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Posted on by Jake Harding in Student Experience, BYOD, Application Virtualization, Customers

Sheridan College join the BYOD revolution with AppsAnywhere

Founded in 1967, Sheridan has grown from a local college of 400 students to one of Ontario’s leading postsecondary institutions. Educating approximately 23,000 full-time and 18,500 part-time studies students every year on campuses in three Ontario cities, Oakville, Brampton and Mississauga, Sheridan College's software delivery objectives required a robust, versatile and uncompromising solution.

An award-winning institution, Sheridan College attracts students from across Canada and around the world. Their 170,000 alumni play a critical role in shaping the future of the fields of arts, business, community service, health, technology and skilled trades. Key to maintaining these contributions to industry and society is the consistent provision of front-line resources throughout a student's education. Considering this in a digital context, AppsAnywhere was the perfect solution for Sheridan in continuing to provide a stellar student experience and cultivating exceptional alumni who are testament to and champions of Sheridan College.

The introduction of AppsAnywhere has had a dramatic impact on Sheridan’s academic and administrative computing environment. We are able to provide a consistent, familiar, and flexible user experience.

James Duncan, Director, Information and Communication Technology, Sheridan College

 

Sheridan Logo in Software2 branded orange circle

Sheridan College's software delivery objectives.

  1. Sheridan has a large academic ‘bring your own device’ program, supporting approximately 8,000 students. The BYOD paradigm has created technology support challenges for the College with some programs and applications.

  2. Some of these challenges have been solved using desktop virtualization, which from a user experience perspective is not necessarily ideal. Clients want to access applications, not a second Windows desktop. We felt there was an opportunity to deliver a superior experience at a lower overall cost.

  3. Simultaneously, Sheridan is working to replace their intranet platform, which currently offers software installation as a feature but is out of scope for the new solution.

  4. Information Technology decided to pursue a solution that delivers a modern ‘app store’ experience while continuing to support the fundamental tenets of ‘anywhere, anytime, any device’ access to software.

  5. The College released a Request for Proposal which was then awarded to Software2 for an AppsAnywhere/Cloudpaging solution.

Sheridan's launch in numbers

 

Sheridan-facts-figures-windows-desktops

With over 1,000 academic Windows desktops, distributed throughout labs and classrooms, and 800 employee Windows desktops to support, Sheridan required an application delivery solution which could confidently and consistently deploy 100% of Windows apps in an efficient and cost-effective and manner. With its Cloudpaging integration, AppsAnywhere provided such a solution.


Sheridan-facts-figures-windows-laptops

Across all staff and faculties, Sheridan's IT department regularly support 1,700 employee Windows laptops, and this doesn't include BYOD! This represented a similarly high number of machines to manage to the number of Windows desktops requiring support. With the added complexity of the inherently mobile nature of laptops, this presented a significant challenge. Sheridan was also able to utilize the power of AppsAnywhere & Cloudpaging's integration to overcome the challenge and support these machines.


Sheridan-facts-figures_8000BYOD

Alongside catering to student and staff desires for versatility and a 'non-managed' feeling on managed machines, a driving objective for Sheridan's launch was to more successfully enable student BYOD. Using AppsAnywhere's comprehensive list of integrations, Sheridan consolidated their existing and new delivery methods to provide a consistently stable user experience. They have enabled 'Bring Your Own Device' and empowered their students and staff to work from their own machines, thereby reducing IT support time and costs and creating a digital student experience to be remembered!


Sheridan-facts-figures_800VDI

Sheridan College's IT department support 800 VDI zero clients using AppsAnywhere, all of them ready to spin up an application and deploy to the requesting user on an instant's notice. 

Previous solutions

Prior to launching AppsAnywhere, Sheridan made use of three key delivery technologies, the first being a custom-built application download portal. The portal allowed the user to visit, select their installation package and then install. Secondly, Sheridan utilized application packaging for install rather than deployment. This functioned on an 'as a service' model and was accessed on demand, delivering a file ready for partly-automated install. The final method used was a virtual desktop solution, virtualizing entire operating systems for delivery of single apps or small app groups. This method was employed for some BYOD use cases where other methods could not perform reliably or consistently across all platforms.

Sheridan was using these methods to deploy to a number of technologies. Laptops and desktops were assigned 1:1 for staff and faculty, with students whose curriculum required their own machine having AppsAnywhere BYOD access, known at Sheridan as 'Mobile Computing' programs. Further than this, Sheridan utilized virtual desktop environments and delivered to machines for some home and personal use, though significant limitations were experienced due to the inherent issue of license monitoring and control.

Limitations & challenges

The legacy solution to covering all bases in software deployment has been to pick a number of delivery methods and technologies, each of which is adept at a very specific task, and have them work in conjunction. The flaw in this is that it results in key specific use cases being covered well, though also presents lapses in use-case coverage. Only 'normal' use situations are consistently, efficiently and cost-effectively covered and, as Software2's experience working with higher education institutions has revealed, it is infrequent that every facet of a user's situation is normal. Whether a user is running an unsupported OS on their own machine, or whose accessibility requirements means they must study from home from time to time, most industry standard solutions are limited in the task of viably solving all use cases.

When asked how these limitations impeded IT from achieving key strategic goals, Sheridan College stated:

We have always had a vision of 'anywhere, any device, any time' access to applications and resources. The previous solutions challenged the realization of that vision.

James Duncan, Director, Information and Communication Technology, Sheridan College

 

Sheridan Logo in Software2 branded orange circle

The limitations experienced were both specific to key goals of Sheridan College's IT department as well as general and inherent throughout other software delivery solutions. The most limiting factors for Sheridan were as follows:

  • Delivering an entire virtual desktop is an expensive proposition for BYOD use cases where IT only wants to deliver an application, however, in some cases, this was the only viable option.

  • The previous application portal was a custom-built environment that IT struggled to maintain and keep up to date with newer OS platforms. For instance, Windows 10 Creator’s Update broke Sheridan's underlying software installation infrastructure.

  • The application portal also relied on manual install and so was prone to user error, thereby increasing IT support requirements and directly affecting the return-on-investment of the portal.

  • Users had to be on-site in order to utilize the system. They could not install and, in some cases, use software from home or remote locations.

  • It was not possible to update software after installation; users would have to reinstall the application entirely.

  • The solution was restrictive on platform. Some academic programs require both Mac and Windows software, so we were utilizing BootCamp to create dual environments.

  • There was no capability for reporting the use of current software titles. Duly there were missed opportunities for right-sizing licensing (for potential savings, or even increasing licensing in shared environments to create better customer experience).

  • Multiple gateways to obtaining software held detriment for the user experience. For example, Sheridan packaged applications, Microsoft Office, Adobe were all accessed via different portals.

The solution 

Implementation of AppsAnywhere has helped Sheridan College overcome the limitations they were experiencing and resume progress upon their key strategic goals, all whilst continuing to provide an outstanding student experience. Sheridan is now able to deliver a much better BYOD experience than the prior VDI environment and at a lower cost.

AppsAnywhere's integration with Parallels RAS will allow Sheridan college to begin exploring a truly multi-platform environment. Furthermore, Sheridan's software is now all accessible through a single, integrated front-end app store; a one-stop shop for applications.

As profound an effect AppsAnywhere has had on Sheridan College IT, it has matched this in its effect on students. They can now access all of their applications from home from an environment they find extremely friendly and flexible due to the front-end design principles AppsAnywhere shares with modern app-stores.

A stock image of a queue of people.

Photo by Melanie Pongratz.

Sheridan College also reported on seeing a dramatic improvement in their support of applications. Prior to AppsAnywhere and at the beginning of term, IT would see queues of users requiring support for their machines leading out the door, and these queues would persist for days. AppsAnywhere has greatly contributed to shrinking those lines, allowing IT staff to focus on providing greater value to students and employees rather than supporting huge numbers of manual installations.

As well as solving a number of defined and consistent issues, AppsAnywhere has empowered Sheridan College's IT department to achieve goals which had been rendered impossible by previous delivery technologies. Iterative software updates can now be pushed, resulting in more consistently up-to-date applications, reduced compatibility issues and all-round better performance. License reporting capabilities have been massively bolstered allowing for more control and monitoring over licenses and exposure of overuse or underuse of concurrent licenses.

We will finally be able to realize our End User Computing group vision of 'anywhere, any device, any time' thanks to AppsAnywhere.

James Duncan, Director, Information and Communication Technology, Sheridan College

Sheridan Logo in Software2 branded orange circle

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