Use of Mobile Devices at Work and in Education: Safeguard your Business, Employees and Learners

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It is well documented through the results of surveys that the use of technology for the delivery of learning, and making efficiencies in business, is increasing year on year, both in the UK and around the world. In the 2012 US report “Organisations Continue to Invest in Workplace Learning” by ASTD, the delivery of learning through technology had more than doubled since 2000 from 18% to 37%. The 2012-2013 Towards Maturity report highlighted an increase in the number of companies using rapid application development tools, enterprise wide information services, user generated content, mobile devices and virtual meetings. I ‘m sure that this trend is likely to increase in the next few years as we lift ourselves out of recession and more organisations feel comfortable investing in new and updated technology.

What I find really interesting is the change that is going on in the workplace with employer approaches to employees using their own mobile devices in work. The latest Towards Maturity report showed that 30% of organisations are encouraging individuals to use their own devices to access learning opportunities and 31% are providing learners with mobile devices. Since this report there has been a lot more published about the growing trend in BYOD, bring your own device, in the fields of education and in the workplace. However, I can’t help feeling that although anything that provides improved opportunities and accessibility to learning must be applauded, and of course mobile devices bring so many advantages, that the full implications of BYOD, particularly in the workplace, have not been fully considered and policies are not always in place to protect the organisation and individuals.

Offices are being set up in all sorts of places due to the availability of an internet connection, whether it is in the car, a coffee shop or service station. In a recent Axispoint survey of 1,000 US consumers 90% of workers said they use their own smart phones for work. Just 46% say that their companies are adequately prepared for security problems that can arise from BYOD. At the very least an employer and training organisation making use of employees and learners own devices should be giving advice on mobile device security. It becomes even more important with the increase in the use of cloud storage and applications, making access to information quick and easy anywhere and at any time, particularly when individuals are accessing and downloading confidential information using mobile devices.

As educators we are fully aware of the challenges around the use of technology in the classroom, whether using the organisations or the individuals’ devices, but how many teachers and managers have the knowledge to fully inform and safeguard their employees and learners as well as the organisation’s information. For many years I have been advocating the teaching of online safety, rather than locking down systems so that there’s no risk to the organisation or individuals. My argument is when a child wants to cross the road we don’t say it’s too dangerous so don’t cross the road, we educate them of the dangers and the safe way to cross. When these individuals leave the organisation’s building they will of course do the things they’re prohibited to do on site, but they could be doing it without a good understanding of the risk they pose to themselves and their employer or training organisation.

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