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News stories have been popping up lately of schools (both K12 and higher education) implementing virtual desktop initiatives. While quite a few industries are adopting VDI, the use cases within education are particularly strong.
While many organizations have a range of use cases they need to support and some industries (like BPOs and contact centers) see seasonal demand spikes, these situations are taken to an extreme within the education space. On top of that, education IT teams and budgets are typically more strapped than the majority of other industries.
For many of these reasons, virtual desktops aren’t only a good fit for education, they’re a complete game changer practically custom designed to meet the needs of educational institutions.
Here are the top reasons and uses cases education is adopting virtual desktops.
In many cases, the schools’ IT teams sing the praises of virtual desktops for how easy the solution makes desktop management. It’s no secret that many education IT teams run light, but being expected to support hardware and software across a wide footprint – even extending to classes in the field for some college programs – would be challenging for any team.
Virtual desktops enable IT teams to spin up and support desktops from a central location, easing pressure and freeing up time to focus on other needs.
“’The main driving factor for adoption was that I’m sort of a one-man show,’ said Damien Bolin, former systems support specialist for Iowa State’s Department of Agronomy. ‘Being able to consolidate everything that we offer into a VDI solution makes my world a lot easier to manage and also makes me a lot more effective overall.’” – eCampus News
“The ability to make the most of valuable staff hours was also a boon for Cleveland Community College in Shelby, N.C. … ‘“People time”’ is very valuable, especially in a college with a small IT department,’ says CIO Jonathan Davis. … What you gain is a lot more flexibility in the management of the infrastructure — installing operating system updates, migrating from one operating system to another, migrating from Office 2013 to 2016 — anything where IT would need to touch those machines. There’s a lot less ‘foot time’ required. It’s very rare that we would have to go to a classroom to troubleshoot a problem.” – EdTech
“Centralization also lets IT better manage applications and quickly install software updates and security patches, which keep programs secure and running efficiently.” – EdTech
Few schools can get away from providing on-campus computers entirely. The bigger the campus and the more computers provided, maintaining these devices and hardware refresh cycles can strain already limited budgets.
Moving to virtual desktops not only lets students use their own devices (such as laptops and tablets), but also allows campuses to switch to more cost effective solutions like zero clients. This not only addresses the hardware refresh issues, but also consumes considerably less power – an additional cost saving.
“[Northeast Mississippi Community College] Information System Technology program is on a mission to replace its costly, energy-hungry PCs with lightweight machines running virtual desktops, says Nick Newell, an instructor in the department and one of the project leads.” – EdTech
“VDI technology is also greener than traditional desktop computers. ‘We can confidently project that we should have about 283% overall power savings using VDI as opposed to physical desktop computers,’ said Chryss Crotser, system analyst with IT Services.” – University of Arkansas News
“Replacing the PCs with the Dell Wyse thin clients is saving NSU’s dental school at least 50 percent in costs by reducing the amount of hardware it has to buy.” – eCampus News
Student work at all levels of education is becoming increasingly digital. This can pose challenges for out-of-classroom work. College students don’t want to go to computer labs to access a specific application when they have their own laptop and can work from anywhere. Students in elementary and high school need access to appropriate programs for homework, but the range of home devices can make compatibility staggering.
Giving students access to app streaming or a virtual desktop to access the required applications resolves the issue. Through virtualization, any application is available on any internet-enabled endpoint, ensuring a reliable and consistent student experience both at school and at home.
“With a virtual desktop, for example, a school or district can make sure students have access to the same operating system from just about any device, and that any digital resources work for everyone.” – EducationDIVE
“VDI is a brand-new paradigm for us,” said Chris McCoy, chief information officer. “The problem with traditional computer labs is all the software is local, so when a student goes to another lab they get a different experience. With VDI they get the same experience wherever they go.” – University of Arkansas News
“For Iowa State, NSU and USC, many of the applications they’re running—such as CAD and 3D animation—are increasingly complex and graphics-intensive. The schools were looking for ways to virtualize them to improve and streamline distribution and ensure all students have the necessary capabilities to access and run them regardless of the devices they are using.” – eCampus News
“’Students needed the ability to leverage existing software and resources,’ Pounds says. ‘They should have a similar experience to when they’re working in a traditional computer lab.’” – EdTech
While it’s not uncommon for most industries to require different sets of applications for different departments, educational institutions experience an even more pronounced division of needs. Each grade may need its own applications and at the university level each major certainly requires a unique set of programs. Relying on virtual desktop golden images allows IT teams to provision enough desktops for the students in that particular course without having to dedicate set physical desktops to each major or grade. It also ensures students have access to high powered computing setups without requiring robust traditional hardware.
“[East Carolina University] IT Director Joel Sweatte says the ability to create multiple custom desktops for each class is a huge benefit. … With VDI, Sweatte is able to set up multiple desktops so that different classes with different computing needs can log on to the same machines without conflict. ‘It’s a huge step forward,’ he says.” – EdTech
“Students and faculty don’t rely on expensive workstations to run these power-hungry, graphics-intensive programs. Instead, they fire up personal laptops or use university-supplied thin clients to log in to a secure portal. That ushers them into a virtualized environment running some of the IT industry’s most sophisticated servers and graphics hardware.” – EdTech
The use cases for VDI in education are compelling and many universities, colleges and K12 school districts are beginning to experiment with this technology – with good results.
While not a comprehensive list, here are a few schools that have gone public about their switch to virtual desktops:
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