BYOD - Bring Your Own Device

BYOD in Europe and around the world

It has been observed in a report published by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) (Shuler et al, 2013) that, "Globally, two of the most popular models for mobile learning in schools are one-to-one (1:1) programmes, through which all students are supplied with their own device at no cost to the learners or their families; and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives, which rely on the prevalence of learner-owned devices, with schools supplying or subsidizing devices for students who cannot afford them"< and, "As might be expected, the 1:1 model tends to be more common in poorer countries and regions, while the BYOD strategy is usually implemented in wealthier communities where mobile device ownership among young people is nearly ubiquitous".

However, use of students' own devices for learning is seen in many developing countries in situations where there is little or no state provision in schools and for informal learning outside of school.


The Survey of Schools: ICT in education published in April 2013, funded by the European Commission Directorate General Information Society and Media and undertaken by European Schoolnet and the University of Liège, found that, "the ratio at grade 11 vocational is three and at grade 8 five students per computer. In some countries (e.g. Norway) the survey indicates that there is system-wide 1:1 computing and in others it is clear that student-computer ratios are no longer a handicap, but this is by no means universal in Europe" and, "In addition to school provision of laptops, increasing percentages of students are allowed to, and do, bring their own laptop and, to a lesser extent, mobile phone into school. This is particularly the case in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, but also to some extent in Portugal and Austria".

More recent research by European Schoolnet and its network of Ministries of Education, in partnership with Cisco Systems in late 2014 found that BYOD, "is becoming more widespread [in European schools] and schools are developing policies that allow students and teachers to connect and use their own portable equipment (smartphone, tablet…) in school … in 75% of [respondent] schools on average, with Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, Romania and Estonia in the lead in this respect" (Blamire & Colin, 2015).

However, "the percentage of schools that provide services beyond basic connectivity is … just 38%, with the highest percentages of schools in Denmark, Portugal and Sweden also providing services to support their BYOD policy".

The following chart from the survey report shows the breakdown by country for the 20 countries where the response rate was considered sufficient to draw meaningful conclusions.

In Europe the increasing interest in BYOD is driven by the high levels of mobile device ownership, including by school students, the ubiquity of public Wi-Fi, high levels of fast home broadband and increasing availability of 3G and 4G mobile internet as well as by reductions in, or tighter control of, public spending on education resulting from the recent economic crisis and governments' austerity policies.

In some countries BYOD pilots or implementations are top down initiatives. Examples quoted in Ambient Insight's "2012-2017 Western Europe Mobile Learning Market" report (Adkins S, 2013) include Belgium, where the Flemish Government has launched BYOD in 30 schools to be, "test beds for new pedagogical practices such as gaming, tablet computing, and the educational use of mobile phones" and Denmark where government encouragement has resulted in over two-thirds of schools adopting BYOD. In other countries government policies require, or are having the effect of encouraging, more use of computers in schools. For example, the Italian and Finnish governments aim to digitise all school text books and the Finnish Government has decided to digitise the matriculation examinations taken by all upper secondary students. These policies have led to consideration of BYOD as a potentially more sustainable funding model than national, regional or school level procurement and replacement of computers. In the UK, Estonia and Portugal government initiatives have previously promoted, encouraged and provided funding to increase the use of computers or mobile devices in schools and colleges. Now that this funding is no longer available, schools need to consider alternative ways of continuing with technology enhanced learning.

Some European governments, or government supported national advisory organisations, have carried out research and produced advice for schools on BYOD. The Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education commissioned a review of BYOD in Norway in 2013 and in Ireland PDST (Professional Development Service for Teachers) Technology in Education, which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES), has produced BYOD advice for schools (2014). Government policies, or the prevailing culture, in some countries has slowed down or has the potential to slow down BYOD adoption. In Portugal it is currently against the law for students to use mobile phones in school unless permission is obtained for an educational project that requires this. In some countries, notably Scandinavian countries, many educators are concerned that BYOD may act against a general principle that education is provided free of charge. 


It has been estimated that up to one-third of all Australian schools encourage students to bring their own digital devices (BYOD). Softlink, which carried out the 2013 Australian School Library Survey, conclude that "students want to learn using the technology they know and use at home and are driving schools to set a BYOD policy" and note that, "In the past 12 months we have seen many large multi-site jurisdictions upgrade their school networks with the latest technologies to support 21st century eLearning and improve access to resources through modern digital devices. This will accelerate in the coming years." Tim Lohman, writing for the business technology news website ZDNet (Lohman 2013) in September 2013, predicted "The cessation of the previous Australian government's laptops in schools program is likely to see the mass adoption of bring your own device (BYOD) programs by schools as they seek to shift the cost of purchasing and maintaining iPads and laptop PCs from the government to parents". In November 2013, following research including a literature review (Stavert 2013), the New South Wales (NSW) Education and Communities department published a "Student Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy" for schools and "Student Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Implementation Guidelines" (NSW, 2013).


The Canadian province of Alberta's Ministry of Education has published a BYOD guide for schools (Alberta Education, 2012) which states that schools in Alberta have been exploring BYOD for more than five years and that "schools that are currently using a BYOD model were typically those that piloted one-to-one laptop learning and found it of value". Under the heading "Bring Your Own Device - A Vision for Education in Alberta", the guide notes, "…for many school authorities BYOD models represent a viable strategy for achieving access immediately, in order to meet students learning needs". Research in 2012 and 2013 explored the extent of BYOD policy making and implementation in all Canadian states. British Columbia was found to have an Education Plan (2013) including implementation of BYOD in all school districts and this implementation was underway despite opposition by the British Columbia Teacher's Federation which believed the policy to be "inconsistent with the founding principle of public education".


As education in the USA is organised at district level it is difficult to gain a nationwide, or even state-wide, picture of the current situation. However, an increasing number of districts are deploying mobile devices in schools with some of these implementing BYOD policies. US mobile learning experts Norris and Soloway observed in 2011 that for a variety of reasons, "examples of successful BYOD initiatives, particularly in primary and secondary institutions, are limited. However, as sophisticated mobile technologies become increasingly accessible and affordable, BYOD may form a central component of mobile learning projects in the future". Indeed they predicted, optimistically, that by 2015, "each and every student in America's K12 public school system will have a mobile device to use for curricular purposes, 24/7. For the majority of schools, one-to-one will be achieved because they will have adopted a BYOD policy: Bring your own device. Schools simply can't afford to buy a computing device for every student".

Currently there are many examples of US schools which have implemented 1:1 computing, many through school or district funded tablet initiatives and an increasing number using BYOD. The authors of the Project Tomorrow's Speak Up 2012 survey noted that, "Given the budget realities – with 74 percent reporting that they have smaller technology budgets than they had five years ago – administrators are re-thinking their opposition to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach and districts who are piloting such a program increasing by 47 percent in just one year. When asked in 2010 if they would allow their students to use their own devices at school for academic purposes, only 22 percent of principals said that was likely, 63 percent said it was unlikely for their school. Today, more than a third of principals (36 percent) say that a new BYOD policy for students is likely. The opposing view has now dropped to 41 percent. At the district level, an even more dramatic shift has taken place in the views of administrators on these BYOD policies. In 2011, 52 percent of district administrators said that they did not allow students to use their own mobile devices at school. This year, only 35 percent are still holding on to that district wide policy statement, with 32 percent saying that the use of student owned devices should now be at the discretion of the classroom teacher".

A survey of more than 500 IT professionals, from colleges, universities and K-12 school districts across the USA and the UK (Bradford Networks, 2013) found that, "There is wide acceptance for at least some level of BYOD across all educational institutions. More than 85 percent of institutions surveyed allow some form of BYOD, and only 6 percent report no plans to implement it in the future". However, only 26% of the sample was made up of K-12 schools.