Prepare Chromebooks for distance learning at home

For administrators who manage ChromeOS devices for a school.

School closures—for a storm, natural disaster, health crisis, or other community emergency—can present a big challenge for admins. You want students to continue to participate in classes and keep up with their schoolwork while they, and their teachers, are at home.

Chromebooks can be great tools for distance learning at home. With the help of some of our most experienced Google for Education IT admins, we’ve put together a checklist of questions, tools, and Google Admin console settings for you to consider when preparing Chromebooks for students to use at home.

Note: You might have region-specific requirements and restrictions for distance learning. Be sure to check with relevant government bodies to ensure that you’re meeting those guidelines.

Who can use devices at home, and when?

Set account access policies to balance school and personal use

Many schools limit Chromebook sign-in to accounts within their domain to prevent personal usage during the school day. When sending Chromebooks home for distance learning, consider letting students use their personal accounts on their own time - either by using Device off-hours to let users sign-in with their own account after school and on weekends or by removing sign-in restrictions entirely.

For details, see the Device off hours and Sign-in restrictionsettings.

Allow or block guest mode

When you set account restrictions, consider whether to allow guest browsing on managed ChromeOS devices. Guest mode lets anyone use a Chromebook without an account. When the guest mode session is finished, all data from the session is automatically deleted.

For details, see Guest mode.

Maintain local user data

Many schools using Chromebooks as shared devices choose to erase all local user data after sign-out to maximize disk space. If you’re sending devices home with students, you might consider maintaining local data to provide a more efficient 1:1 experience for students that are using the device exclusively.

For details, see User data.

How do I enable network connectivity and ensure responsible usage?

Remove network restrictions to ensure students can connect at home

Many school devices are restricted to school networks only. If you’re sending devices home, be sure to remove restrictions so that students can connect to their home network.

For details, see Restrict networks and network interfaces.

Allow or block access to websites

Many schools put content restrictions on their networks. You don’t have that same control over students' home networks. You can use blocklists to prevent users from accessing the same content on their Chromebooks at home and in school. Blocklists are user policies that can be set for different organizational units. So, you can create different blocklists for teachers and students, or for students in different schools and grades.

For example you can block and allow URLs so that students can only visit certain websites. Restricting students internet access can increase productivity and protect your school from viruses and malicious content found on some websites.

For details, see URL blocking.

Remove printer restrictions so students can print at home

Many school devices are restricted to school printers. When sending devices home, you can remove printer restrictions so that students can connect to their home printer.

For details, see Native printers management.

What apps and content can our school provision to provide extra resources at home?

Create bookmarks for key content

You can use the Admin console to remotely set bookmarks to websites, making it easy for students to access school sites, digital curriculum, web apps, and other online resources.

For details, see Managed bookmarks.

Load critical tools or services as startup pages

In addition to bookmarks, you can pre-load startup pages in the browser to ensure that high-priority content, such as a student’s class page or Learning Management system (LMS) homepage, is front and center when they sign in.

For details, see Pages to load on startup.

Deploy web apps and Android apps to devices

Students at home might not have access to many of the resources and tools that are typically available in the classroom. You might be able to fill some of those gaps with apps, including graphing calculators, digital notebooks, drawing tools, and publishing tools.

The Chromebook App Hub is a great resource for educators to find high-quality classroom apps (and supplemental resources) that are optimized for Chromebooks in schools. All of these can be provisioned to student devices using the Admin console. Some even use Google’s new app licensing system for easy purchase and deployment of seat licenses.

For details, see Automatically install apps and extensions.

If you want to enable Android apps on devices, see Guidelines for deploying Android apps on Chromebooks.

How can schools prevent students from bypassing school policies?

Enable Forced re-enrollment

The most common way for students to try to bypass school restrictions is to powerwash devices and sign in with their consumer account - especially if they’re away from school and direct supervision. You can easily prevent this by enabling Forced re-enrollment. Devices are automatically re-enrolled in your domain and adopt your device settings if students powerwash them at home.

For details, see Force wiped ChromeOS devices to re-enroll.

What should I communicate to students, parents, and teachers?

Share information about Chromebooks with families

Some parents might not be familiar with Chromebooks and how they differ from other computers. Consider sending an email to parents to explain how these devices work and how to assist students at home.

Display your school’s code of conduct on device desktops

Many schools post a digital code of conduct in their classrooms as a regular reminder to students of rules and expectations for device usage. For e-distance learning days, you can set a custom wallpaper for student accounts displaying their code of conduct as a regular reminder at home.

For details, see Device wallpaper image.

Educate parents about Google Accounts managed by Family Link

Google offers parents many of the same content management tools for home that admins use at school. By creating a Family Link account for children, parents can set restrictions on web content, approve apps and extensions, and set time limits for their children's devices - all from the Family Link app on their mobile phone. They can even add a school account for a Family Link user on a Chromebook so students can access their schoolwork using apps and websites like Google Classroom that require a school sign-in - all while parents keep an eye on their children online.

Adding a school account for a Family Link user does not change anything about the student’s Google Workspace account or give parents access to school information - it simply enables students to sign in to apps, websites, and extensions using their school account while operating under the parent’s supervision at home. Apps and extensions are installed for the child’s Family Link account (not the school account), so parents maintain full control over their children's at-home experience and the school account remains unaffected.

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