There are several ways to distribute and install iPad apps, but maintaining ownership of school purchased apps is more difficult. This is a guide to keeping control of your apps.

Apple recommends the following three models for iPad app distribution, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:

iPad App Personal Ownership

Ownership of apps: End user — teacher or student

App purchase options: End user Apple ID, iTunes gift card, VPP code

Apple Configurator Supervision Required: No

This is essentially the consumer model that any individual with a personal iPad will be familiar with. The end user purchases applications via the iPad App Store with full control over all installs. In this model the school has no ownership over the apps installed.

For an iPad app to be distributed to a teacher, for example, the purchase is made via the teacher’s Apple ID. The teacher can be refunded the cost by the school or given an iTunes gift card prior to the purchase to cover the cost.

Once the teacher leaves the school the app leaves with them.

iPad App Institutional Ownership

Ownership of apps: School

App purchase options: VPP code via Apple Configurator

This model allows the school to maintain control over apps installed at the cost of restricting access to the iPad App Store to the end user. All app installs and updates are carried out via a central Mac computer.

iPad App Layered Ownership

Ownership of apps: End user and school own their individual apps

App purchase options: VPP code via Apple Configurator

This model combines the two above and allows both the end user and school to install and maintain individual ownership of their own apps and content.

All school iPad app installs and updates are carried out via Apple Configurator, but the end user can still use the App Store to install their own personal apps.

The iPad must be Supervised in Apple Configurator in order to take back ownership of apps at a later date. This makes this model unsuitable for BYOD environments.

This model is most suited to school owned devices used on a 1:1 basis, especially where the device may be taken home.

Full instructions on how to implement or transition to any of these app ownership models can be found on page 29 onward in the official iOS6 Education Deployment Guide.

Installing “Freemium” Content

For “freemium” applications (i.e. applications which are free to install but have in app purchases to make the software fully functional) there is no way to purchase or distribute the in app purchases. Apple recommends that you contact the software developer for advice.

Reclaiming iPad Apps and VPP Codes

iPad apps installed using a VPP code through the Institutional or Layered ownership models can be “reused” later on by uninstalling the iPad app in Apple Configurator. This only works, however, with devices Supervised by Apple Configurator.

Apps distributed using the Personal Ownership model are owned by the end user and cannot be reclaimed.

The following is from the Apple Configurator manual:

For supervised devices, if you use Apple Configurator to remove an app from a device, Apple Configurator marks the corresponding redemption code as available. It can be reassigned to a different device supervised by this copy of Apple Configurator for this Mac only. It is not available for redemption by other Macs or iOS devices.

If you un-supervise a supervised device, all apps will be removed from the device and the redemption codes used to install those apps will be marked available for reassignment. If you simply remove a device record from Apple Configurator, the redemption codes for any apps on that device will not be available for reassignment.

For unsupervised devices, there is no way to remove the app in a way that allows you to reuse or reassign the redemption code. When a code is used to install an app on an unsupervised device, it is permanently consumed.

For more information about Apple’s iPad Volume Purchase Programme take a look at our guide. For Apple Configuration, look here. And for a guide to installing iPad apps with Apple Configurator, look here.


About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.


  1. Whenever I’ve wanted to upgrade from the ‘lite’ version of an app for my school, I’ve just contacted the developer and they have sent me a link to the full version on the iTunes store. In one case, they even sent me a promo code for a new app that wasn’t even released yet.

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