throughout the Chrome browser.

Q2. The place would you wish to see Google make investments in order that Chromebooks may very well be extra viable and fascinating in our increased ed context?

On the one hand, Chromebooks are nonetheless considerably forward of the curve for increased schooling. Software program is constant to maneuver into the browser and never dwell as a desktop software. However there are nonetheless tutorial supplies or different software program that require set up onto a Home windows or Apple desktop setting, and that’s the limitation of Chromebooks. This impediment ought to diminish over time, since virtually each software program firm is specializing in constructing and bettering browser-based software program.

The most important impediment for wider Chromebook adoption is that lots of the less-expensive fashions simply aren’t that thrilling. The keyboards could be a bit mushy and the digicam decision isn’t nice on the lower-end machines. Google has stepped again from producing Chromebooks themselves, but when the producers bumped up the {hardware} high quality whereas sustaining a low value, that will surely make Chromebooks extra interesting.

Q3.  What recommendation do you will have for different faculties or universities which are contemplating introducing Chromebooks to be able to shut digital divides, decrease complete prices, and supply a extra resilient computing infrastructure?

Simply attempt it out! It’s a small funding to purchase a number of Chromebooks and administration licenses, and you will get them configured and dealing fairly rapidly. On the identical time, you will need to set expectations about how the Chromebooks can be used; acknowledge that they received’t match the wants of all your college students, however Chromebooks probably can discover a place at your college the place they’re a helpful and cost-effective possibility.

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