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Bring your own device (BYOD)

Sector Snapshot Getting Started Next Steps Talk and Share

What is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)?
BYOD is an approach in which students (and staff) bring their smartphones tablets and other mobile devices into the learning environment.

Where did BYOD come from? 
Intel the computing technology company coined the phrase BYOD in 2009 when it introduced a policy to support and encourage employees to use their own devices and connect them to the corporate network (Intel 2012).

Other large organisations followed suit and articulated the benefit variously in terms of performance improvement productivity gains (e.g. French pharmaceutical company Sanofi) and the enhancement of organisational culture (e.g. Shell which emphasises BYOD as a move towards an open culture rather than a closed corporate environment).

Adoption of BYOD has been strongest across emerging markets (Brazil India Malaysia South Africa and UAE). Worldwide only 20% of those using their own devices in the workplace are doing so within a managed framework of organisational policy and guidance (Logicalis 2012) Within the higher education sector BYOD is forecast to have considerable impact; bridging the gap between formal and informal learning spaces and challenging the traditional role of the teacher (Sharples et al. 2014).

How does BYOD work? 
In higher education the BYOD movement is driven by the increasing numbers of students and staff who own mobile devices and the opportunity that this creates both to provide innovative blended learning and mLearning and to support the student experience on campus.

The technological challenges of the approach centre on the issues of security and legal compliance (protecting confidential data copyright e-safety anti-virus protection cloud storage) and network infrastructure (wifi coverage and reliability support for a range of devices sufficient charging points across campus) (Andrus 2014 JISC 2014). Concerns over a BYOD “digital divide” in which some students do not have access to the latest technologies have largely been solved by hybrid policies through which universities provide devices for those who cannot afford them (e.g. Sodertorn University Sweden). 

Sector snapshot

Where is BYOD currently being used and how? 
HEIs globally are upgrading their IT infrastructure to meet the demands of BYOD. Among these are King’s College London which has implemented a private cloud that enables its students to access a virtual desktop wherever they are in the world; Oxford University which has committed to an upgrade of their communications technology to enhance the opportunities of BYOD on over 100 000 devices across the university; and the University of Scranton in the US which has enabled access to virtual learning laboratories from BYOD devices. Some institutions have used their BYOD strategies to think broadly about designing a physical learning environment that will provide the flexible workspaces needed for mobile devices and which enhance student creativity and collaborative learning (e.g. University of Pittsburgh).

What are the potential benefits of BYOD?
Alongside the technical challenges of implementing BYOD there is a developing discourse on the pedagogical opportunities provided.

BYOD enables teachers to think creatively about the ways in which they design and deliver mLearning. Creative pedagogies such as connectivist and rhizomatic learning enabled by social media digital curation digital storytelling and augmented reality content are all possible within the flexible framework of mLearning. (Puentedura 2006 Cochrane et al. 2014).

This flexibility in which portable devices can be used anytime and anywhere to access learning materials and to participate in learning conversations facilitates the personalisation of the learning experience both from the perspective of the students and their faculty. Students use their personal learning networks (PLN) to develop understanding and self-direct their learning pathways; faculty can differentiate their use of media and tools to meet different needs. This array of pedagogical techniques enriches the blended learning process develops key digital competencies and straddle the formal and informal spaces that students and faculty increasingly use for teaching and learning.

Getting Started

How do I get started with BYOD?
Get started by using the SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification and Redefinition) framework to evaluate the technology you might use within your curriculum.

The model provides a scaffold for thinking about how the technology can be adopted in incremental steps resulting ultimately in “redefinition” or the creation of new and transformational learning experiences (Puentedura 2006). The below video narrated from the perspective of the student provides a useful introduction to the framework.



Reflect on the intersection between pedagogy and technology and consider how you might use digital or hybrid pedagogies to inform learning design.

What should I expect if I try this approach?
BYOD fundamentally changes the relationship between teacher and student by empowering learners to be self-directed and (at best) self-determined and to help learners with a spectrum of support - from direct instruction to facilitative challenge. Students and staff will have varying levels of digital fluency but the need to redesign learning which is underpinned by digital pedagogy and which maximises the benefits of BYOD is compelling. In this context the importance of recognising and acting on professional development needs is critical. This is as much a challenge for leadership as it is for faculty.

Not all learning spaces are designed to optimise the use of BYOD and there may be teething troubles as faculty test and incrementally improve their practice (e.g. reconfiguring learning materials so that they are usable on variously sized screens otherwise known as device-agnostic learning) and the learning spaces within which they work. Setting clear expectations around the use of BYOD in the classroom and implementing the approach within the framework of a digital learning contract can help minimise their use for reasons unrelated to the learning at hand.

Next Steps

Where can I learn more about BYOD?
The new HEA knowledge hub is a good place to start and offers various resources linked to BYOD and related content.

This interesting presentation explores the impact mobile devices have on learning in the classroom and considers whether students should have their ‘Lids up or Lids Down? ’

Listen to and join the BYOD conversation by following these hashtags on Twitter:


What other topics might I find interesting?

How else can the HEA support my professional development?
The UKPSF provides the framework for recording aspects of professional practice where Maker Culture could be included. Find out more about UKPSF.

Come to a HEA event to share your experiences with your peers – See

In your social media share your experiences of Maker Culture – you can tweet about it and include the #HEA to share it with those following the tag or perhaps you can submit a guest blog posting through us. See

Talk and share


The materials published on this page were originally created by the Higher Education Academy.