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Why VMware Horizon View and VDI is an Essential Element to Supporting BYOD Adoption

By: Luke VanWingerden, Director of Information Technology Client, University of South Carolina Upstate

The way in which students interact with one another and consume and digest information and concepts coupled with the methods faculty utilize to engage students and create an environment that stimulates learning is evolving as instantly as the next new tech gadget. This exciting shift in education has many institutions and faculty wondering where and how to invest their precious time and resources to ensure they are on the right path to student success. It is no longer a question of do we allow BYOD but how do we incorporate BYOD to facilitate learning.

Universities have experienced pedagogical and resource shifts in the way education could or should be provided in the past, but now more than ever we are faced with a massive transformation in how we engage and educate our students. We have the luxury of interacting with individuals who drive the consumerization of mobile computing on our campuses, now whether we see this as a blessing or a curse determines how we embrace these devices.  We can either fight them or we can invite them.

At the University of South Carolina Upstate, roughly 96% of students own a laptop and 98% of students own a smartphone. We have chosen to invite the droves of devices to establish a BYOD program, unified by our SpartanGreenSky VDI environment built upon VMware. We have and continue to create course specific learning experiences that allow students to use devices they choose and are comfortable using. Our only requirement is that they have a device that can connect to the Internet so they can have anytime anywhere access to our VDI environment.

From the onset, our primary goal for the SpartanGreenSky VDI environment was to transform the student experience regardless of where the student was physically located, whether they were sitting within the walls of the university classroom or library or in the comfort of their own living room. We have a growing population of non-traditional learners, those who cannot leave their kids, jobs and families to study in the library or computer lab; these students are now able to have the same access and experience regardless of time and proximity to the university.

We have tried to keep our focus on removing the barriers our students face to ensure they have the tools and resources for academic success. One of the notable barriers we face is a financial one. Roughly 85% of our students receive significant government aid. Since most of our students are coming with a preferred device, we needed to allow our students to use whatever device they can afford or get their hands on and even in some cases provide a loaner device for them to use.

Across our campus we have seen the educational, student, faculty and staff experience transformed as a result of our SpartanGreenSky VDI environment :

  • During the evenings and weekends we are seeing a shift in the habits of the way our students and faculty are interacting with the technology provided by the university. Most weekends we experience about a 50/50 split in logins on campus vs. logins off campus. In the past they had to come onto campus to use the technology.
  • Our Psychology students are able to use university owned statistical software on their personal device by accessing the Psychology Pool. In the past a faculty had to stay until Midnight or 1:00 am to allow students to have access to the software in one physical lab. Now they can truly do their homework anytime, anywhere.
  • Our School of Education holds classes on several campuses in several buildings. Students can access the School of Ed virtual desktop and have the same experience in each building or campus. Faculty can rest assured knowing that regardless of where they are teaching there won’t be any surprises in the student experience when logging into the School of Ed virtual desktop.
  • Our Health Services office has many exam rooms all of which have zero clients and other devices attached. Our nurses have a persistent virtual desktop and can access their desktop regardless of the exam room they are in. Their desktop is setup the way they like it and in a way that makes sense for them while serving our students.
  • Our School of Engineering hosts classes on a campus and computer lab that is not owned or operated by the university. Students are now able to access University owned software using the VMware View Client to connect to our SpartanGreenSky VDI environment. The university is able to remain within licensing compliance enabling the students to have a seamless educational experience.

Our Help Desk and support department has experienced many benefits from rolling out the VDI environment as well. We have been able to increase support and services while maintaining the same budget and human resources. We have been able to reduce power and cooling cost significantly across the university by moving to Zero or Thin clients. We have also been able to continue to serve our students to ensure they have technology that works, that is useful and is beneficial to their learning experience.

Overall-we’ve seen the direct impacts of VMware Horizon View on user experience, IT support and purchasing costs. And while these are all important, it is the seemingly small wins and many intangible benefits, explained above, that are shifting the culture and how we do things in our organization– and our VMware mobile secure desktop environment is at the forefront of this shift, leading the charge.