Apple Classroom with and without MDM

It used to be that one of the requirements of Apple Classroom was an MDM and a sync to Apple School Manager for updated class rosters.

Well, those days are gone. There are now a few different ways to launch Apple Classroom. It’s important to understand the options because there are some key differences to the way the platform runs depending on which method you use.

Apple Classroom and MDM

When you set up Apple Classroom through the MDM, classrooms are defined and set up through the MDM as admin-created classes. This happens by syncing the MDM with Apple School Manager (ASM) or a third-party service like Clever. Regardless, the MDM is building class lists and placing students in them and then sending that information to Apple Classroom. When used this way, the MDM sends the Apple Classroom app to the teacher, and once the teacher clicks the app, the classes appear with the students rostered. No further setup is required. In this model, the teacher has full capability of Apple Classroom. iPads can be remotely locked; apps can be opened; screens can be monitored; etc.

  • This depends on MDM, as they differ from setup to setup and roster alignment. Also, depends if you’re authenticating on your MDM with Active Directory. There are several MDM’s that ask you to map your local/authenticated MDM user with their Apple ID account.

Apple Classroom without an MDM

If you’re in a BYOD environment, or just don’t have an MDM, you can manually configure Apple Classroom. The teacher downloads the Classroom app, creates a class, and then shares a code with students (who must be within Bluetooth range). Devices running iOS 10.3 or higher will see the invite, and a Classroom function will be added in their Settings. Once the students add the code, they get to decide how much access the teacher has to the device. For both “Lock Apps and Device” and “AirPlay and View Screen” the student can decide between Ask, Always, and Never. The default for both is Ask, which means the teacher is requesting permission before managing the device. With an MDM, this option is not available, giving the teacher full control.

  • By far the easiest setup, but labor intensive. Teacher, TOSA or Technology Specialist will need to click and agree to 3-4 permission screens and name the student iPads. Once configured they are good to go until a student decides to remove the “Education Profile” or wipe the device.

Apple Classroom with an MDM but without Apple Classroom Setup

Have an MDM, but your IT Department is not using Apple School Manager or hasn’t configured the Classroom App? That’s okay. You can set up Apple Classroom following the BYOD environment setup. However, if the iPad is supervised with the MDM, you can set, configure, or force the “Join Classes,” “Lock Apps and Device,” and “AirPlay and View Screen” settings for teacher-created classes to match the behavior of admin-created classes.

  • This model is the most challenging to work with because some feature sets are enabled for those supervised devices and not for the others who are BYO. Ideally, you can use this model to pitch your IT department to work with you to scale to the managed, MDM version of Apple Classroom!

Choose Wisely

It’s important to note that you can’t run both managed and unmanaged classes in the same environment. If the MDM is set up to configure Apple Classroom, you can only use the classes it provides for you. You can group students within the classroom however you’d like, but you can’t add a new class. This is a bummer for teachers that run after-school clubs, or flexibly move students between classes throughout the semester.

  • A big possibility to support afterschool clubs and non-SIS rostered courses is to use Apple School Manager and add a course.You can add a location, teacher, and students manually and support these afterschool environments.
  • Another possibility is to roster your afterschool clubs and make sure you set those course/sections to not collect ADA or count towards state reporting. This way you can roster through Apple School Manager or Clever (whichever supporting efforts your environment requires)

Apple Classroom 2.1

If you haven’t heard, Apple added new features to Classroom with 2.1. There is now an ability to see a summary of student activity. This allows the teacher to see how the student used the device during the class session. Could be useful if you need to check on why a child is not completing class work during the provided time. Apple also added the ability to drag and drop URLs and documents to share. This is a nice time-saver!

Honestly, I think Apple Classroom is one of the best features Apple has provided for the educator market in quite some time. Yes, Bluetooth must be on for it to work, and this does reduce battery life. And yes, devices must be on the same wifi so some teachers will have to toggle between teacher and student wifi SSIDs. But to me, it’s well worth the effort to get this configured in every teacher’s classroom. It’s a classroom management and lesson delivery game changer.

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