Virtual Desktops for Education

Introduction

In this competitive world, the ever growing importance of education can never be emphasized enough. Keeping in view that so much rests on quality education, it is important for academic institutions to manage and maintain resilient IT infrastructure. What really matters is how administrators instill teacher and student confidence in using modern information systems to support learning across the curriculum.  

Let’s look at some of the everyday tasks which IT professionals must undertake in ensuring continuing education:

  •         Support and manage a wide range of applications and computers across classrooms, courses, computer laboratories and training programs.
  •         Keep systems up-to-date for meeting fluctuating student-teacher ratio especially during admission and graduation seasons.
  •         Consistently deliver great UX over all teaching formats and platforms. Examples include online learning, distance learning, live webinars and on-premises sessions.

The Challenge for IT Teams

It is not uncommon to find educational institutions that operate on limited budgets even today. Like other industries, schools and colleges have their share of IT challenges particularly if they conduct functions and activities in traditional PC environments. Even in such circumstances, students and teachers expect computing specialists to deliver the same level of IT experience that they are accustomed to.

Also, a large number of students do not study on campus and they often carry out fieldwork which is a prerequisite for completing specific courses. Considering the popularity of online and remote learning, administrators must ensure that students, irrespective of their locations, have uninterrupted access to the necessary materials and applications.    

To add to the list, IT manageability and support are often complex and time consuming in large campuses where hardware is spread across several buildings. Calculate the number of possible users in this setting and you can determine how long it would take IT to patch and update multiple software and operating systems. This can easily overwhelm the network and cause operational inefficiencies that impact performance and UX.     

Additionally, hardware and legacy systems such as PCs are often expensive. Investing time and money in maintaining and replacing them often translates into increased costs, IT pain and anxiety. Instead of putting their resources into other processes or business innovation, companies deal with outdated infrastructure that hinders efficiency and productivity.  

As a result, academic institutions that cannot meet teacher and student demands in these circumstances may experience a high staff turnover rate or lose out on new enrollments. This could lead to detrimental consequences such as lost revenue, low morale and poor reputation.

Moving to Virtual Desktops for Education

Clearly, IT teams in the educational sector have their plates full and they simultaneously have to keep pace with technological developments. Hence, these institutions must implement an IT infrastructure strategy that empowers them do more with less and in minimal time. This is particularly important as today’s IT department manages multiple user permissions and increasing demands for higher bandwidth, reliable network connections and interactive applications. The list is almost inexhaustible and comprises of many other elements that add more detail to the modern computing environment. Moreover, administrators need to ensure that the tools they use to ensure smooth workflows guide their long-term computing strategy.

So, where and how do they begin?

The solution is simple: shift to VDI.

What is VDI?

VDI involves hosting a user desktop inside a VM which resides on a centralized server in the datacenter. Why is this a powerful and secure form of desktop virtualization and how can it make your academic institution’s information systems a winner?

For starters, VDI technology facilitates a centralized management system where end users are given the liberty of accessing their virtual desktops anywhere, anytime and on any device. Secondly, a well-thought out VDI design and successful implementation allows businesses to achieve a high ROI. In short, VDI is the perfect example of achieving maximum efficiency, transparency and productivity all at once.

In the following sections, we shall examine how you can use virtual desktops for education and the benefits resulting from doing so.  

Create a Use Case

Implementing VDI best practices involve determining the IT resources you need to support your functions and projects. How will they impact stakeholders which, in this case, are your students, instructors and systems administrators?

For instance, if you intend to shift from a physical desktop environment, write down the reasons for doing so. Are the existing mechanisms slowing down progress or preventing you from attaining your business objectives? Worse, are they adding to your organizational costs and not delivering the desired outcomes? If so, adopting desktop virtualization is justifiable because it facilitates flexibility, ease of maintenance, secure access to applications and reduces costs.  

The next step is to identify and assess your end user requirements and this will necessitate a thorough understanding of the applications they use. In this way, you can determine the extent to which a VDI Thin Client Computer or Zero Client Solution can streamline management in your school or college environment. Let’s examine a separate use case for each group.

Students

Begin by evaluating the practical needs of students. For example, do your students follow a BYOD program? This makes sense in a VDI environment because students can access their virtual desktops from any device such as laptops and smartphones, thereby increasing end user efficiency. Desktop virtualization also has the perfect use case for remote students like those pursuing Executive Masters programs as they simultaneously study and work in the corporate world. All students need to do is simply log in to their virtual desktops whether they are working on their assignments at home or undertaking business travel.

 

Sometimes, students may access applications that are irrelevant to their coursework or deviate them from their lesson plans. Furthermore, it is not always convenient for instructors to monitor the applications students use and for this reason, thin and zero client security is crucial in a VDI deployment. IT can customize either endpoint’s security from unit to unit and limit student access to only the necessary materials and applications. This averts micromanagement and saves teachers the time of constantly supervising students.

Thin and zero client devices also boot up rapidly. In a PC environment, legacy systems would take several minutes to sign on whereas thin and zero clients boot up to the login screen within a matter of seconds. Moreover, as thin and zero clients store all data on the server, administrators can easily recover student files and assignments in case of unexpected errors or technical breakdown. These factors reduce interruptions and distractions and allow students to improve productivity.

IT Department

What about your systems administrators? Assume that they perform tasks in an outdated PC environment where computers cannot run the latest operating system, consume considerable power and constantly need to be repaired or replaced. Apart from causing IT frustration, there is a very real possibility of these systems contributing towards low performance.

Once again, the answer is to shift to VDI for addressing these common pain points and research on the best Thin Client and Zero Client endpoints. Ideally, choose a solution that supports protocols like Teradici PCoIP, Blast Extreme and Citrix HDX and is optimized for modern desktop technologies including VMware, Microsoft and Citrix. This will facilitate proactive end-to-end application management and complete visibility into your IT infrastructure.

VDI thin and zero clients facilitate seamless manageability as a single IT specialist can centrally manage these endpoint devices. This centralized system significantly decreases the time which IT would otherwise have spent managing individual desktops in a standard PC setting. Furthermore, administrators can quickly update and restore thin and zero clients without any impediment to student or teacher productivity. They could also do the same during off hours and this further makes an academic institution powered by VDI thin or zero clients more flexible.

With VDI, IT can create a golden image that functions as a template when developing new virtual desktops. This is useful in school and university settings where there are several grade levels, sections and majors to keep track of. Administrators can simply create different golden images for every standard and use the custom images for matching students’ varying desktop deployment requirements.

Teachers

Like students, teachers can enjoy an engaging experience across classrooms and campuses with ClearCube VDI. Our solutions facilitate powerful and secure workspaces with the latest software tools which instructors could access from any location, anytime and any device.

Putting this in context, teachers demand mobile access to data and applications in locations both within and outside academic institutions. Providing them with highly available virtual desktops leads to a major benefit. Firstly, teachers get more time for curriculum planning and grading assignments at home because their virtual desktops will always be available to them. This allows them to focus on conducting more activities that promote maximum teacher-student interaction in the classroom.

Visiting lecturers who usually conduct academic sessions based on the semester system also benefit from VDI. IT specialists can add to these instructors’ convenience by simply spinning up virtual desktops onto their personal devices and scaling them down at the end of their tenure.

Closing Thoughts

Virtual desktop infrastructure shows great promise as a sustainable IT strategy because of the realistic benefits it offers in education and many other sectors. As a leader in the virtual desktop computing industry, ClearCube provides innovative Thin Client Solutions For Schools that drive consistency across all layers of the education community. Our robust, reliable and secure thin client systems go beyond just facilitating end-to-end control of IT infrastructure in academic institutions. The simplicity of running and supporting our solutions eliminates the requirement for specialized and repeated training in their use. All this promotes a performance-rich and pleasant learning and teaching environment.

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