Bring your own device

For the past 2 months we’ve been operating under a bringyourowndevice (BYOD) policy in one of the modules I’m co-ordinating. Actually, it’s the module that I’m evaluating for my PhD, and the BYOD policy is just one component of a completely restructured approach to the curriculum.

Some background: Physiotherapy students work to solve clinical problems (in the form of cases) in small groups. They set their own learning objectives related to management of the patient in the case, and have to do basic research after identifying gaps in their knowledge around the case. They work in Google Docs to collaboratively develop case notes based on their research, and we (the facilitators) provide feedback on Docs to help guide students towards developing a reliable set of notes.

We had to make sure that we had reliable wi-fi in all the venues we’re using, which meant having a router installed in someone’s office to make sure that we had the coverage we needed. We knew that we’d never be able to provide the devices for the students, so we told them that, in addition to using the recommended textbooks for the module, we’re encouraging them to bring whatever devices they own, to use in class.

So far it seems to be working well. Students began the module by setting group norms, one of which (we were surprised to see) was that students using the devices had to be using it for the benefit of the group. We’ve had cases where group members have asked their peers to get off Facebook / stop SMS’ing and start researching. We don’t police the students and trust that they’re using the devices to advance their groups understanding of the case. We also see them updating their case notes during the class, and setting each other homework tasks.

I’m going to be including a few questions around our BYOD policy in the focus groups I’ll be running in a week or so, and will comment on the results here.