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Customer Focus: College Students Learn Anywhere, Any Time with Spartan GreenSky

Vernon Apperson

Author: Vernon Apperson

Vernon is a technology writer for VMware End-User Computing, specializing in customer storytelling.

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At the University of South Carolina Upstate, with campuses in Spartanburg and Greenville, a lot of students take a non-traditional path to college, combining higher ed with work, family and Real Life 101. To increase availability of University resources for online and on-demand education, USC Upstate turned to VMware for solutions.

VMware Horizon and VMware App Volumes power a campus-wide service called Spartan GreenSky, a secure digital workspace where students, faculty and staff can use their email, files and course-required software from anywhere they have Internet access and on a variety of devices. VMware Virtual SAN provides faster access to those university resources with an all-flash hyper-converged storage solution that natively integrates with the VMware software stack.

“We can give the same tools to students whether they’re sitting on campus or in Charleston, taking classes several hundred miles away. It’s just like they’re sitting in our lab. Students write papers on their phones all the time.”
—Luke VanWingerden, Director of ITS Client Services, University of South Carolina Upstate

Easier Access Creates More Successful Students

“We have many non-traditional students, students who are working, who have families, all of USC Upstate VMware digital workspace use casewhom are trying to further their careers and their lives by getting an education here,” said interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs Clif Flynn.

USC Upstate is a metropolitan university, meaning that their mission is primarily to serve the needs of the region.

Only about 20% of the school’s students live on campus. For the other 80%, class resources online can be the difference between a degree and dropping out. Easier access to everything from the library to specialized course software improved student retention and persistence, said Flynn, which ultimately leads to student success.

The university uses Horizon to serve up secure digital workspaces.

“If someone needs a desktop computer, our standard is a virtual desktop from VMware in our Spartan GreenSky environment,” said VanWingerden.

App Volumes helps USC Upstate control access to courseware. The school provides more than 40 software packages as part of coursework, from specialized programs for statistics and chemistry to education classes. With App Volumes, IT can control exactly who gets access to each piece of software and for how long. App Volumes streams applications to any pool, so IT only has to manage the application, not the individual desktop.

To read more about how USC Upstate serves their community with easier access to education, please read their innovative digital workspace case study here.

The university modernized its storage infrastructure by replacing legacy hardware with Virtual SAN, choosing an all-flash approach. The faster all-flash hyper-converged storage solution, along with its native integration with the existing VMware stack, cut the redeployment cycle time for virtual machines in half. End users notice the difference:

“Typically, when we move people to Virtual SAN their first comment is, wow, that’s so much faster. What did you do?” said Kevin Hodges, VDI systems administrator. “We don’t typically explain what we did. But we let them know we moved them to a new storage system. They say, wow, that is amazing, I love it.”
—Kevin Hodges, VDI systems administrator

What’s Next?

USC Upstate Digital Workspace Case Study_VMware EUCUSC Upstate plans to continue to offer more distance education and double their online classes in the next few years to help students in the Spartanburg area and across the state access the resources they need to further their educations. One goal is to grow programs that are completely online, both at the undergraduate and the graduate level.

The school doesn’t just want their students to learn—they would like to see them identify as part of a broader university community. They plan to use more active desktop features with features such as personalized course schedules and lists of campus activities to engage students and further the university’s brand.

“These are things that will draw you into campus life,” said VanWingerden. “It’s not just about technology. We want our students to identify as Spartans.”

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