Distance Learning and Chromebooks – Managing Device Returns and Preparing for Next Year

July 15, 2020

This past spring, many schools and districts found themselves suddenly trying to figure out how to quickly distribute Chromebooks to students as schools were quickly shutting their doors to in-person instruction. Distance learning dealt schools a wide range of challenges, and the shift from shared, cart-based, or even 1-to-1 devices to a new normal of predominantly take-home devices was one of the biggest hurdles that districts faced. Irvine Unified School District is one of many districts that met this challenge head-on, distributing around 6,000 Chromebooks to students without devices at home. 

Before COVID-19, Irvine USD had a take-home device policy in one high school. In March they distributed devices across the district, many to students who had only used Chromebooks on shared carts within their school. With a day’s notice, Scott Bennett, Supervisor of Tech Support, coordinated the distribution of roughly 6,000 devices from their central office, using a Google Form to gather device serial numbers as they went out the door, unsure of how they’d reconcile these later in the admin console. That turned out to be all he needed, as he and his team were then able to easily load these serial numbers into Gopher for Chrome

Using Gopher for Chrome, the Irvine USD Tech Department was able to easily identify and move all of the devices out in the hands of students into an Emergency Distance Learning (EDL) OU, where the devices would receive policies and updates conducive to distance learning – like disabling guest mode – and updated web filtering. Loading the devices into Gopher for Chrome also served as data validation, as techs reading tiny serial numbers may have mistaken 0’s for O’s and mistyped them in the collection form. Scott’s team was able to quickly isolate and resolve these issues and get these devices updated, too. 

In early June, Irvine USD coordinated device returns at 8 school sites, employing the same process from device distribution. Scott noted “without Gopher for Chrome.” They would have had to ship all the devices back to their central office and then process them.” Instead, techs at each site scanned the devices into a Sheet, and they once again used Gopher for Chrome to figure out where the devices belonged and get them updated. They were also able to easily identify those devices that had not yet been returned, as they were still in the EDL OU – Scott then set a custom wallpaper to let users know the due date for returning rogue devices. 

While some devices are still out to students in Summer School, Scott’s team is now grappling with what the 20-21 school year will look like. Will the district return to in-person instruction, remain virtual, or a hybrid of the two? With a process already in place to manage distance learning, Scott is planning to be ready for whichever scenario plays out. Irvine USD is on track to grow their Chromebook fleet to 40,000 devices, with the aim of avoiding device sharing and moving right into completely 1-to1 for all students. Gopher for Chrome has also helped in this process – letting Scott see where devices are currently distributed, which ones will need to be replaced before next year, and where they most need to allocate their new Chromebooks. “I don’t know how we would have done this project without Gopher for Chrome,” Scott says. 

For districts facing similar challenges this summer and preparing for next year, we at Amplified IT hope that our tools will enable your team to save time and headaches, like Irvine USD. Gopher for Chrome and most of our other tools have a full-feature 30-day trial period – feel free to check them out for yourself!

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  • Melanie Long
    Customer Success Manager

  • About the Author:

    Melanie lives in Virginia and is based in Amplified IT’s home office located in Norfolk. One of the first members to join the Amplified IT team, Melanie has worn many hats at the company.  She most enjoys interfacing with customers and helping them implement tools that solve common pain points and frustrations. Today she leads the onboarding and interfacing with Labs tool clients, making lives easier and breezier one implementation at a time.