Over the last decade, technology has been completely transforming education and the learning experience, from K-12 to higher ed. Nationwide, school systems have worked toward digitally transforming the learning experience with initiatives for 1:1 student-to-computer coverage. Prior to the current global pandemic, 1:1 efforts prioritized access to computing and technology within the school. But now, access to computing from home is front-and-center, since it has practically become the only way to connect to teachers and learning when school buildings are closed.
New Challenges for School IT Teams
All of these trends and events have been tremendously challenging for IT teams in education. Typically, a small IT staff, consisting of two or three people, is responsible for a large number of students, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands in some districts. Staff-to-student ratios are typically better in higher education, but the needs are even more complex.
Beyond just getting students access to computing, IT managers in education are faced with an incredibly dynamic environment that makes delivery of software applications difficult. For example:
- Rapid student turnover: every year a whole new group of students enters the school and another exits.
- Access to software is often short term: from a one-week class module to a full semester or year-long course. This means IT managers must be able to react quickly to both enable and disable access to specific software applications -- all while staying compliant with software licensing terms.
- Wide variety of devices: ranging from PCs to Macs to Chromebooks. On top of school-owned devices, IT managers must deliver applications to an even wider variety of student-owned devices when learning from home during the pandemic.
- Software compatibility: many applications only run natively on one type of device. So when a variety of devices are in use, not all students can access the same apps.
- Remote access: even when a school is in session, IT managers can rarely be present with a student to troubleshoot an application issue. This is especially true for large districts where schools are spread out and during the pandemic when students are connecting from home.
- Licensing, version control & security patches: on top of this incredibly diverse and changing landscape of devices, IT managers are expected to keep all software applications up-to-date with the latest versions and security patches.
Simplify, Standardize and Centralize with Desktop as a Service (DaaS)
The combination of all of the issues above make the traditional delivery of applications in a school environment incredibly complex and challenging for IT teams that have both limited staff and expertise. One of the best ways to address these issues is to use DaaS technology to virtualize student desktops and applications so that they can be delivered and managed centrally from a public or private cloud.
With Nutanix Frame DaaS, IT staff can manage a small number of standardized desktops and application sets that get automatically replicated in the cloud. These virtual desktops and apps are then streamed to students on-demand from any device with only a browser. Gone are the days of “installing” and “managing” applications on a student's device. Instead, students simply login through any standard web browser on any device and their interactive applications and even full desktops are streamed to them.
With this centralized approach, IT can dramatically simplify their operations. When it's time to update a software application, they can do so on a single virtual machine (VM), and with one click “publish” it so that tens of thousands of students have the update the next time they log in. The approach even goes beyond just updating the software alone. For example, if a new version of software raises the minimum system requirements from 4 GB to 8 GB of CPU RAM, an IT manager can similarly update all VMs with a few clicks. This is all done without touching a single student computer.
This approach is not just limited to web apps, but it enables traditional Windows software, including rich graphics-intensive applications to be streamed to any device with a browser. Here are a few examples of applications commonly used in schools:
- Adobe software: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and other tools used in digital design, journalism, and yearbook classes
- Computer Aided Design (CAD) and engineering software from Autodesk, SolidWorks, Siemens, Mathworks (MATLAB), and other popular vendors
- Integrated Development Environments (IDE) for computer programming and game development
- Accounting and business software ranging from Microsoft Office tools to specialized analysis software
Best of all, with Nutanix Frame, the platform used to automate, provision and manage the VMs is delivered as a service. So there's no backend system that IT managers have to set up and manage themselves. Admins can perform all management tasks from a console that is also accessible through any web browser from anywhere. The bottom line is that DaaS dramatically simplifies the delivery of applications and desktops and effectively magnifies the reach and abilities of IT staff in education.
See Nutanix Frame in Action
Learn how other schools have leveraged Frame to simplify their deployment of technology and address the challenges of application management by reviewing these case studies covering both student and staff use cases:
- Jostens Monarch enables yearbook design in the cloud with Adobe software.
- Whitebear Lake Schools leverages Chromebooks for teaching digital design.
- Alabama A&M University rapidly responds to COVID-19 and enables staff to work from home.