Empowering the Digital Workspace: How Corona-Norco Unified School District Does It
The award-winning Corona-Norco Unified School District serves more than 54,000 K-12 students from the California cities of Corona, Norco and Eastvale, as well as unincorporated parts of Riverside County. One of the 10 largest districts in the state, it employs approximately 5,000 people.
Like many public school districts, Corona-Norco has a goal to reduce capital expenses and technology costs overall for its schools to ensure equal access to technology. With costs rising and a small IT team challenged to drive all over a large, traffic-choked area to deliver services, the district faced a big choice when they decided to upgrade in-school computing: Buy more sophisticated and expensive hardware for each school, or take a different approach. They chose a suite of digital workspace solutions that make it simple and cost-effective to manage mobile devices, upgrade to Windows 10 and distribute and maintain apps using virtual desktops.
Digital Workspaces Put the Emphasis on Education, Not Patching
In 2012, the district started to roll out virtual desktops on zero clients at schools. Corona-Norco now supports 8,000 zero clients and around 5,000 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) concurrent desktops—with a full-time staff of two. “We don’t see the support number changing dramatically as we significantly ramp up the number of devices,” said Brian Troudy, the district’s director of networking and infrastructure. Adding to the device count is the district’s embrace of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model for maximum flexibility and choice. VMware AirWatch and VMware Workspace ONE extend the district’s digital workspaces beyond classroom computers to tablets and laptops, allowing faculty, students and staff to access any app on any device at any time.
VMware end-user computing solutions have simplified application management and updates, including the district’s upgrade to Windows 10. With the ability to test and patch images “behind the scenes” from a central location, instead of sending IT staff to schools and taking computers out of service, operating system (OS) and app updates are easy to deploy. Said Troudy, “Using the Horizon suite, App Volumes, Thin App and UEM, we’re able to layer into a user’s connection the applications that they need based on certain criteria—the location, class that they’re enrolled in—and all of that can be done dynamically and automatically based on the integrations that we have with other business systems.” IT staff can now spend their efforts working one-on-one with their end users on effective use of technology instead of managing and maintaining the underlying technology.
Teacher Peter D’Agostino noted that he used to have to stay at school after hours and come in early to maintain and patch classroom computers. It could take weeks to get new software installed. Now with VMware Horizon VDI, apps for engineering, history, music production and many more topics run faster and more reliably. “I no longer have to spend time updating computers on my own, taking time away from students. Now I spend my time looking for ways for kids to learn better. It just changes the game.”
Money Saved on Technology Goes Back to Student Programs
The district estimates it’s saved $5 million on hardware so far, and more than $75,000 on energy costs alone, by switching to a VDI model. “We’re able to, with VMware technologies, deploy labs of computers to our students at a quarter of the cost,” said Troudy. “It’s also allowed us to keep the experience of the desktop that they’re using up to date and relevant. It’s a night-and-day experience for our students.”
“With VMware … we were able to provide end-user computing at a much lower cost than we did six or seven years ago. There’s nothing that makes me happier as a CIO than to be able to say, I get out of the way, and let the school do what they need to do to make sure the students receive the education they deserve.”
—Ben Odipo, CIO and Assistant Superintendent of Information Technology, Corona-Norco Unified School District