How to Manage Device Lending Program Returns During a Pandemic
As the school year comes to a close, classroom teachers and librarians routinely collect books, coaches scramble to get team uniforms and other equipment returned, and schools with device lending programs check in devices, chargers, and other equipment. When the year ends during a pandemic, all of these collections become more difficult.
Regardless of your school district’s decisions about extending device loans through the summertime, you will need to collect devices from at least some of your students who may be graduating from your schools, leaving the district, or transitioning from one school to another.
1 | DETERMINE WHO NEEDS TO RETURN A DEVICE
At the minimum, school districts can identify students who are graduating and will not return to school in the fall. Beyond that cohort, some school districts allow some or all students to keep devices for the summer term for a variety of reasons:
1) to support students attending summer school programs,
2) students are required to complete summer reading and other assignments (common in secondary grade levels), or
3) ease of management.
Allowing students to keep devices over the summer for ease of management may seem counterintuitive, but if your school district has a mobile device management system in place, your IT department’s capacity to push updates and track the whereabouts of devices is very sophisticated. In most instances, summer collections are done in order to provide an eyes-on inventory, but otherwise device updates no longer require physical possession of devices.
It’s common for students to return devices for the summer, but many school districts are contemplating plans for the fall that include the possibility of starting school with primarily remote learning. School districts should consider if the process of collection, disinfecting, storing, then redeploying is worth the effort.
2 | SET UP YOUR INVENTORY MANAGEMENT
The process you have already established to provide technical support for equipment that needs repair can help you determine your larger collection process. School districts should consider whether or not that process is scalable to accommodate the number of devices you have deployed.
If your technical support intake process needs to be adjusted to accommodate the scale of your device collection needs, a staged collection approach will help mitigate volume challenges and offer you an opportunity to adjust the process if needed.
Maintaining accurate inventories during the collection process can be challenging if handling of equipment is kept at a minimum to maintain health and safety precautions. Devices, even if they lack a conspicuous asset tag, have serial numbers that can be inventoried at a later date when handling the devices is considered safe. Cases and power adapters may be more problematic. School districts will need a method to record equipment that is not as easily tracked and students will need to be credited for the return. If possible, provide students and their families with an acknowledgement of the return. It can be as simple as taking a photo with a phone of the student holding the equipment at your collection event and sending the family a copy.
3 | HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
While it might seem intuitive to ask families to clean devices before returning them, common practice for technical support incidents has been that families are specifically asked not to disinfect devices and other equipment. This eliminates the chances a family will accidentally harm a device by using harsh chemicals that might damage the screen or casing, and avoids liquid spill incidents. Inform families about their role to mitigate well-intentioned, but ultimately equipment damaging device disinfection attempts. Your staff should set up cleaning procedures for all devices and accessories. Follow the guidelines of the CDC or your state government, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning of surfaces.
4 | MAKE IMPLEMENTATION EASIER
Consider whether the collection of technology equipment should be done together with other school assets like books and sports equipment or separately. At the very least, school districts should also consider concurrent collections at different school sites or different locations at a large school site to simplify the process for families.
You’ll also want to prepare communications to your students and families to inform them of what, when, where, and how to return the equipment including reminders about how to maintain health and safety precautions for themselves, school personnel, and the equipment.
Revisit your technical support intake process in light of the size of your collection to determine scalability.