students pick up iPads

New student-athletes pick up their iPad at the fall distribution event on Aug. 22. Photo by Cody Nimitz.

Student-athletes juggle practices, conditioning, and competitions with lectures, studying, and coursework. Thanks to an initiative developed by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) during fall 2014, new student-athletes get an assist with a University-issued iPad to make recording lectures, annotating course materials, organizing schedules, and studying on the team bus much more efficient.

The devices are configured with quick links to Penn State resources, including Canvas, LionPATH, and Box, and preloaded with a variety of apps for note-taking, study skills, and time management.

“When our student-athletes are traveling for competition, they can have all of their academic items in one place and view them offline so they do not need to rely on Wi-Fi,” said Cheryl Anderson, assistant director of Learning Services at the Morgan Academic Center.

In the past, managing the ICA Mobile Technology Program involved the loading and configuring of each device and was a laborious process. A year ago, that changed when Intercollegiate Athletics became the first — and now the largest — customer of the Penn State Mobile Device Management (MDM) service.

The MDM service, offered by Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), allows any Penn State IT unit to centrally manage their University-owned devices that run on Apple’s iOS platform, including iPads and iPhones.

“Initially, when we launched the program for 800+ student-athletes, we used a technology that allowed us to configure only 20 devices at a time,” said Adam Stover, programmer/analyst, who works with Anderson. “Now, with the MDM service, devices are recognized as owned by Penn State Athletics, and the MDM service automatically configures and installs all the appropriate links and apps identified by the committee. The MDM service has been a huge time saver for managing these devices.”

students sit in auditorium with iPads in laps

The students learn more about their iPads after taking them out of the box. Photo by Cheryl Anderson.

Stover said when the student-athletes first receive and turn on their iPads, they are automatically directed to the MDM server, pick up the configuration profile, and install all of the initial apps.

“We do not have to touch the devices to configure them anymore. The only handling is to affix an asset tag identifying the device as Penn State Athletics property,” explained Stover.

If Anderson or the committee identifies a website link or app that would be useful to student-athletes after the devices have been distributed, Stover can push that link or app out to all the devices through the MDM service.

In addition to assisting with the configuration of devices, the MDM service also helps track lost or stolen devices and enhances security. “We recovered one device all the way from Israel and ended up getting it back,” said Stover. “Without the MDM server, the device would probably never have been recovered.”

Gretchen Kuwahara, a systems administrator in TLT who oversees the MDM service, said, “We provide the tools so units can focus on their users and not worry about infrastructure.”

As of fall 2017, 19 Penn State units with about 884 devices are now enrolled in the MDM service, including the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and Student Affairs. About 600 of those are in students’ hands or are used by students.

“We’re primarily focusing on devices that get in the hands of students and our faculty and help enable learning,” said Kuwahara.

Any units interested in learning more about the service offered by TLT should visit http://sites.psu.edu/psumdm/ for information.

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