3 Questions for a Group Faculty Director on Chromebooks

Andy Specht, the Director of Data Know-how Companies at Allan Hancock Faculty, reached out after studying my piece Why So Few Chromebooks in Greater Ed? Andy had some fascinating issues to say in our preliminary e-mail change relating to his expertise with Chromebooks at his establishment. This Q&A is our effort to convey 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 out of the blue had a must mortgage tons of of computer systems to college students, investing in Chromebooks grew to become a necessity. In fact, Chromebooks additionally out of the blue grew to become a scorching commodity and have been very troublesome to supply. We have been lucky that certainly one of our friends, Santa Monica Faculty, had bought too many Chromebooks, they usually have been keen to promote just a few hundred of them to us at price.

The method to get Chromebooks up and operating was pleasantly simple and quick. We dusted off our previous Google Admin tenant that we had used a few years in the past for scholar Google accounts, earlier than switching to Microsoft. We linked our SSO supplier to Google, enrolled the Chromebooks, after which we have been prepared to begin handing them out. College students have 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 obtained for Chromebooks. They appear to both energy on and work superb or they’re useless and off to surplus, with out a lot in between. During the last 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 conversant in browser-based apps like Google Docs and Workplace On-line, we’ve got an excellent variety of laptop know-how programs that particularly train college students easy methods to use Microsoft Workplace desktop merchandise like Excel, Entry, and Writer. Usually these college students would use our on-campus laptop labs for the functions, however these labs had very restricted availability through the early days of the pandemic. Our answer was to pilot Azure Digital Desktop for college students. This enables college students to entry a full Home windows desktop setting in a browser. It’s a good answer for college students borrowing a Chromebook, since they’ll run a Home windows desktop and all of these Microsoft Workplace desktop functions from throughout the Chrome browser.

Q2. The place would you prefer to see Google make investments in order that Chromebooks could possibly be extra viable and fascinating in our larger ed context?

On the one hand, Chromebooks are nonetheless considerably forward of the curve for larger training. Software program is continuous to maneuver into the browser and never dwell as a desktop utility. 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 largest impediment for wider Chromebook adoption is that most of the less-expensive fashions simply aren’t that thrilling. The keyboards is usually 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 price, that will surely make Chromebooks extra interesting.

Q3.  What recommendation do you could have for different schools or universities which can be contemplating introducing Chromebooks with the intention to shut digital divides, decrease complete prices, and supply a extra resilient computing infrastructure?

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

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