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Posted on by Jake Harding in Customers

Improving the student experience and achieving key strategic IT goals with the University of Utah

When The University of Utah first contacted Software2 they sought a solution to help with license management and prevent duplication, support their higher-than-normal Mac estate and consolidate their user experience into a single, centralized one. These goals were realized through AppsAnywhere and, in this video, Seth Walsh and James Lancaster discuss how their decision has improved their IT offering and benefited their user experience.

I think it really only took one release cycle once we started working in earnest with Software2 and I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude to Software2.

James Lancaster, University of Utah.


Improving the student experience and achieving key strategic IT goals with the University of Utah - Video Transcription

So we are a tier one research university in the US. We were one of the first five original ARPA notes. We have over 35,000 students that commute to our central campus, and that doesn't include the campus we've now opened in South Korea. Our initial use case, however, was computer labs. When we started with Software2 we were looking at other things like LANDESK, packagers basically. And we came across Software2 at the time, about three and a half years ago, and we decided to use it as a packaging program to push apps to our labs. And it's just been wonderful for us.

So some of the other challenges we have is licensing. When you're really decentralized, you may have 30 fine arts students in a particular graduate level course using one piece of software. Well, they'll get licenses from Fine Arts, 30 of them, for their class. But then they come to the library. Well, those students need that software. We then have to purchase licenses. Then they'll go up to the college of engineering because they're working with some EAE students or some game designers. They need licenses up there.

You're duplicating license costs and wasting resources. Software2 would provide us the ability to greatly save money across campus through that. Plus it provides standardization across all the IT departments. In this way, everybody's using the same software, they have access to all the programs no matter where they are, no matter whether they're local here on campus or they're at home.

I'm going to let James talk about some of the technical stuff that we had the luxury of working with Software2 on. Some specific needs that our campus requires we meet, and they were great and quick about helping us meet those needs and test them in our sandbox environment before rolling them out in 2.5.

I should be able to cover this pretty briefly in that you've all had an introduction to many of these technologies. But the CAS (Central Authentication Service) integration, the SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) integration is absolutely essential for campus adoption for us. Our learning management system is behind that. A great many other applications on campus are behind that. And increasingly, virtually any new infrastructure is expected to be behind SAML. Now, SAML has the potential, especially for off campus users, to improve the security of the system.

We don't need to handle the credentials directly within the portals themselves. And in some cases, we're rolling out two-factor authentication which adds an additional measure of security.

Our campus also hosts the hospital, which is one of the premier hospitals in the country. We have a lot of security that other colleges might not have based on HPPA laws and stuff within the US, and privacy. And we have to take extraordinary steps that other places might not when it comes to authentication and security and credential handling. So the fact that we were able to get SAML working and up quickly will go a long ways to appeasing that.

And that's exactly ... I think it really only took one release cycle once we started working in earnest with Software2 and I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude to Software2. Particularly to Ryan Heath on our identity and, access management, Vaibhav Narula.

And this is what our user will see when they're going to access our learning management system, Canvas. They'll just log in there.

Some of the challenges, like I said, that we're dealing with are just the politics. I know that some of you guys from Syracuse can speak to that. You know what it's like in a decentralized US higher education system. It doesn't function like the real world. There're inefficiencies, redundancies. You really need to get the students and professors on board, and we really just wanted to come here and have an opportunity to say thanks to the development team for how quickly you guys implement a lot of the features that we need.

We also have a higher than normal Mac user basis, and half of our department, our boss himself, who's not here, are Mac specialists. And so when our groups merged a year ago and he took over, he came in with a lot of Mac requests and has probably angered Ryan. He's definitely not on his Christmas list. But if you look at a lot of the things that they're now implementing, Jamf, KeyServer possibly.

The goal is to get it to where you have a singular user experience. You don't want your user to have to think about anything different, do anything different, whether they're on a computer in a lab, whether they're on their laptop, their iPad, their Mac, their Android phone. Wherever they are. You want them to do the same behavior and get the same results, be able to access the same software.

And we really just wanted to come here and say thanks. And while we still have some challenges ahead, thanks for the effort that you guys are doing. And quickly, I think we're going to get there sooner.

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