Emporia Public Schools saves hours of time by using zero-touch enrollment to provision Chromebooks

10 years of experience with Google Workspace for Education

Emporia USD’s mission is to prepare its students for the opportunities of tomorrow. With that in mind, the district began using Workspace for Education way back in 2010. “I’ve had a chance to see Google’s offerings grow and evolve,” says Paul Beadles, the district’s Director of IT Operations. “They’ve been truly transformational for us in so many ways.”

By 2020, the district’s students, as well as teachers and staff, were all using Workspace for Education, with a 1:1 device deployment for students from kindergarten through 12 grade. “Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, we upgraded from Workspace for Education Fundamentals to Workspace for Education Plus,” Beadles explains. “With the extra features in Google Meet, and the power of the Admin console, it was a no-brainer for us.”

Streamlining the provisioning of new Chromebooks

During the summer of 2020, the district decided to buy about 75 new Chromebooks, mostly for teacher aides and parents assisting their children with remote learning. At that time, students would soon be returning to a mix of onsite and remote learning, depending on grade level; for example, secondary school students had the option for full-time remote study, or a hybrid of onsite and remote learning.

The acquisition of new Chromebooks was exciting—but Beadles’ excitement over new devices was tempered. He knew that before students could log on and start working, his 11-person IT operation team and several student volunteers would have to spend time unboxing, enrolling, and reboxing the Chromebooks that showed up at district offices on large shipping pallets.

“We looked into some alternatives to help out with this process,” Beadles says. “But the typical white-glove service isn’t affordable for us, and just not practical for our number of devices. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a headache.”

For example, during previous large Chromebook deployments, the district’s entire IT support team had to set aside other projects for as long as two weeks, since all hands were needed to enroll the new devices. Even after the Chromebooks were distributed to students, the IT team had to devote time to fixes, such as pushing out assistive technology apps for students who needed them.

“It was a lot of work, and it consumed so many resources that it caused effects on the other work we needed to do in our department,” Beadles says.

Zero-touch enrollment eliminates manual provisioning process

“Right around the time that we were getting ready to place our order, I saw an email about zero-touch enrollment,” says Beadles.

With zero-touch enrollment, or ZTE, school districts can allow their technology partners to automatically enroll a Chrome device into a school’s domain after a Chromebook is turned on and connected to the internet. In this way, school IT teams can skip the time-consuming manual processes of unboxing Chromebooks, connecting them to the internet, then entering enrollment credentials. Once students receive their Chromebooks, they only need to log in with their user credentials to start working.

“A light went on in my head,” recalls Beadles about hearing of ZTE via a marketing email from CTL, the district’s technology partner. “We thought that this could be the answer to our unboxing and enrollment dilemma.” Beadles asked CTL to become the district’s technology partner and help out with the ZTE deployment.

The ZTE process is very simple. Beadles and his colleagues generate pre-provisioning tokens from within Admin Console; using those tokens, CTL can then pre-provision each Chromebook before it’s boxed and shipped to the school district.

“Even before the devices arrive, they start showing up in my Admin console, so I can start grouping and assigning them right away,” says Beadles. He can also confirm that specific devices have the necessary apps, like assistive technology tools—saving time in collecting and configuring Chromebooks that might not have had these apps available.

Time saved goes into other important IT projects

The ZTE process has allowed Beadles and his staff to remain focused on their other responsibilities, including some that are inevitably placed on the back burner by the busy IT operations team.

“With all that time we saved, we were able to perform overdue maintenance, like cleaning projectors and staff devices,” says Beadles. “And with ZTE, we never have to worry about cross-checking device enrollment. So that’s one less thing on our plates.”

He and his IT operations staff are also looking forward to the summer of 2021, when they’ll likely use ZTE again for any new Chromebooks purchased for students.

With ZTE, I no longer have to block out two solid weeks over the summer just to set up and enroll our new Chromebooks. Google has designed the process to be easy, and it is. It just works.

Paul Beadles, Director of IT Operations, Emporia Public Schools

What they wanted to do

  • Reduce time spent on manual and time-consuming device deployments
  • Eliminate errors like forgetting to configure Chromebooks with assistive learning apps

What they did

  • Adopted zero-touch enrollment to allow CTL to provision 75 new Chromebooks

What happened

  • Saved hours of time that used to spent on device enrollment and provisioning
  • Used that extra time to focus on other projects such as hardware maintenance