The Guild has published a number of useful articles and papers that describe the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend rapidly overtaking the learning and development field. The purpose of our newest white paper—Understanding BYOD: A Guide to Concepts and Issues for Learning Practitioners—is to build on those resources and provide learning leaders and practitioners an updated guide to understanding current BYOD concepts and issues, with particular emphasis on how these impact learning and development leaders and practitioners.

An inescapable reality

In 2013, a landmark study by Cisco found that 90 percent of full-time workers in the United States used their personal smartphones for work purposes. The authors of the study went on to observe: “It’s a staggering finding that validates a trend industry experts have been debating for several years now: Bring Your Own Device or BYOD. The consumerization of this technology has given the modern worker enormous work flexibility, while giving IT departments substantial headaches.”

Many of us in the L&D field have tended to view these headaches around BYOD as largely a concern for the IT community and data security specialists. However, given the inescapable reality that much, if not most, of our learning content is now digitized and delivered over global networks through a wide variety of devices, we can no longer remain on the conceptual and policy-making sidelines of BYOD.

Some facts and predictions

Here are some basic facts, figures, and predictions regarding the use of BYOD within business and learning environments.

  • Gartner Research predicts that by 2018, more than 50 percent of users (read learners) will turn to a tablet or smartphone first for all online activities. 
  • A 2014 survey from Tech Pro Research revealed that 74 percent of organizations already allow employees to bring their own devices to work, or are at least planning for this to happen.
  • In a blog post for TechRepublic, Scott Matteson quotes Gartner research that predicts BYOD will become more of a requirement than a privilege. Matteson writes, “The days of employees bringing their iPhones and iPads into the office begging for them to be hooked up are over. In fact, if anything workers will start seeing companies requesting or even mandating that they use their own devices for company work.”
  • A 2015 post by Springwise, a research curator, does a good job of summarizing the topic, as follows:

“There are strong incentives for businesses to invest in employee-facing apps and encourage their workforce to use their own devices. But understanding and minimizing the … risks is pivotal for any success in doing so [italics added]. While each challenge will take work—whether writing up new rules for device management or upgrading IT systems—the only risk not worth taking is eschewing the BYOD opportunity altogether.”

Information technology consumerization

To provide a broader context, BYOD is part of the larger trend known as IT consumerization. In this trend, personal devices are increasingly being brought into the business workplace and used interchangeably for work and personal interests, often regardless of the employer’s policies.

For the past several years, IT trade journals and technical publications have featured articles warning of the numerous legal, security, privacy, and employee engagement issues that emerge from this trend of “blending” uses. At the same time, CIOs and IT professionals have been grappling with device management issues and implementing sophisticated mobile device management (MDM) platforms to deal with the security implications of BYOD. Legal firms have also issued opinions and recommendations regarding the risks, legal exposure, and policy requirements of BYOD practices.

Although it might seem as though such technical or esoteric topics as IT consumerization, MDM, mobile application management (MAM), virtual private network (VPN), and BYOD are outside the realm of required knowledge for today’s learning leaders and practitioners, that is no longer the case. In fact, key to a solid understanding of BYOD is identifying both positive and less positive aspects of this trend.

Note: In the white paper we provide a glossary of BYOD-related terms as well as more detailed definitions of concepts such as MDM, MAM, and VPN, to name just a few.

The upside of BYOD

In a recent issue of CIO Magazine, Sarah K. White reports that many companies clearly recognize the upside of BYOD and have already accepted BYOD as a reality. As a result, these companies’ “challenge now is striking a balance between security and flexibility.”

The white paper provides a detailed discussion of the benefits and opportunities associated with BYOD. Here, we will only cover satisfaction and productivity—which many regard as the most important benefits of BYOD.

It is clear from the research that employees increasingly recognize an upside to BYOD. A survey from Software Advice found that employees view BYOD positively for several reasons, as excerpted here:

  • Better productivity. Employees feel they get more work done when using their personal device.
  • More flexibility. Employees can combine their work and personal lives, and access work content from anywhere.
  • More utility. Employees may require specific functions that are better provided by their personal device.
  • More familiarity. Employees may prefer the interface or operating system of their personal device.

Of course, BYOD devices in the hands of users, employees, and learners can lead to potential increases in productivity and create opportunities to expand and enrich the “anywhere, anytime” learning experience. However, along with those opportunities come significant challenges, including data security risks that may have severe legal ramifications.

Challenges and issues

Entire books have been written about the numerous challenges, issues, pitfalls, and genuine dangers of allowing employees to bring their own devices into the workplace and use them behind a secure firewall.

The white paper discusses a broader range of issues that need to be considered with BYOD usage, and also provides detailed resources for additional reading materials, reports, and websites that provide a more complete picture of the subject. Here, we briefly explore two of challenges associated with BYOD.

Employee pushback

The first challenge is that of dealing with the employee pushback that often accompanies an employer’s attempts to establish a program to manage BYOD. The Bitglass survey BYOD Security: 2015 Rise of the Employees found that a majority of the 2,000 individuals included in the survey had a negative response to attempts at mobile device management. The authors of the study prefaced their findings with this observation:

“Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and mobility have completely transformed the way that IT departments provision devices to employees. The first attempt at providing secure mobility was to control and lock down devices via enterprise mobility solutions like Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Mobile Application Management (MAM). Unfortunately, employees frequently reject these solutions as too oppressive or too invasive into personal privacy. The result is that millions of dollars are spent on MDM/MAM solutions for BYOD programs that never achieve anticipated broad adoption. So will BYOD be relegated to the dustbin or does it simply need a fresh approach?”

Furthermore, their research yielded the following insights, excerpted here:

  • A total of 57 percent of end users (and 38 percent of IT professionals) do not participate in a company BYOD program because they do not want IT departments to have visibility into their personal data and applications.
  • IT and employees agree—67 percent of employees would participate in a BYOD program if employers had the ability to protect corporate data, but could not view, alter, or delete personal data and applications. A total of 64 percent of IT professionals believe such a solution would make their BYOD program more successful.
  • MAM is dead on arrival. Despite a huge push by enterprise mobility management vendors, only 9 percent of organizations have deployed a MAM solution. Violations of application licensing agreements and fragile “wrapping” approaches have softened the impact of MAM.

The survey authors concluded that employees are increasingly “fed up with intrusive BYOD programs” and are refusing to share personal data with their companies. They recommend that IT teams “come to terms with reality” and better understand that “participation in BYOD programs is low because employees are worried about IT control over personal devices.”

Legal liability and exposure

The second challenge is a rather frightening one. Regardless of all else we may know about BYOD, we know that bringing personal devices into the workplace—regardless of policy or personal use—is rife with potential legal exposure for both users and employers. Library shelves are full of books and legal opinions about the legal and illegal use of personal devices and mobile devices inside or outside the workplace. Here we will only briefly review the legal issues of BYOD.

A US legal firm specializing in security and privacy has summarized key points of relevant federal guidance for BYOD security. According to the firm, these guidelines—available from the National Institute of Standards and Technology website—specify “six high-level recommendations that enterprises should address to securely deploy and manage mobile devices” (excerpted as follows). Organizations should:

  • Have a mobile device security policy that defines the types of devices permitted, the resources that may be accessed, and how provisioning is handled. (According to Techopedia, a BYOD policy “is used to support the deployment of BYOD in an organization. An effective BYOD policy facilitates employee productivity in a flexible manner. For example, a company may manage and track employee devices through an MDM process, which involves setting up security for mobile devices and laptops to block intruders from breaking into a firewall or VPN.”)
  • Develop system threat models for mobile devices and the resources that are accessed through mobile devices.
  • Consider the merits of each provided security service, and determine which services are needed for the specific environment, and then design and acquire one or more solutions that collectively provide the necessary security services.
  • Implement and test a pilot of their mobile device solution before putting the solution into production.
  • Fully secure each organization-issued mobile device before allowing a user to access it.
  • Regularly maintain mobile device security.

The white paper provides a basic understanding of the key benefits and challenges of BYOD, and then takes a more detailed look at how these same issues impact today’s learning leaders and practitioners. In particular, it seeks to examine why a solid understanding of responsive design principles and practices provides learning practitioners with the best tool for dealing with BYOD implications.

Why learning practitioners need to understand BYOD

Throughout this white paper, we stress the point that learning practitioners must have a solid understanding of BYOD, including all of its advantages and challenges, if they are to work successfully with other stakeholders, IT professionals, and policy makers to bring coherence to today’s multiple-device learning environment.

The time has passed when learning practitioners could watch from the sidelines as numerous types of devices flooded the corporate and academic learning space. No longer can learning practitioners remain passively unaware, as they are overwhelmed with the task of designing and deploying multiple versions of high-value content across a largely unsecured digital environment. Most importantly, L&D must be an equal partner with the organization’s IT and legal groups, and must ensure that the interests and concerns of learning practitioners are reflected in BYOD policies and device management practices.

In addition to the BYOD issues discussed in this white paper, learning practitioners should have a basic understanding of guidelines and considerations most relevant to L&D, and be able to leverage that knowledge for stakeholder advocacy, content strategies, and design decisions.

See the white paper for a detailed discussion of “BYOD Guidelines and Considerations” for learning practitioners, and the importance of responsive learning design, as this relates to a BYOD learning environment. Also note that the Guild has published a substantial body of reference material, practical guidelines, and resources on the topics of BYOD and responsive design.

Source: Guild Research, 2016  

Figure 1: Digital learning devices

A good example is provided by one of our recent case studies. This case described Rent-A-Center’s successful mLearning initiative and dealt with many of the same issues regarding mobile devices (Figure 1), digital learning, and responsive design that are addressed in the BYOD white paper. Read the Learning Solutions Magazine article, which contains a link to the case study, Supporting Multiyear Business Transformation: Rent-A-Center’s Innovative Approach to Mobile Learning and Performance Coaching.  

Looking forward to 2017

A recent blog post by Akuity Technologies predicts: “By 2017, half of employers will require their employees to buy their own devices.” The IT solutions company writes, “Though today’s workers are clamoring for more BYOD, how will they react if it becomes mandatory, along with strict policies on security, device choice, and limited or no stipends to purchase the technology and cover accompanying data charges?”

A 2017 goal for Guild Insights, the Guild’s research practice, is to gather more practical data and insights on the topic of BYOD. In particular, we want to understand how well the members of the Guild community are managing BYOD in their learning environments, both corporate and academic. We also want to identify best practices and other practical guidelines that members of our community can apply to the challenges and opportunities of BYOD, in 2017 and beyond.

Please look for more information about this forthcoming 2017 BYOD research study. We sincerely hope you will participate and help eLearning professionals and Guild members worldwide—and, most importantly, yourself—better understand and navigate the evolving challenges of BYOD for the learning environment.


Akuity Technologies. “Seven Stats About The Future of BYOD.” 17 March 2014.

Bitglass. BYOD Security: 2015 Rise of the Employees.

Borowski, Craig. BYOD’s Effect on the IT Help Desk Burden: IndustryView 2014. Software Advice. 18 September 2014.

Cisco. BYOD Insights 2013: A Cisco Partner Network Study. March 2013.

Gartner. “Gartner Says By 2018, More Than 50 Percent of Users Will Use a Tablet or Smartphone First for All Online Activities.” 8 December 2014.

InfoLawGroup. “New Federal Guidance for BYOD Security Released.” 26 June 2013.

InfoLawGroup. “The Security, Privacy and Legal Implications of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).” 28 March 2012.

Maddox, Teena. “Research: 74 percent using or adopting BYOD.” ZDNet. 5 January 2015.

Matteson, Scott. “10 ways BYOD will evolve in 2016.” TechRepublic: 10 Things Blog. 22 January 2016.

Souppaya, Murugiah, and Karen Scarfone. Guidelines for Managing the Security of Mobile Devices in the Enterprise. National Institute of Standards and Technology, US Department of Commerce.

Springwise. “How ‘Bring Your Own Device’ Is Revolutionizing the Workplace.” 22 July 2015.

Vipond, Sharon. “Research Spotlight: Supporting Multiyear Business Transformation at Rent-A-Center.” Learning Solutions Magazine. 7 April 2016.

White, Sarah K. “How to implement an effective BYOD policy.” CIO Magazine. 26 September 2016.

Zaveri, Jay. “Rise of the ‘consumer enterprise.’” VentureBeat. 24 June 2013.