This is part two of a series on how educational apps and technology can be used in Educational Institutions to take the college resources to the students where they live. If you have not read Taking College to the Students part 1, then you will want to read it first.
There are many ways you can use technology to expand your campus beyond its brick and mortar walls and one of those is through the use of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure( VDI).
Many students, especially lower income, students find a barrier when it comes to buying a computer and all the associated software a class may require. Couple this with the fact that the software expense is repeated throughout the program, then students either must try to access over crowded labs to complete homework and lab assignments.
Or they just don’t do the work, which leads to lower grades, decreased quality of education and ultimately lower retention rates for the college because eventually with enough D’s and F’s any student will drop out.
Software is not always available to a student or if it is then they can’t readily afford to pay 2K+ for a full version of Creative Suite. They can get it cheaper with educational pricing, but then if they follow copyright laws, they won’t be able to use the applications after graduation.
Then there is specialty software in fields such as nursing and engineering, where there is not really a consumer version available. In these cases, most textbooks include a demo copy, but many times it has reduce functionality. Then let’s not forget about the distance education students, they may not even have the option of going to a lab to complete their homework.
VDI is an answer to this problem. With a system such as VMware View you can deliver desktops to your students to any location where they have a decent internet connection. And they don’t need a full computer to access these resources. Students can access full desktops running on your servers from their iPad, Android Tablets, and even the smaller versions of these devices, the smart phone. Students can access school provisioned desktops from library computers using nothing more than their browser.
Educational Apps- Horizon View Connection Server Delivering Desktops on an iPad
Horizon View Desktop in Chrome
Cost of Desktop as a Service
Now you might think this is going to be expensive. Well its not cheap depending upon the number of students you need to serve, but its not as expensive as you may think. But nothing in IT is cheap. IT costs money and the return on investment you receive is directly proportional to the investment you make in your technology. Technology is not an expense but an enabler.
A community college with 5000 students, could get by with offering only a hundred concurrent desktops to its students.
With a little scheduling, you can reduce that number to less than 50. To do this right you need a full-fledged Storage Area Network and a bank of blade servers to deliver the content, but that’s a perfect world. Utilizing thin client technology throughout out the campus will save you money in support and just plain aggravation for your IT Department. There are self-contained systems from Dell, HP and a host of other vendors who can provide you with this ability with a single medium duty server.
So for 15K to start you could deliver preconfigured desktops to your students through the internet on the devices they already own. I say to start because while an IT person may fight a move to this direction at first but in the end, they will realize this is the way to go and allows them to keep classrooms and labs functioning at a fraction of the effort required with having to re-image rooms every term and the constant failure of machines during the term. This technology only requires a reboot a virtual machine or group of machines to add any new software or correct the majority of problems.