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What are the best practices for creating compliance policies in AirWatch?

While mobile device initiatives are inherently exciting in terms of engagement and 21st Century Skill acquisition, schools still have the safety and appropriate behavior of student users to consider. Compliance policies allow schools to enforce consequences using device level notifications and escalations while encouraging and reinforcing good behavior. AirWatch enables a district to differentiate between use cases in terms of age appropriate policies. In other words, compliance policies for Elementary Schools can look very different from compliance policies for High Schools within the same district.

This post covers MobileMind's best practice recommendations for leveraging AirWatch to institute compliance policies, whitelists, blacklists, and locking profiles to pair with discipline policies.

Pairing Compliance Policies with Discipline Policies

Schools usually have discipline policies in place for students' behavior online. When devices are added, there are other areas of behavior and use to consider. For example, students will want to download apps that may not be appropriate for school. Regardless of appropriateness, these apps could be a distraction. So, how do schools ensure these new digital policies align with existing policies?

Proactive vs. Reactive

Districts and schools that plan ahead with intent will face fewer discipline issues than districts and schools that do not. At MobileMind we advocate looking at the choices that are available within device management, and determining what the best policy is for each school in advance. By planning ahead, schools create a frame of reference for the kinds of discipline issues they may see and put a plan in place for dealing with those issues.

Typical Choices

  • Open app store or reduced access?
  • Camera access or no camera access?
  • Youtube?
  • Which browser should be used?
  • Chats and messaging?
  • Email?
  • Video chat?
  • Games?
  • App downloading policy?

By thinking about the desired behavior and supporting that behavior with a policy, schools craft a path for students to make positive choices. In many cases, it is easier to grant more freedom when trust is won than it is to take away freedom after trust is lost.

Compliance Policies can be created proactively or reactively. Potential pitfalls can be avoided with pre-deployment decision making.


Instructional goals can shape compliance policies as well. A whitelist is a group of apps or websites that schools approve for use. These apps are housed in an app catalog for students to download when they need them. Apps can be published to the app catalog in a variety of use cases.

Use Case #1

Assumption: Teachers are in charge of instruction and are trusted to make appropriate choices on behalf of students. This would be the fastest way to get apps into the classroom.

  1. Teacher decides which app(s) are needed in the classroom.
  2. Teacher request for app deployment is made.
  3. The app is published.

Use Case #2

Assumption: Teachers make instructional decisions and app choices are reviewed by school level team for approval.

  1. Teacher decides which app(s) several days before use.
  2. Teacher submits request for approval from site based team.
  3. Upon approval, app is distributed to student devices.

Use Case #3

Assumption: Teachers make instructional decisions and app choices are reviewed by district instructional committee. This may take time for the apps to reach the classroom.

  1. Teacher decides which app(s) several weeks before use.
  2. Teacher submits request for approval from instructional committee.
  3. Upon approval, app is distributed to student devices.


A blacklist is a group of apps that students should not have access to in school. Examples of these groups may be:

  • social media
  • games
  • chat apps
  • inappropriate themes
  • browsers

Blacklists can, and should be, continuously modified and updated. When paired with a device locking profile, students can be held accountable for making poor decisions surrounding app downloads. A blacklist should be paired with an escalating compliance policy to ensure a student knows and understands the result of downloading and using a blacklisted app.

Escalations and Locking Profiles

It is important to think about what the desired behavioral outcomes are before crafting a compliance policy. Schools can take advantage of escalations that are allowed within AirWatch compliance policies.

Example Scenario: A student downloads a blacklisted app.

  1. The student is notified with a push notification that a blacklisted app is present on the device. Hopefully the student will delete the blacklisted app immediately. If not...
  2. The device is non-compliant. An administrator or dean is emailed that the student's device is non-compliant.
  3. At the same time the student will receive several more push notifications reminding him/her to make the correct decision and remove the blacklisted app. If the student still does not...
  4. A lock profile will be published to the device that locks the screen into a single app. The student cannot unlock the app unless he/she sees an administrator to deal with the consequences of the decisions made.

There are a variety of escalations that can occur depending on the discipline plan the school would like to enact. What is important to note is that the policy should be clearly articulated to the students with follow-through or any compliance policy will be meaningless.

The bottom line

The safety and security of our students is paramount in a mobile initiative. While the excitement of a paradigm shift is incredibly attractive, we still have to keep instructional goals in mind. Compliance policies ensure students are using instructionally appropriate apps and ensure poor decision making has appropriate consequences.

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Other product and company names, such as Apple® and AirWatch®, referenced are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies.