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Provide access to university software from home and enable off-campus access with BYOD

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One of the key challenges for higher education IT is getting the right software to the right students when they need it. With added complexity from software license agreements, virtual desktop technologies, and other factors such as supporting on-campus labs, this goal is made even trickier by unforeseeable events with the potential to disrupt service.

Most obviously, as recent events demonstrate, widespread illness has the potential to disrupt university services and bring the academic timetable to a standstill, alongside many other unavoidable circumstances such as adverse weather or union strikes in travel systems. In this article, we’ll discuss the various technologies and principles which can enable IT to continue providing software throughout these situations, whether your students are able to make it to campus or not.

What are the challenges of disruptions to IT services?

Providing the best student experience possible, particularly in the digital domain, is key to students achieving the highest possible grades, improving university rankings and increasing student retention and enrolment. Giving students the option to work in the way which best suits them is a large part of this, regardless of any unusual circumstances. A compromised student experience caused by anything that obstructs, or has the potential to obstruct this should be considered when looking at software delivery solutions. In short, disruptions can prevent students from working in their chosen ways, thereby affecting grades, retention, enrolment and, ultimately, revenue and funding.

“Improve student outcomes thanks to on-demand access to software, anytime, anywhere.”

Students not able to attend physical locations means managed hardware and specialist labs are unused, and their ‘over-time’ costs are entirely wasted resources during these periods. Furthermore, the more hardware and physical real-estate IT has the manage, the less focus can be assigned to supporting BYO devices. Lots of managed hardware and specialist labs greatly limited the number of locations that students are able to study and work from, and that faculty are able to teach from. This can turn a situation that has the potential to disrupt services into a situation guaranteed to disrupt services, carrying with it the same detriments anything that can compromise the student experience.

One of the key challenges for higher education IT is getting the right software to the right students when they need it. With added complexity from software license agreements, virtual desktop technologies, and other factors such as supporting on-campus labs, this goal is made even trickier by unforeseeable events with the potential to disrupt service.

Most obviously, as recent events demonstrate, widespread illness has the potential to disrupt university services and bring the academic timetable to a standstill, alongside many other unavoidable circumstances such as adverse weather or union strikes in travel systems. In this article, we’ll discuss the various technologies and principles which can enable IT to continue providing software throughout these situations, whether your students are able to make it to campus or not.


Avoid disruption of IT service and software delivery

The primary factor to consider in ensuring continuity of service is BYOD, or ‘bring your own device’. It is not viable to provide every student and faculty member with a portable, managed device, let alone to continue to manage all those devices while their users are mobile. For this reason, to truly avoid disruption of IT service to students and staff, BYOD is essential. – use their own devices so they can work from anywhere.

“Enable remote and flexible learning by giving students off-campus access to academic resources such as their software apps”

That said, it is possible to negate the impact of situations that have the potential to affect software access by ensuring your software delivery is as flexible and versatile as possible. For example, reducing the number of labs that are specialist, and making all software available in all labs (also referred to as ‘virtual labs’ or ‘open-access learning areas’) can help to manage to the problem. This extends to any satellite campuses, premises or buildings. The more options students and faculty have for accessing their software away from main campus/specialist labs, the lesser the impact on student experience and outcomes.


The best practices of delivering software during disruptive periods

In the event of campus closure, you want students to be able to still access the academic resources and software they need wherever they are. Continuity of service can be ensured through the correct practices and technologies. AppsAnywhere can detect a user’s context to choose the most appropriate method of delivering software, which is essential to true BYOD and open-access to software. With an appstore-like front-end, your BYOD users will receive a user experience consistent with that of on-campus or managed machines, keeping potential support requirements at a minimum. Additionally, AppsAnywhere Analytics can expose usage statistics of software titles and delivery methods to inform IT on where systems are reaching their usage limits and, conversely, where costs could be saved on delivering software.

Best practices for delivering via VDI

Each of the key software delivery technologies commonly used in universities today carries with it its own benefits. For example, VDI permits cross-platform delivery that doesn't rely upon end-devices' hardware. This makes it particularly good for the delivery of heavyweight apps to BYO devices. It also enables software titles with ‘onsite only’ licenses agreements to be delivered anywhere due to them technically being executed on virtual desktops which are spun up within onsite servers. With VDI being the costly, yet powerful solution that it is, it's good practice to reserve using its licenses for situations in which it is necessary. Generally, consider delivering using desktop virtualization in the following scenarios:

  • Delivering offsite or to students in different countries
  • Cross-platform delivery
  • Delivering to less capable hardware
  • Delivering to situations where security is a concern
Ultimate guide to VDI

Best practices for delivering via application virtualization

Contrary to VDI, application virtualization can leverage the hardware capabilities of the end device resulting in fewer expensive VDI licenses being used concurrently during disruptive circumstances. Application virtualization is a brilliantly versatile technology for delivering Windows apps to Windows devices, with solutions like Numecent's Cloudpaging being able to deliver 100% of apps. Application virtualization is a worthy consideration in any of the following situations:

  • Delivery of Windows apps to Windows devices
  • Delivery to non-managed devices
  • Delivery to devices with high-powered hardware
Ultimate guide to application virtualization

Best practices for delivering via imaging

As the least expensive and specialist, yet one of the most time-consuming delivery methods to manage, imaging should be treated with care to help alleviate demands for software without increasing the workload for IT too much. Imaging is only really viable on managed devices and so, in times of disrupted service, it may not be the most effective technology to deliver to remote students/users. That said, making as much use of imaging on managed devices in the interest of keeping as many VDI and application virtualization licenses available as possible can help ensure that software is always available. Consider imaging for the following situations during extenuating circumstances:

  • Delivery to managed devices and labs
  • Delivery of 'essential' apps (browsers, Microsoft Office, PDF readers, etc)

Open access to university software with AppsAnywhere

Use AppsAnywhere's out-of-the-box virtualization software to deliver key apps to the relevant faculties and student groups. Making specialist apps available on-demand via app virtualization means these potentially heavyweight apps aren't relying on university-owned server power to run and that software titles don't need to be 100% downloaded in order to initially run. Alternatively, for apps that must be run in a lab/on-campus for security reasons or otherwise, use AppsAnywhere and VDI/RDSH protocols to spin up virtual desktops and deliver apps within those desktops. The virtual machines can be persistent and retain user information and settings upon log out without having to be destroyed.

Most importantly and in times like the current, times of uncertainty, it is important for as many things as possible to remain consistent. In this context, user experience is very important; AppsAnywhere provides a route to accessing apps that remains exactly the same for staff and students no matter which delivery method is used. The importance of consistency in questionable times cannot be overstated and, furthermore, will ensure that obstacles, user-error, and demands on support are kept to a minimum, all while providing an awesome student experience.

 


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Watch our 30-minute webinar with Software2 Co-Founder, Tony Austwick, and learn how to deliver academic apps off-campus and enable a university BYOD strategy.

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