Deployment of Supplemental and Educational Apps in the Enterprise

The previous blog post focused on launching a mobile, browser-based learning solution from a Learning Management System (LMS). This post will discuss how the mobile app acts as both a tool for education and as a delivery method for simulators and supplementary resources. The team at OpenSketch has built and deployed these mobile apps for thousands of customers. Though there are pros and cons to this approach, deployment is one of the most important considerations.

Whether you are trying to deploy existing apps to supplement your education initiative, or you are building a custom app to provide education and/or send tin-can (xAPI) statements to a Learning Record Store (LRS), deployment is one of the biggest challenges. If an organization already utilizes and has deployed a Mobile Device Management System (MDM) this can be a huge advantage that can assist with the decision to utilize apps. The purpose of a MDM in the enterprise is usually for security reasons, but one of the valuable features of all of the major MDMs is the ability to "push" apps out to devices that are enrolled. This is certainly the preferred method as long as all of the users are already enrolled in the MDM. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, as many devices are no longer owned by the institution, but are personal.

Whether you are deploying via MDM or using code distribution (the other major enterprise deployment) Apple always requires that your institution be a member of the Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP). Enrollment is at the institution level so there is one account per Dun & Bradstreet number (DUNS Number). The application is located here: http://www.apple.com/business/vpp/

On the other hand, Android is much easier to work with. With Android, you can put a custom app on an Intranet site and deploy from there (More information here: http://developer.android.com/distribute/tools/open-distribution.html). Most organizations must deploy to Apple (iOS) devices so the biggest challenge can be having to play by Apple’s rules. Custom apps can be deployed from Apple’s VPP portal as a Business to Business (B2B) app. So, if you or your vendor is developing an enterprise custom app, it must be submitted to the Apple store as a B2B app, and then accessed through the Apple VPP portal for deployment. You must be a VPP Business account holder to be granted access to the B2B apps. VPP Education customers are not allowed, for some inexplicable reason, to access enterprise apps from Apple. The OpenSketch team worked with several educational institutions who had to sign up for an additional VPP account with Apple - using a different DUNS number, as many have multiple - and used that account for the deployment of the custom app.

Apple Custom App Distribution
Whiteboard sketch of Apple VPP Enterprise App Distribution

Once you have navigated the Apple VPP program it is fairly straightforward to connect into your MDM and start pushing out apps for generating "redemption codes". These redemption codes can be distributed to users and they will be able to utilize these codes to automatically download the app to their device. If the code distribution method is used you must decide how best to communicate those codes to your users.

OpenSketch has helped large clients stand up Intranet sites to help with this deployment process. These sites can validate targeted users, and display or email the appropriate code to them.

The team has also worked with clients who have emailed everyone in the target group with a mail merge of codes and a clickable link (like the following: https://buy.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZFinance.woa/wa/freeProductCodeWizard?code=THEUSERSCODE. Of course there are less technical options, like emailing or calling to receive instructions to access a code.

All of this can seem a little intimidating at first, but the portability and ease of use these mobile apps provide is something users really enjoy. The flexibility of learning has made mobile education a preferred way of learning. To make things even easier, the OpenSketch apps do not require an active Internet connection at all times. Additionally, the simulation or learning activity can be more responsive to the user if completely loaded on the device and not dependent on that connection. There are many advantages to loading all of the content into the app for offline use and caching LRS statements until the user is online.

One of the main reasons we see our clients and partners moving toward mobile learning, is because we live in a mobile world. Many users require the same experience from their learning that they get from other activities. Additionally it is a great way to engage them. Engaging a vendor that has deployed mobile apps elsewhere in the enterprise can also help get you rolling quicker. So give those on -the-go learners the ease of flexible education, and use mobile apps where it makes sense.

By John N Just, Ed.D – Senior Director, Custom Solutions & Technical Innovation at Open Sketch
Email: jjust@open-sketch.com
Follow John on Twitter: @johnjust
For more info on Tin-Can, click here: http://tincanapi.com/
For a discussion about how Open Sketch can help you with your next elearning initiative click here: http://open-sketch.com