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The COVID-19 outbreak has forced academic staff and students around the world to stay at home. As a result, many universities had to stop teaching. However, thanks to VMware technologies, the WSB University has managed to maintain its business continuity. The implementation of the VMware Horizon solution is enabling the university to conduct online classes, based on VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) technology, which gives users the opportunity to connect to academic systems from their homes.
WSB University is the largest, state-recognized private university in Poland’s Lower Silesia region, specialized in finance and banking education. It has over 20 years of experience in training professionals for business and is annually educating over 14 thousand students. Thanks to modern technologies used by the university, they have the opportunity to learn how to work in advanced ICT environments and on specialized software.
“At WSB, we value interaction, discussion and direct contact. However, unplanned events such as COVID-19 means we are all in a situation where we have to find new solutions. We believe that our mission is to help change the world by being innovative, friendly, and practice-focused. To make it happen we have implemented modern technological solutions. Thanks to VMware our students can continue studying in safe conditions, in their homes, while online”, says Piotr Spychała, Vicechancellor at WSB University in Wrocław.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, university authorities have decided that many classes need to be conducted online using a variety of e-learning platforms. These are both lectures and exercises. However, organizing laboratories that required access to specialized systems and applications was a big challenge. Virtualization and remote access to them is enabled by the VMware Horizon. Thanks to this solution granting full access take just few hours from decision to operation. There are currently few hundreds virtualized computer workstations with Windows and Linux systems to be used by students and lecturers remotely, divided into appropriate pools enabling teaching in various specializations.
“With the use of VMware Horizon all laboratory workstations operate in a completely virtual environment, providing business continuity and ongoing service to users, even in unusual situations like we are currently facing with COVID-19. Students and lecturers are benefiting from full remote access to virtual laboratories from anywhere, just by using browser on their computers, tablets or smartphones”, says Paweł Kołodko, IT Director at WSB University in Wrocław.
The university has been using VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) technology based on the VMware Horizon solution for a long time. Due to the fact that this solution is already a functioning standard for laboratories – in a very short time it was possible to make resources available outside and give students the free virtual desktops that they used every day at the university. In the current environment this gives students and lecturers access to academic systems from anywhere in the world.
For the needs of education continuity, every student at his home have now access to a virtual laboratory desktop just by a web browser. He can do it from his computer, tablet, TV or even smartphone. Of course, the university provides access to virtual desktops 24/7. The lecturers also use HelpDesk module, which give them quick access to the student’s desktop and the opportunity to interact with him, e.g. remote assistance to help during classes. Some of the classes are conducted with use teleconferences application and in this case it is possible to run the Teams application directly on the remote desktop.
The implemented environment is fully functional, including advanced graphic applications for the visualization of conducted exercises and simulations. Student-lecturer communication is encrypted with appropriate SSL certificates, which protects against the risk of leakage of critical and personal data.
“When we were virtualizing the academic laboratories of several polish universities few years ago, we did not anticipate the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, we planned to provide virtual machines to students so that they could have access to specialized software from home and be able to prepare for classes, but the recent events clearly showed that the flexibility of virtual and program-defined solutions can do wonders in the least expected moments.” conludes Paweł Chrobak, Virtualization Department Manager at Advatech, VMware partner company, responsible for the project.
WSB University has worked with Advatech for many years. They have created advanced VDI solution with VMware vSphere, VMware vSAN, as well as NVIDIA GRID technology and Dell Technologies switches.