Why Don't Universities Need Computer Labs Anymore?
Universities in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands all ask Leon a familiar question.
How do we get rid of our university's computer labs?
Have you ever noticed that university open access labs are crammed with students at the end of term? It’s frustrating for students and university IT staff that otherwise underused, expensive and large labs can’t handle peak demand.
Having spent the last two years visiting universities across Europe, the question I am asked more and more is "how can we remove the PC labs and associated cost of supporting the desktop environment?".
So what are the top five reasons to remove university labs?
- Students want access to software on their own terms. Anywhere, anytime, any device - not just when a computer is available
- Open access labs are large enough to cope with peak demand, but are not utilized most of the time
- Labs are an expensive resource; you have to pay for the PCs, displays, printers, software and electricity...
- … as well as the cost of the IT staff monitoring the labs ready for the inevitable breakdowns …
- … and the cost of all that space within the university estate
Using the power of students' own machines
Nowadays, most university students have a powerhouse that they carry around with them each day; a computer that’s more than capable of running all the software they need to do their course work. Most students beg, borrow and bribe their parents into buying them the best laptop, in the belief they'll be able to complete studies on their own device.
The reality is much more disappointing for most students, when they realise they can’t run the latest version of MATLAB or SPSS on their own device due to license restrictions and have to make do with the machines that the university supplies, in a specific room at a set time.
So what’s the solution? Wi-Fi? VDI?
Most universities have a way of delivering Wi-Fi to any device, but this does not deliver the apps. Many universities have looked at various technologies to solve this problem - VDI for example. The aim is to provide a secure environment where the student can access their resources/software, but university CIOs are finding that they are doubling their expenditure on infrastructure. This transfers the problem from the expensive desktop environment to an expensive server environment.
Most universities just want a way of delivering apps to students' own devices without the need for extra investment in expensive infrastructure, finding a way to ensure university software license compliance whilst ensuring they don’t compromise the student experience. Universities want an IT solution that the student is familiar with and, most importantly, when the student ceases to be a student, they don’t disappear from campus with expensive licenses installed on their own device.
Does such a solution exist? We think so.