Chromebooks offer a budget-friendly alternative for schools looking to purchase mobile devices. Recently Chromebooks have risen in popularity but many questions still surround their advantages and disadvantages for implementation in a school setting. They’re essentially mini-laptops that operate on the cloud, which means that virtually all of their functions are accessed via the internet. Here’s a breakdown of their main advantages and disadvantages:
Price: The price of Chromebooks are more budget friendly when compared to Microsoft laptops or Macbooks. The pricing of Chromebooks start at $199 with many under $299 which is a fraction the cost of other laptops. Along with this lower price, users should also be aware of the $20/device per month management fee from Google which includes updates, cloud-based management and support.
Management: Administrators are able to easily change or update settings for an entire set of Chromebooks with just a few clicks, whether it be adding/removing an application or changing the security setting for web browsing. You can also create unique user groups so each grade level has different settings and programs.
Security: The Chrome Operating System (OS) is based on Linux which makes the possibility of getting a virus very low when compared to Windows. In addition, all applications run on a sandboxed mode which means they’re isolated and can’t alter or infect the operating system.
Updates: The Chrome OS seamlessly updates by itself so it starts up each time with the automatically updated version. All of the software updates are also free so there is never the need for a costly upgrade to a new operating system.
Requires Wireless Internet Access: Since Chromebooks are web-based, they require to be connected to the internet at all times. Some applications are usable while offline but full utilization and complete access to documents on the cloud will require a stable internet connection. Therefore if you don’t have a stable and reliable wifi connection Chromebooks won’t work well in your school.
No Optical Disk Drive: Chromebooks don’t contain optical disk drives and don’t support external optical disks. Therefore if you’re still using CD/DVD’s, Chromebooks might not be the best choice for your school.
Limited Compatibility with Windows/Mac Applications: Chromebooks don’t support any Windows or Mac based applications. This means programs such as Microsoft Office and other applications without online alternatives won’t be usable. An exception to this is Microsoft’s Office 365 which is their new web based office product. It’s advised to search the Google app store for equivalents of your current applications before purchasing Chromebooks. Applications available such as Google Docs is an online free alternative to Microsoft Word.
Chromebooks do have their unique advantages as well as disadvantages for implementation in schools. When compared to traditional laptops, Chromebooks remove the hassle of security and maintenance of software while being a fraction of the price. When looking to purchase laptops, schools should consider Chromebooks but also realize the trade-offs of using the unique Chrome OS.