One of Apple’s spring education announcements was IOS Remote Assistance for Teachers in Apple Classroom. Remote support on iOS is something I never thought I would see, but a global pandemic has changed many plans for everyone. With many schools still virtual in the United States, distance support is something that every school needs. On macOS, Remote Assistance is a fixed issue with several solutions. On iOS, however, that used to be a different story. In situations where I needed to give someone remote assistance on iOS, I had even resorted to FaceTime on one device to show another’s screen. After thinking about the implications of this feature, I am convinced that this is the first step on the way for iOS to provide remote support to education, businesses and eventually end users.
For the first time, the Classroom app will support learning beyond the walls of a school. Classroom has always connected students in the same physical space with their teachers, and soon teachers will be able to invite distant students to join a Classroom session. Once logged in, the same Classroom features teachers are familiar with will allow them to guide students to specific apps, bring up their screens, and see a summary of their engagement.
From a technical standpoint, Apple has implemented remote support through Apple Classroom in an ideal way. With Remote Assistance, user privacy is paramount and Apple has tightly integrated it into Managed Apple IDs. Going forward, I expect Apple to offer it for device-based iOS devices in the future. I see more and more iPads being installed in kiosk-based systems. Mobile device management protocols give IT administrators plenty of tools to remotely update, change settings, and even lock iPads to a particular app. Still, there is something handy about being able to see the screen from a distance. If an app needs to be configured manually, a remote assistance option would be ideal. I have used Apple Classroom several times with students, but always in the same building. By bringing it outside the school walls, Apple is listening to what its customers need. It would have been nice to have this at the start of the school year, but the addition of remote assistance is a fundamental change in how iOS works.
Now that Apple has implemented remote support in education, hopefully Apple will add an option for IT admins to remotely sign in to Apple IDs managed in Apple Business Manager. I think it will be implemented on FaceTime, where an employee receives a FaceTime audio / video call. Once the call is connected, the employee will receive a remote assistance request confirming what the other person can see. Going forward, I would like to see Apple block remote access to the Photos app and iMessage, so that all of that information remains private.
Once Apple implements remote iOS support on the professional side, I expect them to roll it out to personal users in the same way. During a FaceTime audio / video call, a user can initiate remote assistance with the person on the other end. A prompt would appear confirming what the person can and cannot see.
As iOS devices are used more and more in our daily life, it will become more and more crucial to have the ability for IT administrations and customer service technicians to offer iOS remote support. I didn’t expect Apple to allow it, but they’ve done it in a way that’s ideal for students, so I think they’ll take the next step and provide it to more people.
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