Friday 25 May 2018

Off Hours Device Profiles - A First Look.

The rumour that Google planned to support Off Hours device profiles for Chromebooks has been around for a while. An earlier post proposed how they might be used to support a Bring Your Own Chromebook (BYOC) policy for schools.

The basic idea was that a student could purchase a Chromebook and then use it in school operating under a security profile, only to revert back to a standard consumer device after 4 PM.  The benefits seemed to be obvious but the details were a bit vague because nine months ago scheduled device profiles didn’t exist - but they do now.

This post gives a brief description of how they work. As with most things Google it’s a simple idea that's been well implemented and the implications for future 1:1 programs could be significant.

The setting is found in the the Chromebook device area of the admin console in a new Off Hours policy.

The information required is pretty straightforward, the time zone for the schedule followed by a series of ON - OFF times.

In this example the policy is set to operate between 7:00 AM and 12:00 PM every Friday.

The dialog informs you that once set “some sign-in restrictions won’t apply”. The wording of the policy is a bit vague and the effect is not immediately obvious because, after saving the policy and rebooting, the Chromebook shows no change at all. Even though the policy should apply according to the time frame the user is still limited to organizational accounts only.

The change is only apparent after the organizational user logs on and then signs out which is a really nice feature. Effectively the Chromebook will only relax the security profile after being authenticated by a organisational account. Therefore if the Chromebook is left on the bus it’s not going to allow Guest Mode after 4 PM just because the policy applies at that time.

However after the organizational user signs in and out, it’s all change.

The organizational account requirement is lifted, guest mode is enabled and the user can log in with a standard consumer account.

Once logged in it's clear that the user session is set by a timer that's controlled by the Off Hours policy. In this case after 1 hour 50 minutes the session will terminate regardless of any internet access. Once the time is up it's goodbye Facebook and back to school for you !

So there you are, Off Hours device profiles. A very simple idea that provides a whole new way of putting Chromebooks into schools and no other client technology can do this.

Game changer is an overused term but in this case I'm not so sure.

Note: tested on a Chromebook running Beta V67.0.3396.57.

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