- Endpoint management solution required to manage 1,300 iPads district-wide
- Meraki Systems Manager implemented to set up student profiles and push new apps
- Easily troubleshoot network issues from the AP to the device to the provider
Imagine a scenario where students can easily log onto a school-issued iPad, find the appropriate application, and start their digital lesson, with no iPad lockouts, no access to distracting websites, and no instruction time wasted.
With patience, will-power, and tenacity, the team at Moreland School District was able to make this scenario a reality for their students. Over 4,800 students attend one of four elementary schools, two K-8 schools, and one middle school located in Santa Clara County, CA. As part of the district’s digital learning initiative, students from TK-kindergarten to second grade have access to school-owned iPads, while students from third to eighth grade use school-owned Chromebooks.
With Meraki Systems Manager deployed district-wide, students can focus on learning and teachers can focus on implementing new curriculum, with continuous access to wireless connections and pre-configured devices. But it wasn’t always a harmonious experience; there was a time when the district’s iPad deployment was in disarray, which caused headaches for the IT team and interrupted instruction for both students and teachers.
84 Apple IDs Too Many
When Denis Guerrero joined Moreland School District (MSD) as Director of Technology, Dr. Mary Kay Going, the Superintendent, tasked him with finding a new way to manage their 1,300 district-wide iPads. Thinking this wouldn’t be too challenging of a task, he started looking into their current management process. To his dismay, he found a never-ending list of complications, challenging management practices, and unusable devices, spiraling into an iPad nightmare that he wasn’t sure how to handle.
There were 85 different Apple ID accounts associated with the district. Some were personal accounts, others district issued, leading to hundreds of locked iPads from lost passwords and unknown security question answers. On top of their day job, one teacher per school site was deemed the technology teacher, and given the responsibility of managing the iPads with Apple Configurator and purchasing apps with a variety of personal credit cards, gift cards, and vouchers. Not only did this decentralized process cause confusion for many schools, but there was no way to track what apps different schools were using, leading to duplicated efforts. Plus, different groups of students needed different apps for instruction, but there was no way to classify these groups and push out the appropriate apps.
Denis knew the district needed a solution that would streamline all of their Apple accounts into one, allow for zero-touch provisioning, and give them the ability to create different student profiles for easy app management. He researched several different endpoint management solutions, and because the district was already using Meraki wireless, being able to manage the iPads in the same cloud-based dashboard as their access points solidified his decision. The District decided to deploy Meraki Systems Manager to manage all of their iPads district-wide.
Meraki Systems Manager: Centralized Management for 1,300 iPads
After working to consolidate the 85 Apple accounts into one, enrolling all of their iPads onto the correct Device Enrollment Program (DEP) account, consolidating all of their gift cards and purchased app licenses, and registering all of their iPads with Apple School Manager, the district was finally ready to roll out Systems Manager.
To properly support all students and provide differentiated instruction, different profiles needed to be set up for general education, special education, and English Learners. Through the Meraki dashboard, Denis created new classroom profiles based on discussions with various departments and teacher feedback to insure the appropriate apps for each profile. After creating the first profile, he simply copied it, deleted the apps he didn’t need and added new apps, made other minor adjustments, and saved the new profile. This saved the technology department from having to start from scratch every time, so they could roll out the iPads faster and with more accuracy. The new iPad profiles provide a much more personalized learning experience for students, with the ability to truly control what apps certain groups of students can access.
Keeping apps up-to-date is also a huge advantage of Systems Manager. Denis explained, “One of the benefits of Systems Manager is the ability and ease of updating apps. The Meraki dashboard makes it a breeze.” This ensures there is no interruption in student learning and that students have the latest and greatest apps every time they use them.
To ensure that all of the school’s iPads remain onsite, the technology department set up geofencing rules to alert them if an iPad leaves its assigned school. A teacher accidentally took her classroom’s iPads to another school location, and the Technology Department was immediately notified that the iPads had left their intended area. Denis added, “That was a huge eye opener for us, how quickly we could identify what was going on with the iPads and track them down.”
With Systems Manager, MSD finally has a centralized process for requesting and pushing out new apps. To request a new app, teachers just fill out a Google form with the requested app, their school, and classroom type. Ed Services then reviews and approves the request and the IT team deploys the app to the appropriate profile. This has eliminated the need for the technology teacher to control apps for the school site, freeing up their time to help teachers learn new technology systems and integrate new apps into their curriculum.
We now centrally control the process for requesting apps. We have a form that teachers can fill out to request different apps. Then, Ed Services reviews, sends us the approval, and we move forward with deploying the apps to the specific profile. Normally, it takes a max of 5 minutes. - Denis Guerrero, Director of Technology, Moreland School DistrictAlthough Systems Manager works well as a standalone product, there are compelling integrations with other Meraki solutions. With one Meraki access point per classroom district-wide, the technology department realized several synergies between their wireless and endpoint management solutions. When there is a problem, technology department personnel can very easily troubleshoot to see if there is a network issue, iPad issue, or Apple issue. Denis explained, “We had a situation where apps weren’t getting pushed out. So we took a deeper look, drilled down from the access point to the iPad, and it turned out it wasn't an issue with the network, but a communication issue with Apple’s servers. So, instead of spinning our wheels trying to figure out if it was a network issue or the iPads, we could quickly pinpoint that there was a communication issue with Apple.”
For me, the interoperability is key. We knew the MDM would work seamlessly with the wireless APs and give us a level of detail we wouldn’t get if we had separate systems. - Denis Guerrero, Director of Technology, Moreland School District
More Time Learning, Less Time iPad Troubleshooting
With a streamlined iPad management solution and app requesting processes in place, teachers and students are experiencing vast improvements in the time dedicated to learning. There are now more apps available to students, with customizable views based on grade level and learning group. Teachers now have more time to focus on instruction, rather than on password resets a lack of access to the right curriculum.
To continue down their path to improve student learning, MSD plans replace 800 old iPad 2s with new iPad 5s. This would have been impossible previously, but with Systems Manager, the IT team can assign the new device serial number to the appropriate school and profile, connect the device to the Internet, and simply watch as apps, Wi-Fi settings, and profiles are automatically installed. Denis concluded, “Anything that deals with an iPad is now much more manageable than it was before. There is no longer the nightmare of many Apple IDs and password management; Systems Manager has streamlined so many processes for us, from how teachers request apps, to how they get deployed on a device. It has been automated to the greatest extent possible.”