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In-house 'app stores' ease tablet-management woes

Bob Violino | April 13, 2011
Although this level of control isn't for everyone, it does help keep a lid on chaos and support woes.

"We believe that employees will select apps that make them more productive, or their work lives easier," says Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT at Marist. "It clearly fosters creativity. And the IT department does not want to be the app police. We are likely to miss great apps if we block innovation, from wherever it may come."

Should an application appear that's harmful to the college's network or is out of line with policies or in some way breaks the law, officials will block it from being downloaded or moved around via college-owned networks. This is much like Marist blocks viruses to protect other network-attached devices. "If it was a policy violation by how the individual was using the app but the app was OK, then we would block the individual device from gaining network access," Thirsk says.

Bill Thirsk
Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT at Marist College, says, "The IT department does not want to be the app police. We are likely to miss great apps if we block innovation, from wherever it may come."

"We have not yet seen viruses in the iPad world but are aware of some creeping into the Android space," Thirsk says. "We suspect that whenever there is a new platform, there will be new malware or other threats."

Further, students "must also abide by our network acceptable-use policy," Thirsk says. Students have access to an iPad app called Marist College Television. "If an episode was aired under the Marist brand where a person exhibited behavior in violation of the rules of student conduct or used copyrighted materials not authorized, or in some other way violated network acceptable-use policy, then the student would be subject to discipline and the app or episode in the app would be removed after peer review and the judicial process."

The applications in use at Marist range from "convenience computing all the way to advanced courseware," Thirsk says. Some applications are specific to the college, such as campus maps and directories. Others, such as games the college considers "edutainment," are more generic.

Approximately 6% of the devices used on the college's network are tablets or handhelds and are owned by students. Most of them are iPads, with less than a dozen iPod Touches or Android devices. He has no way of knowing how many apps each tablet has on it.

"As the CIO of an educational institution dedicated to innovation, I must support faculty and students with just about any and all use cases that are presented," Thirsk says.


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