A Zero-touch Environment For Students

Is the Promise of Zero Touch for K-12 Possible?

05.05.20 by Dean Norton, Director of Service Delivery, Macpros Practice, All Covered

What exactly is zero-touch?

“Zero-touch” describes a collection of technologies and methodologies from major endpoint computing companies including Microsoft, Google, and Apple. When configured properly, zero-touch will allow students and teachers to set up their own devices with the help of automation.

Intended to reduce end-user tasks and provide a ready-to-go out-of-box experience (OOBE), zero-touch requires IT setup, testing, and management to ensure the OOBE conforms to the designed experience.

Zero-touch is winning hearts and minds in the business world where mass deployment on the order of hundreds or thousands of devices is uncommon. In K-12 environments, where 1:1 computing is common for large student populations, zero-touch deployment does not always deliver as expected. Let’s explore the gaps and strategies to close them.

Technology that makes Zero-Touch a possibility

For Apple macOS and iOS, zero-touch depends on a mobile device management solution (MDM) solution, such as Jamf School or Mosyle. In 2010, with the release of iOS 4, Apple debuted basic device management features and as over-the-air (OTA) enrollment. Since then, Apple has been steadily expanding its MDM reference. The combination of MDM and Apple School Manager now provides a robust and modern zero-touch toolset.

For Android devices purchased from a zero-touch reseller, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions such as VMware WorkspaceONE/Airwatch, Cisco Meraki, and others, combined with Google Accounts, enable the streamlined OOBE. Modern versions of the OS are required (Android Oreo 8.0) and not every Android device is compatible with zero-touch, but Google offers an extensive list.

To some extent, zero-touch has always been part of the intended Chrome OS experience. And with a provisioned payload that is typically far more modest than iPads or computers, Chromebooks became popular not just due to a disruptive cost model, but for ease of deployment. All the up-front pre-configuration happens in the Google Chrome Management Console.

Microsoft support zero-touch deployment on Windows devices using Windows Autopilot. Autopilot relies on Azure AD, or a hybrid Active Directory/Azure setup in combination with an MDM solution. Microsoft is leaning hard into Intune for this, but third-party MDMs such as Airwatch and MobileIron also offer support. Autopilot requires Windows 10 1703 at a minimum.

Zero-touch: what doesn’t work for K-12?

Even after procurement, configuration design, pre-configuration, testing, and the asset management tasks that are required to support teaching and learning objectives, school district IT teams run into problems with zero-touch.

  • Lack of expertise: Some teams lack experience with system setup and management best practices. For others, the size of the school IT staff presents its own limitations for scaled deployments.
  • Takes too much time: Even with expertise and people power, time constraints often become a blocking issue as education IT directors try to balance other summer projects, building access, and the return to school date.
  • Space constraints: Large volume deployments can also have extensive space and network requirements.

Moreover, the use of curriculum mobile carts presents their own unique set of tasks. Zero-touch deployment offers no solutions for any of these challenges.

Beyond these fundamental challenges, scaled K-12 deployments also must grapple with these tasks:

  • Installation of cases
  • Asset tagging and association of asset tag and device info
  • Large payloads the District would like ready-to-go
  • Distribution to multiple sites
  • Recovery and disposition of legacy technology
  • Staff data migrations

Will Zero-Touch Work for Us? Questions to Ask Yourself

Preparation is critical to the seamless deployment of a large number of devices. Here are some questions to ask yourself—even before you have your devices in hand—to lay the groundwork for your deployment:

  • Process – Is our process ready and tested? Do we know the steps that users will take on each device?
  • Wi-Fi Capacity – Can our network handle all these devices joining at once and downloading software?
  • Wi-Fi Coverage – Is our Wi-Fi ready for this number of new devices?
  • Bandwidth – Do we have adequate Internet bandwidth?
  • Space – Do we have the space to receive this equipment and stage it?
  • Power – Do we have the electrical requirements to power and charge devices while we configure them?
  • People Power – Do we have the people to unbox and prepare devices for a handout?
  • Next year – After our initial handout what is our plan for collection and redistribution for the next year?

All Covered can help

All Covered is very efficient at this at the space-intensive and time-intensive workflows required to deploy devices at scale. We do this work all the time, not just periodically, we’re your consultative experts With All Covered’s deployment team assisting, K-12 IT teams can stay focused on the technology-curriculum intersection and not get bogged down in assembly-line tasks. Our engineering team helps overcome problems with existing images, older workflows, and more.

Our Deployment Services for K-12 can include:

  • Device procurement (except Apple)
  • Imaging, configuration, including AD binding
  • OU assignment and BIOS automation and testing
  • Google Chrome Management Console or MDM pre-configuration and enrollment
  • Application and content installation
  • Asset tagging and reporting including
  • Custom device naming
  • Case installation
  • Additional labels (e.g., student name, teacher name)
  • Large-format laser engraving
  • Factory DOA resolution
  • Onsite deployment
  • Run-rate fulfillment programs with custom kitting and packaging
  • Onsite recovery, return, or recycling of legacy devices
  • Project management

What does “at scale” really mean?

Our 30,000 square foot configuration center can produce 2,000 devices per day. All devices are stored in a climate-controlled, securely monitored, and insured facility

We’ve deployed over one million devices for our customers, and we can ship to locations anywhere in the U.S.

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