EDUCAUSE 2023 Top 10 IT Issues: How Virtualization Solutions Can Help – Part Two

In Part one of this blog series, we explored the fundamental lessons learned by institutional and IT leaders over the past few years and the top IT issues EDUCAUSE believes will be top-of-mind in 2023.

Part two of the blog will discuss the issues stemming from today’s Everything is Anywhere learning environment (issues 8 through 10 on the list) and how virtualization solutions can play a role in helping higher ed institutions face them head-on.

Everything Is Anywhere

As the global pandemic prompted higher education institutions to adapt to a new learning frontier, it shined a spotlight on virtual technologies and their ability to provide secure and engaging learning experiences anywhere, on any device, at any time.

As a result, leaders are acknowledging that the institution is no longer confined to the physical campus. EDUCAUSE observes that “Classrooms are in lecture halls and seminar rooms but also the homes of every instructor teaching remotely and every student engaged in hybrid learning. Institutional business is conducted in offices, conference rooms, and the homes of every staff member who works a bit or a lot from home. The campus consists of both physical and digital entities. Institutional data is stored, transmitted, and accessed on campus computers, home computers, portable devices, cloud servers, and other solution-providers machines. Everything is anywhere.”

According to EDUCAUSE, the hybrid model of Everything is Anywhere requires “a very different IT support strategy (Issue #8). Simply layering technology on top of classroom learning leads to the worst of both worlds; both teaching and learning need to be refactored to incorporate the particular advantages of technology into pedagogy (Issue #9).”

Although “Changes in work and education are highly visible and tangible,” EDUCAUSE suggests that, “A less visible but no less powerful transformation of enterprise technologies is also underway. The new generations of enterprise applications provide opportunities to free IT professionals from coding and thus enable them to contribute technology expertise more directly to the businesses and mission of the institution (Issue #10).”

Let’s now take a deeper dive into the Everything is Anywhere challenge facing higher education institutions and explore how virtualization technologies can help.

Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator

Apporto’s virtual computer labs maximize learning and optimize efficiencies at 50-70% less than the cost of traditional VDI solutions. See for yourself why the Navy and top universities like UCLA and Emory have already discovered by using our Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator.

ROI, Return on investment, Business and financial concept.

Issue#8: A New Era of IT Support: Updating IT services to support remote/hybrid work

EDUCAUSE summarizes the challenges facing IT support in an Everything Anywhere world as: “More complex and specialized, more widespread and far-reaching, and more difficult to secure than ever before. IT professionals are managing digital environments that are a mixture of old and new architectures, both on-premises and in the cloud.”

Furthermore, EDUCAUSE points out that just as businesses had to adjust to evolving expectations of employees, so too do educational institutions: “End users have very high expectations for the tools they use to support their learning and work. Changes are required to meet these needs. Some institutions are revising their equipment policies and practices to provision users for distributed, rather than office-based, working environments. Laptops are replacing desktops, and people may be given additional equipment (e.g., cameras and headsets) and applications (e.g., collaboration suites) to collaborate virtually.”

Challenges in 2023

Here’s what EDUCAUSE has to say about the challenges facing IT professionals in 2023: The adaptations to pandemic work were hurried, temporary, emergency fixes, and often IT professionals and end-users were asked to adapt existing tools to pandemic conditions. IT leaders are now focused on building a more resilient and sustainable infrastructure and support environment for a distributed digital campus, while still giving care and attention to the physical campus. This will take time, resources, and enthusiasm for change. Challenges include creating an institutional culture focused on acquiring new digital skills, improving policies and procedures, building cybersecurity awareness, and continuing to live with an unstable supply chain.

Federal funding helped many institutions adapt to and survive the pandemic. But 2023 will be a much leaner year, leaving leaders to continue these initiatives within their own budget.

IT organizations must provide a robust campus network that is better than ever. This network must be ubiquitous and must support everything from the internet of things to a home-like experience for resident students. At the same time, remote learners’ and workers’ connection to institutional resources is dependent on their local broadband service. But broadband access is incredibly spotty across the United States and the world, presenting a fundamental challenge to working and learning remotely.

How Virtualization Technologies Can Help

Technologies such as virtual computer labs and virtual desktops support a distributed digital campus by giving users the flexibility they want and IT the security they need.

Students can engage in an active learning environment anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected device. Students do not need high-end devices to access advanced resource-intensive applications and do not have to load them onto their personal devices. Once their device of choice is connected to the internet, each user will be provided exactly the same user experience, meaning that someone with a $100 Acer Chromebook will have the same user experience as someone with a $2,800 M1 MacBook Pro. 

Furthermore, cloud desktop systems frequently offer security features, such as antivirus and malware solutions, as well as the ability to store data and systems on multiple servers. This redundancy greatly reduces the chance of completely losing all data and systems and ensures an institution can recover quickly from any breaches. Providers like Apporto take it a step further with their Zero Trust Virtual Desktop that completely eliminates user devices as a security threat, only transferring pixels and text between endpoints and the virtual desktop.

Institutions benefit as well. Partnering with a virtual desktop provider takes care of the infrastructure, backup and recovery, monitoring, and maintenance, freeing up IT to focus on other tasks and reducing management costs (personnel, device support, and updating, etc.). 

Schools and students that use virtual technologies also have access to cutting-edge technology without the hefty price tag. Companies that build and maintain these virtual technologies compete with each other to stay ahead of technology progression and that raises the quality of options for teachers and students. Students do not have to settle for outdated, yet expensive, equipment because a school cannot afford to replace it consistently.

Issue#9: Online, In-Person, or Hybrid? Yes

The pivot to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has altered faculty and students’ perspectives on what they need to be successful. The past few years have shown that students and faculty can not only perform online but thrive, using tech-forward learning tools.  

According to EDUCAUSE, this seachange has “shone a bright light on a pedagogical development that experts have long advocated for: backward course design. Course design should begin with students’ learning outcomes, rather than starting with the available technologies or course modality (e.g., face-to-face, online, hybrid, HyFlex, synchronous, asynchronous). Courses should be designed in a way that allows students to achieve their learning objectives, using the technology tools that best gets them there. Students have differing constraints on their time and resources, and ideally, higher education needs to become more flexible to adapt to those differences.”

Challenges in 2023

Here’s what EDUCAUSE has to say about the challenges institutions will face when developing a learning-first, technology-enabled learning strategy in 2023: Campus infrastructure, funding, and resources all present challenges for students, who need technology hardware and software, adequate learning spaces, and bandwidth to access learning experiences. Many students lack at least one of these. Classrooms and laboratories need both infrastructure and layouts that accommodate various learning modalities and technology tools. Faculty and instructional designers must devote time to technology-mediated pedagogical design and delivery.

This issue comes with cultural challenges as well. Not only is the technology environment changing, but today’s students are expecting some of the learning experiences of their K–12 years. They want seamless, engaging learning on a par with their commercial technology-mediated experiences. Few institutions are ready, or even acknowledge the need, to provide students with highly flexible course modalities (e.g., bricks-and-mortar, online, autonomous, mediated, personalized) and the well-designed, integrated services that students are used to in the commercial world. Offering students a contemporary learning experience puts pressure on institutional resources. The bigger challenge, however, may be the culture shift that is required to address the gap between how the institution views its digital presence and what students expect. Faculty cannot be left out of this equation. An investment must be made in faculty professional development for course design and delivery and the use of classroom technology.

How Virtualization Technologies Can Help

Virtual computer labs allow students to quickly and easily access the educational resources they need on their terms. Students can engage in an active learning environment anytime, anywhere because they are no longer bound to a certain location or schedule. Gone are the days when a student would have to wake up on a Saturday morning and spend an hour driving to campus and finding a parking spot, only to have limited time to work on a clunky PC in a loud and crowded computer lab. Now, the computer lab is literally in students’ hands, eliminating the need to commute and enabling them to spend more time working on assignments when and where they work best, whether that’s a dorm room, coffee shop, or common area.

Like their students, instructors are able to securely access the virtual computer lab from any device, giving them much more freedom as to when and where they can review assignments or answer questions. Students benefit from their teacher’s easy access to institutional infrastructure by receiving feedback and instruction in real-time or outside of traditional classroom hours. Virtual computer labs also provide opportunities for more extensive feedback on many different types of assignments. Instructors can offer help at various points, as well as track analytics like user participation.

Issue#10: SaaS, ERP, and CRM: An Alphabet Soup of Opportunity

In this highly digitized world, an institution’s technological landscape has a greater impact on how prospective students, faculty, and donors view campuses than ever before. If colleges and universities don’t maintain their digital facilities as well as they do their physical facilities, if they don’t look modern or operate in the way that learners and other constituents expect, then no amount of manicured lawns or gothic architecture will convince students to apply. Institutions have to show that they have a 360-degree view of students and have the physical and digital infrastructures in place to support their learning journeys.

EDUCAUSE sees the issue this way: “Just as institutions that have ignored regular maintenance of physical infrastructure have incurred “deferred maintenance” costs that far exceed paying for regular maintenance, many institutions now face a “technology deferred maintenance” problem that has risen from not investing in, or not having a plan to invest in, modern technologies.” 

Adding to the issue is the fact that the generation with the experience and skills to run the turn-of-the-century ERP suites is retiring. 

EDUCAUSE views the issue as an opportunity, however: “Thankfully, part of the value of adopting modern ERPs is the fact that they rely more on configuration than on massive customization. This allows us to use precious staff resources to work more closely with our colleagues across the institution as we assist them with process improvement, data management, and business analysis.”

Challenges in 2023

Here’s what EDUCAUSE has to say about the challenges around managing cost, risk, and value of investments in new ERP solutions in 2023: Moving to the cloud is not a fast process, nor is it cheap. New ERPs are expensive and involve a budgetary change toward operational costs instead of capital costs. Despite the contributions that a modern ERP and CRM can make to institutional transformation, many leaders will balk at the cost, time, and complexity. New CRMs—with their potential for increased gifts and donations, admissions, and student retention—may be easier to justify than new ERPs. But ignoring an aging and obsolete ERP is a growing risk; making the case for risk mitigation here may help.

The change management challenge is equally daunting. To get the most from new applications, people need to be committed to improvement and open to letting go of how they used to do things. There’s a reason change management is at the core of these projects; only when people change the policies and processes will the technology reach its potential. Leaders’ advocacy and support can help, but change management takes a lot of preparation and time.

There’s another reason change management will be especially difficult in 2023. Most of us have not yet recovered from the stresses, workloads, and limitations of the pandemic. People are exhausted, and change requires time, optimism, and energy. On the other hand, incumbent staff turnover in ERP functional units (e.g., finance, HR, registrar) may present an opportunity for change at some institutions.

How Virtualization Technologies Can Help

With virtual computer labs, “VCL”, instead of a student visiting a physical computer lab, a student can use any device connected to the internet to access a virtual version of that lab and leverage its respective software and resources. The VCL is accessed via a web browser interface and is platform-independent. All operating systems, servers, software, and applications are centrally maintained in the cloud, so end-users do not need to house or maintain any of the programs or software on their own machines; instead, they simply log in to the cloud-based system to access everything they would use when visiting the brick-and-mortar campus computer lab.

And since users can quickly and easily access all of the digital resources required to be successful in a class on their device of choice, including personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones, they are familiar with the technology and do not have to worry about their technical readiness and can simply focus on learning. 

This is not to say that an element of change management is not required to implement virtual technologies. Like with any new technology, leveraging virtual desktops or virtual computer labs requires funding, training, and IT support, but it is far less expensive, complicated, or time-consuming than traditional VDI solutions.   

Conclusion

Higher education is undergoing a significant digital transformation that shows no signs of slowing down. To sustain academic excellence and keep schools financially viable, institutions must quickly adjust to students’ and faculty members’ new expectations and use all available digital resources to improve the learning journey.

Innovative education delivery like virtual desktops and virtual computer labs enhance the learning process, help modernize instruction, and is exactly the new approach that institutional and technology leaders need to make 2023 “a year of doing”.

Why Partner with Apporto?

Since being founded in 2014, Apporto has emerged as the leading provider of secure virtual desktops, virtual computer labs, and modular cyber labs to the higher education community. 

Feature-packed and affordable, Apporto’s fully managed service gives customers a superior user experience without the heavy lifting and expense normally required by traditional on-premise VDI solutions. This frees up your IT team to focus on strategic projects and business objectives rather than continually updating and maintaining a complex technology stack.

Contact us today at apporto.com to schedule a live demo and see for yourself why hundreds of colleges and universities trust Apporto with their virtualization needs.

EDUCAUSE 2023 Top 10 IT Issues: How Virtualization Solutions Can Help – Part One

EDUCAUSE has once again released its annual Top IT Issues List, where the non-profit association discusses what it anticipates will be the most important IT-related issues facing higher education institutions in the coming year. The Top 10 IT Issues List is developed by a panel of experts composed of IT and non-IT leaders, CIOs, and faculty members, and is then voted on by EDUCAUSE members in an annual survey.

In 2023, EDUCAUSE believes that institutional and technology leaders are ready for a “new approach” and that “thinking is giving way to doing”: “The old foundations—from enrollment to credentials to the campus to decision-making—are showing signs of wear. Existing foundations need to be examined and strengthened. New foundations may need to be developed.”

The 2023 Top IT Issues, therefore, are grouped into three categories that form the building blocks for new foundation models EDUCAUSE says institutional and technology leaders are now developing: (1) leadership (Leading with Wisdom); (2) data (The Ultra-Intelligent Institution); and (3) work and learning (Everything Is Anywhere). 

Part one of this blog will explore what we have learned and the list itself. Part two will discuss the IT issues that come under the work and learning (Everything Is Anywhere) category, as we believe that it is within this foundation that solutions such as virtual desktops or virtual computer labs have the greatest ability to make the most meaningful impact.

What We’ve Learned

The List begins with a reflection on lessons learned from what EDUCAUSE calls the “Great Rethink” ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, namely:

  • We’ve learned that we can operate an institution even when many people—staff, faculty, and students—aren’t physically present.
  • We’ve learned that many students deeply want and need physical presence but that they also want and need the flexibility that hybrid offers.
  • We’ve learned that institutions have unique cultures that play out differently in person and online.
  • We’ve acknowledged that we can rapidly change and adapt and that we don’t always need to do things the way we “always” did them.
  • We’ve learned that data sparks insights and that insights lead to better decisions.
  • We’ve demonstrated that technology fuels just about everything an institution needs to do and that as a result, the insights and guidance of a technology leader should help fuel institutional strategy.
  • We’ve recognized that IT staff need to help manage the business and further the missions, in addition to running the systems.
  • We’ve learned that our work and personal lives overlap significantly and that everyone needs flexibility between those lives.
  • We’ve seen that students are influenced by their ongoing digital experiences and that a good number of them want institutional digital experiences different from what we’re offering.
  • We’ve realized the importance of accentuating why and how working in higher education can be a rewarding career choice.

Zero Trust Virtual Desktop White Paper

In this white paper, you will learn how Apporto helps companies achieve highly secure remote workplaces

Based on these lessons learned, EDUCAUSE says that institutional and IT leaders are: “Moving from task-specific and silo-specific work and strategy and infrastructure to institution-wide, flexible, reusable models for running the higher education institution and achieving its missions. We’re outsourcing technologies and integrating data to achieve the benefits of scale. We’re embracing our humanity and our needs for purpose, connection, and trust. And we’re continuing to recognize the ongoing duty to safeguard privacy and cybersecurity.”

2023 Top 10 IT Issues

In 2023, the Top 10 IT Issues focus on acting on the results of what institutional and IT leaders have learned over the past year and on the challenges that institutions are facing today and into 2023.

Be sure to check out Part Two of this blog where we explore the impact of the shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic on IT services and strategy and its implications for 2023 and beyond.

Why Partner with Apporto?

Since being founded in 2014, Apporto has emerged as the leading provider of secure virtual desktops, virtual computer labs, and modular cyber labs to the higher education community. 

Feature-packed and affordable, Apporto’s fully managed service gives customers a superior user experience without the heavy lifting and expense normally required by traditional on-premise VDI solutions. This frees up your IT team to focus on strategic projects and business objectives rather than continually updating and maintaining a complex technology stack.

Contact us today at apporto.com to schedule a live demo and see for yourself why hundreds of colleges and universities trust Apporto with their virtualization needs.

Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator

Apporto’s virtual computer labs maximize learning and optimize efficiencies at 50-70% less than the cost of traditional VDI solutions. See for yourself why the Navy and top universities like UCLA and Emory have already discovered by using our Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator.
ROI, Return on investment, Business and financial concept.

Desktop Virtualization: Key Players and How to Choose the Right Provider

Desktop virtualization is a critical technology that has dramatically changed the way in which businesses and institutions operate across the globe. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the desktop virtualization technology market has seen explosive growth due to the need for simplified IT management and a secure workspace to enable a distributed workforce. 

Industry analysts foresee the demand for desktop virtualization continuing its strong upward trajectory. Spiceworks reports that 50% of all corporate workloads are predicted to run in the cloud by 2023, up from 40% in 2021. While Gartner anticipates that by 2024, 80% of on-premise virtual desktops will shift to DaaS (Desktop as a Service). 

Today, a large number of desktop virtualization providers offer services to thousands of client companies, jockeying for market positions by improving the user interface, offering more competitive pricing, and adding in-demand features such as disaster recovery, bring-your-own-device capabilities, and advanced backup or storage options. 

While determining which technology solution is a good fit seems relatively simple, the complexity of the task soon reveals itself once the sheer number of approaches and solutions available becomes apparent. This blog will take a deep dive into the two major desktop virtualization solutions, discuss questions you should ask when considering providers, and compare popular virtualization technologies available today. 

VDI and DaaS

VDI

The two major desktop virtualization solutions are VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) and DaaS (Desktop as a Service). Typically, the term VDI refers to an internally based computer system that houses operating systems, software, applications, and other technologies in a central data center. All employees, contractors, customers, and other stakeholders access the company’s IT infrastructure through internal WAN, connecting on virtual desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, or other devices.

This type of solution allows centralized management, maintenance, and troubleshooting for the business’s IT staff instead of needing to work on every end device. This saves IT resources, which are in short supply, and helps companies run their computing systems much more efficiently.

In today’s remote work environment, VDI can be a reliable and secure solution that allows disparate employees to share resources, communicate, and access critical company data from any location. However, building one can take a significant amount of resources as the infrastructure for such a data center can be complex and expensive.

DaaS

DaaS works similarly to VDI, but it typically refers to an external service provider that offers the virtual desktop solution to multiple customers in the cloud. Like VDI, all operating systems, software, applications, storage, and data are centrally stored. However, instead of residing in an on-premise data center, the system sits in cloud-based data centers, usually in geographically diverse locations.

The DaaS partner, in turn, handles all the management and maintenance of the virtual desktop system for its clients. The vendor is responsible for staying on top of the latest developments and ensuring that governance and security remain reliable and of a high quality.

That said, specific use cases may require that IT staff make additional modifications or integrations in order to ensure that the DaaS system can meet all of the needs of a particular company or organization.

Zero Trust Virtual Desktop White Paper

In this white paper, you will learn how Apporto helps companies achieve highly secure remote workplaces

The Pros and Cons of Each

Functionally, VDI and DaaS operate very much alike. One big difference between the two, though, is who is responsible for the management, implementation, and day-to-day maintenance tasks, as well as how resources are allocated.

The main advantage of VDI is maintaining internal control of the data center and the virtual desktop solution. Your organization determines the priorities and chooses when and how updates and patches are handled without waiting for a third-party vendor to deliver. However, the cost of setting up an internal data center, managing software licenses, and keeping up with technological advances can be significant. In addition, an internal IT team will be required to handle the ongoing maintenance and network latency and performance can be an issue.

Using DaaS service providers can allow companies to tap into a wealth of experience and expertise at a low-entry price. In addition, features can be customized to deliver the services that your company specifically needs. Many disadvantages result if an incompatible or inexperienced DaaS partner is selected, and companies may feel a loss of control of a virtual desktop solution if it is managed by a third party.

Further, if an organization has a complex application for the DaaS solution, additional modifications may be required in order to ensure that the system is fully operational. This can compound the costs of integration, customization, and ongoing maintenance.

Another important distinction between VDI and DaaS is the scalability and cost implications. With VDI, scalability is limited. The infrastructure is built around meeting peak demand. The cost of that infrastructure does not decrease if demand does. In contrast, with DaaS your infrastructure cost reflects demand, you only pay for what you use. This provides huge cost savings for organizations that experience vast fluctuations. In higher ed environments in particular, where usage dramatically changes throughout the year, DaaS provides the flexibility and cost savings colleges and universities need.

Choosing the Right Provider 

While many service providers are available to provide cloud desktop solutions, be sure to find one with a proven track record and the expertise you need for your particular business needs. Talk with existing customers about their experiences, particularly regarding how problems were resolved. Meet the individuals who will actually be working with your team to ensure a good fit. Before embarking on a relationship, be sure to understand what your organization’s specific needs look like. How many individuals require complete access vs. occasional access? Which features are important to your organization? Does every employee need every feature? Do you need unlimited access or would a metered approach be more cost-effective? The more you understand your own business’s needs, the better you’ll be able to tailor your solution to maximize your return on investment.

Virtual Desktop Provider Comparison

IT leaders looking for a solution to securely deliver software, data, and apps anywhere, at any time, and on any device will find no shortage of options. This comparative chart will help by highlighting some key differences among common technologies.

Apporto
VMware Horizon
Citrix
AVD
Azure Lab Service
AppStream
Workspaces
DIY
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Hardware Investment
No
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
No
On-going Maintenance Agreement
No
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
No
Expensive Admins
No
Yes
Yes
Maybe1
Maybe1
Maybe1
Maybe1
CAL Licenses
No2
No
Yes
No
No
Included
Included
VDA Licenses
No
Yes
Yes
Included
Included
No
No
Cost of GPU Support
$$
$$$$$
$$$$$
$$
$$
$$
$$
Scaling Ease
1
5
5
33
1
33
1
Complex Stack
No
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
No
Browser Access
Yes
Yes4
Yes4
Yes4
Yes4
Yes
Yes4
Deliver Windows Desktops
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Deliver MacOS Desktops
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
No
Deliver Linux Desktops
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Deliver Physical Desktops
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
No
No
No
TCO
$
$$$$$
$$$$$
$$$$$
$$$$$
$$$
$$$
Higher Ed Features
Faculty Analytics
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
No
Scheduling
Yes
No
No
No
Yes
No
No
Interactive Chat
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
No
Virtual Classroom
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
No
Faculty Presentation Mode
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
No
2-Way LMS Integrations
Yes
Partial5
Partial5
Partial5
Partial5
No
No

1. Upskilling existing employees may be possible depending on technical aptitude.

2. Your Microsoft Agreement may already have a provision for CALs.

3. Manually increasing capacity is straightforward, however, implementing auto-scaling techniques is more complex.

4. Browser-based access is available, however, the vendor recommends the use of the local client to increase performance and functionality.

Why Partner With Apporto?

Since being founded in 2014, Apporto has emerged as the leading provider of secure virtual desktops, virtual computer labs, and modular cyber labs. Feature-packed and affordable, Apporto’s fully managed service is lightyears ahead of traditional DIY on-premise VDI solutions. Cloud-native and agile, Apporto gives customers a superior user experience without the heavy lifting and expense normally required by VDI. This frees up your IT team to focus on strategic projects and business objectives rather than continually updating and maintaining a complex stack of technology. Contact us today at apporto.com to start the conversation or to schedule a live demo.

Understanding the TCO for On-Campus Computer Labs

The role of IT is a complex one and often involves overseeing many different parts of an institution’s operations, including developing a campus computing strategy. While determining which technology solution is a good fit seems relatively simple, the complexity of the task soon reveals itself once the sheer number of approaches and solutions available becomes apparent.

One solution that has been a mainstay in the higher education ecosystem for decades is the physical computer lab. Throughout this blog, we’ll examine the obvious and not-so-obvious costs of computer lab ownership and demonstrate how to accurately calculate the TCO of physical computer labs using a simple formula. 

Initial Investment

Most campus computing solutions start with an up-front investment. For some solutions this is hardware, for others, it’s software or licensing, and sometimes it’s all three.

For campus labs, there is the physical hardware purchase of computers, monitors, keyboards, and mice (we’ll assume furniture and networking equipment is already in place). Depending on the intended use of the machines, there may be a range of costs based on the individual specifications required. Talking with schools across the country, we’ve determined the average package per computer will cost $1,500.00.

On the surface, one could assume the investment figure would then come down to a simple formula of cost multiplied by the number of machines needed. However, there’s a lot more to consider:

  • Cost and timing of a hardware refresh cycle: New technologies roll out at a rapid rate, making the shelf life of a computer extremely short. Determine how often and at what percentage your institution will replace (refresh) the computers found across campus. The majority of schools typically aim for 20%-25% of their fleet every year. This can represent a sizable line item in any IT’s budget.
  • Computer management costs: Are you using a tool from Microsoft, such as Intune, where your existing campus agreement already entitles you to licenses? Or are you investing in an alternative product such as KACE, where an additional investment of about $2.50 per device will be needed?
  • Personnel costs: Does your IT department have the headcount required to take on the management tasks associated with offering physical computer labs across campus?

The cost of offering and maintaining physical computer labs goes far beyond just the initial purchase of the computers, however. Let’s take a look at the obvious and not-so-obvious costs that follow the initial investment phase.

Ongoing Costs

After the initial investment has been made, IT needs to weigh the ongoing costs of updating and maintaining the lab spaces, and as noted before, refreshing the associated hardware on a regular basis. What licensing costs need to be renewed each year? Are there any certification courses and exams your IT staff will need to complete annually? What about the average break/fix budget for the physical hardware assets?

Soft Costs

One of the most frequent mistakes IT leaders make when considering a new solution is underestimating the cost of human capital to manage and maintain the new solution. However, this is easy to incorporate and should be part of any TCO calculation.

For the solution of physical computer labs, there are three primary areas of human cost to review and estimate: 

  1. The time it takes to create the gold image that will be used to clone the rest of the computers across campus. 
  2. The time and effort required to swap hardware components during the annual refresh cycle. 
  3. The time needed to diagnose and effect repairs of failed equipment. Each of these activities will require one or more staff members to complete, and each staff member has an associated cost in salary plus benefits.

Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator

Apporto’s virtual computer labs maximize learning and optimize efficiencies at 50-70% less than the cost of traditional VDI solutions. See for yourself why the Navy and top universities like UCLA and Emory have already discovered by using our Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator.
ROI, Return on investment, Business and financial concept.

Hidden Costs

Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of hidden costs associated with computer lab implementations, but there is one that should be weighed: student dissatisfaction affecting retention.

Picture this: two high school friends graduate and head off to different schools to complete their undergraduate degrees. When back at home for a holiday, they share experiences and compare notes about the respective schools they’re attending. The first notes how they spend a lot of time walking around campus going from building to building in search of the correct computer lab to do homework and course assignments.

The second freshman is having a vastly different experience because their campus offers virtual labs in the cloud, and in some cases, direct access from BYOD laptops. They can work from the dorm, student lounge, and even the local coffee shop.

It’s possible that after hearing how easy his friend’s school makes learning on the go, the first student may feel dissatisfied with his circumstances and might even consider transferring. Granted it’s a hard metric to quantify, but it could happen and could negatively impact the success of your campus.

TCO Example

Now that you know what to consider when evaluating the cost of offering physical computer labs across campus, let’s crunch some numbers. 

We invite all readers to use this example and formulas to create their own calculations around the operation (or installation) of a computer lab solution on your campus. For our example, we’re assuming 500 computers across campus are already in place, and our school will do an annual refresh of 25%.

Variable
Example Cost
Cost per computer/computer package
$1500.00
Number of computers (refresh)
125
Break/fix budget
$30,000.00
Staff salary
$45,000
Staff benefits cost
25% of Salary
Number of FTE
2
Time spent on gold images
4 weeks each
Time spent on deployment
1 week each
Time spend on break/fix (annual average)
1 week each
Lab management software licensing
$0 (included with Microsoft agreement)

Hardware Calculation:

Computer cost x count of computers + break/fit budget

$1500.00 x 125 = $187,000.00 + $30,000.00 = $217,000.00

Staff Cost Calculation:

Salary + Benefits / 2000 for hourly rate

$45,000.00 + $11,250.00 / 2000 = $28.00/hour

Hourly rate x number of staff x total time

$28.00 x 2 x 222 hours = $12,432.00

Annual Total = $229,432.00

Based on the above example, the cost of maintaining physical computer labs across campus will have a TCO of well over $200,000.00 annually. This does not factor in the potential loss of students due to their dissatisfaction with being restricted to certain lab spaces to use specific academic software.

Why Consider Apporto

Purpose-built for higher ed, Apporto’s virtual computer labs are different. We offer colleges and universities a variety of purpose-built features, anywhere anytime access, and true digital equity, using our clientless connection via popular web browsers.

Our affordable and low-cost pricing model makes determining TCO a breeze. Our calculation couldn’t be simpler: Number of concurrent users x size (performance profile). For example, 100 user seats would cost $80,000.00 on average

In addition, Apporto offers a fully managed service that takes care of all the infrastructure, backup and recovery, monitoring, and maintenance so that your IT staff can concentrate on the strategic tasks and projects that can continue to elevate the rankings of your campus.

Hardware
Break/Fix
Management
Soft Costs
Hidden Costs
Campus Labs
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Apporto
No
No
No
Minimal
No

Virtual Computer Labs: 2-year Impact Assessment Conducted by IIT

The Office of Technology Services at The Illinois Institute of Technology has completed a two-year assessment of its transformation from physical infrastructure to Apporto’s virtual computer lab.​ Read their findings here.
Illinois Institute of Technology

Top 4 Cybersecurity Tips for Remote Workers

According to Cisco’s 2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends report, almost 90% of data breaches occur due to phishing[1]. Ironically, last month, Cisco itself experienced a data breach caused by, in part, phishing.  

Attackers used a Cisco employee’s compromised credentials to gain access to the company’s VPN through a series of “sophisticated voice phishing attacks” and MFA push acceptance. This incident brings to light just how easy it is for cyber criminals to get an easy foothold into company networks through phishing. 

When it comes to cyber attacks, employees remain the #1 vulnerability for businesses. With the continued popularity of remote work, company networks are now employee’s home networks and personal devices are potential entry points for cyber criminals. 

Here are 4 cybersecurity tips you can start implementing today to help remote workers navigate this vast and complicated threat landscape.  

  1. Ongoing education: Ransomware attacks succeed due to poor user education and bad practices. Employees should know why they need to practice important security measures and how to do so. Host ongoing training sessions so that they can easily identify common ransomware tactics like phishing emails.
  1. Enhanced verification and identity authentication: Implement strong device verification by enforcing stricter controls around device status to limit or block enrollment and access from unmanaged or unknown devices. Multifactor authentication (MFA) adds another layer of protection by requiring users to present two or more identifying credentials in addition to a username to gain access to applications.   
  1. Network segmentation is another important security control that organizations should employ. Network segmentation divides a computer network into smaller parts. By controlling how traffic flows among the parts, organizations can limit how far a cyber attack can spread. For example, segmentation keeps a malware outbreak in one section from affecting systems in another section. 
  1. Zero Trust: For a long-term solution, organizations should implement a Zero Trust security architecture. Zero Trust is a security framework requiring all users, whether in or outside the organization’s network, to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated before being granted or keeping access to applications and data. 

Zero Trust Virtual Desktop White Paper

In this white paper, you will learn how Apporto helps companies achieve highly secure remote workplaces

Despite another record year of breaches including Solar Winds, Colonial Pipeline, and others, half of U.S. businesses still have not put a cybersecurity risk plan in place[2]. Following the recommendations above are great first steps to building a culture of security and employee awareness.    

How Apporto Can Help 

Defending against cyber attacks requires a tiered approach to security with a Zero Trust model at the heart of the methodology. Apporto’s virtual desktops are designed with Zero Trust as a core architectural principle.  

Contact us today to see how Apporto virtual desktops can help you achieve Zero Trust security.   

References 

 [1] Hamilton, J. (2022, April 14). 10 Cybersecurity Tips for Remote Workers. https://www.itgovernanceusa.com/blog/10-cybersecurity-tips-for-remote-workers 

[2] Brooks, C. (2022, June 3). Alarming Cyber Statistics For Mid-Year 2022 That You Need To Know. Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckbrooks/2022/06/03/alarming-cyber-statistics-for-mid-year-2022-that-you-need-to-know/?sh=b4ef45d7864a 

How IT can Support Low-Income Higher Ed Student Success

The ability to access secure and engaging learning experiences anywhere, on any device, at any time, was a game-changer during COVID-19. Especially for millions of low-income higher education students who relied on the flexibility that remote learning provided to maintain their academic focus while also managing non-academic priorities.  

As the world emerges from the pandemic, advocates are encouraging colleges and universities that serve large numbers of low-income students to permanently adopt policies that were put in place to better support students during COVID.  

This blog will examine the role remote learning technologies play in supporting the unique needs of low-income students and how these solutions can help colleges and universities promote equity and inclusion.  

Supporting the Whole Student 

Before we take a look at the technologies that can support student success, it is beneficial to gain a better understanding of the students themselves and their specific needs.  

In the academic year of 2020/2021, around 30 percent of the 20.8 million students that enrolled in undergraduate programs in the United States were Pell Grant recipients, a proxy for low-income status. This is a slight decrease from the previous year when 31 percent of undergrads received a Pell Grant [1]. 

A recent study by the Education Data Institute offers additional insights on Pell Grant funding:  

  • 51% of Pell Grant funds go to students whose families earn less than $20,000 annually [2] 
  • 68% of Pell Grant funds go to public universities [3] 
  • 17% of Pell Grant funds go to private for-profit schools [4] 
  • 15% of Pell Grant funds go to private non-profit schools [5] 

With almost one-third of all higher education students in the United States considered “economically disadvantaged”, it is crucial that colleges and universities for­go a one-sized-fits-all approach to how they support student success and con­sid­er the full spec­trum of stu­dent needs, back­grounds, and iden­ti­ties.   

According to Shonda L. Goward, Director of the Student Center for Academic Achievement at California State University, East Bay, colleges and universities that serve large numbers of low-income students need to accommodate the varied lives of their students, and that requires truly understanding the demands and structures of their lives. “Decades of research show that low-income students often are also caring for younger siblings, elders, or their own children; working additional jobs to help their families and pay their way through school; and, in some cases, commuting long distances to campus,” [6] Goward says.   

By higher education institutions promoting a flexible learning ecosystem that considers a student’s entire life, just not their academic journey, Goward believes that millions of low-income students can graduate more quickly; lessening debt loads and making students eligible more quickly for higher-paying work [7].  

Goward has witnessed the positive impact remote learning has had on low-income students firsthand. When the state declared a pandemic in March 2020, California State University, East Bay, shifted quickly to offering more classes online. This included both classes offered in real-time and courses that allowed students to work at their own pace. The campus also shifted student services online, including advising and tutoring services.  

As a result, many of the student workers Goward supervised were able to maintain their academic focus, meet more regularly with their faculty, and work on campus, while still being able to take care of themselves and their families. “They did not have to commute to campus or search endlessly for parking. Access to support wherever, whenever, and however they could find it allowed students to do all they need to in their busy lives and still be successful students” [8]. 

Virtual Computer Labs: 2-year Impact Assessment Conducted by IIT

The Office of Technology Services at The Illinois Institute of Technology has completed a two-year assessment of its transformation from physical infrastructure to Apporto’s virtual computer lab.​ Read their findings here.
Illinois Institute of Technology

A new report fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion echoes Goward’s observations. “This research shows that achiev­ing equi­ty requires tar­get­ed approach­es geared to root caus­es and a thor­ough under­stand­ing of the diverse groups of stu­dents most in need of ser­vices,” said T’Pring West­brook, a senior research asso­ciate at the Casey Foun­da­tion. “The best way to get that under­stand­ing is by lis­ten­ing to stu­dents, engag­ing them through trust­ed rela­tion­ships, and pay­ing atten­tion to their experiences” [9].   

And what are students saying? In a 2021 Digital Learning Pulse survey, 73 percent of students polled “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that they would like to take some fully online courses in the future. A slightly smaller number of students, 68 percent, indicated they would be interested in taking courses offering a combination of in-person and online instruction [10].  

Clearly, the on-demand nature of remote learning appeals to many students. However, it is an incredibly powerful resource for low-income students who often juggle additional responsibilities that can take precious time away from their studies.  

Equity Through Technology 

If higher education is to become more equitable and inclusive, learning institutions must do more to ensure that all students can benefit from new technologies. Technologies such as virtual computer labs and Zero Trust virtual desktops provide secure anytime anywhere access to critical academic resources via any internet-connected device.   

Although each virtual solution has particular benefits exclusive to them and their specific use cases, users of virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, and cybersecurity labs often cite the following benefits: 

Flexible and equitable access: Virtual technologies enable students to complete their work at the student’s convenience. Students can engage in an active learning environment anytime, anywhere because they are no longer bound to a certain schedule or location. Furthermore, students do not need high-end devices to access advanced resource-intensive applications and do not have to load them onto their personal devices. Once their device of choice is connected to the internet, each user will be provided exactly the same user experience. Someone with a $100 Acer Chromebook will have the same user experience as someone with a $2,800 M1 MacBook Pro [11].    

Furthermore, because students can quickly and easily access all of the digital resources required to be successful in a class on their device of choice, they do not have to worry about their technical readiness since they are already familiar with the laptop or smartphone and can simply focus on learning.     

Collaborative Learning: Like their students, instructors are able to securely access campus applications virtually, giving them much more freedom as to when and where they can review assignments and answer questions. Students benefit from their teacher’s expanded access by receiving feedback and instruction in real-time or outside of traditional classroom hours. Instructors can offer help at various points, as well as track analytics like user participation. 

Top-notch equipment: Schools and students that use virtual technologies have access to cutting-edge technology without the hefty price tag. Companies that build and maintain these virtual technologies compete with each other to stay ahead of technology progression and that raises the quality of options for teachers and students. Students do not have to settle for outdated, yet expensive, equipment because a school cannot afford to replace it consistently. 

Technology, much like education, has its greatest impact when it is available to everyone. Many higher education institutions are strengthening their commitment to equity and inclusion by continuing to provide access to virtual technologies even as on-campus education resumes. By doing so, colleges and universities are ensuring that students have the flexibility they want and the sup­port they need to be academically successful while living full and varied lives. Take the next step to enhancing your students’ learning journey by contacting Apporto today. 

Reference List 

[1] Duffin, E. (2021, November 2). Share of Federal Pell Grant recipients in the United States, as percentage of total undergraduate enrollment from 2010/11 to 2020/21 https://www.statista.com/statistics/235409/recipients-of-federal-pell-grants-in-the-us/  

[2-5] Hanson, M. (2021, November 18). S Pell Grant Statistics https://educationdata.org/pell-grant-statistics  

[6-8] Goward, S. (2021, April 27). Let’s keep pandemic-inspired innovations that benefit low-income college students https://edsource.org/2021/lets-keep-pandemic-inspired-innovations-that-benefit-low-income-college-students/651602  

[9] The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2020, December 14). How Colleges Can Promote Equity to Support Low-Income Students https://www.aecf.org/blog/how-colleges-can-promote-equity-to-support-low-income-students  

[10] McKenzie, L. (2021, March 29). Students Want Online Learning Options Post-Pandemic. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/04/27/survey-reveals-positive-outlook-online-instruction-post-pandemic 

[11] Beidas, S. and McHugh, L. (2022, March 27) The COVID-19 Pandemic and Retooling Application Delivery: The Transformation from Physical to Cloud-Based Infrastructure. SIGUCCS ’22 Virtual Event, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3501292.3511580  

Customer Stories: Reinventing the Computer Lab, Part Three – UC Irvine

In part one of our three-part blog series on reinventing the computer lab, we discussed how Apporto helped Ithaca College reduce spending while delivering robust computing power by virtualizing and streaming apps and desktops to remote and on-campus users. Part two explored how Emory University used Apporto’s virtual computer lab platform to empower mobility and reduce IT support workload. In the conclusion of our series, we take a look at how UC Irvine leveraged Apporto to support a collaborative approach to learning. 

In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, active learning driven by collaboration and interaction was proven to positively affect the academic performance of university students. More surprisingly, this study found that the absence of active learning can actually hurt a student’s chances of academic success [1].  

When colleges and universities shifted to remote learning during COVID-19, the collaborative nature of remote learning platforms enabled schools to deliver engaging and secure instruction to students anywhere, at any time, on any device.  

With more and more evidence showing that actively participating in the learning process encourages learners to invest more and retain the information more effectively, colleges and universities, like UC Irvine, are weaving remote technology into their collaborative learning strategies.  

Supporting a collaborative approach to learning 

UC Irvine has an extensive computer lab infrastructure that includes over 2,000 machines in active classrooms, lecture halls, and traditional, drop-in, and instructional labs. The university has identified interactive learning as a key strategic area that they want to develop.  

To that end, they’ve invested millions of dollars in the Anteater Learning Pavilion, California’s first purpose-built active learning building. UC Irvine has been using virtualization to remotely deliver apps since 2013, when they ran an Apache-based virtual computer lab with a partner company. This enabled them to provide expensive, resource-heavy software packages like MATLAB to students. By 2018, this lab was outdated, and their partner was unable to provide the support UC Irvine needed. 

Try It Now

Meet Apporto, A Modern, Blazing Fast and Secure Cloud Desktop

CHALLENGE  

Like other colleges, UC Irvine (UCI) wanted to promptly get software to students in a device- and OS-agnostic way.  

UCI also wanted to reduce their IT support team’s workload which was made more challenging due to their use of a rolling upgrade cycle. This meant that there was often a wide variety of hardware and software configurations for the IT team to support. Maintaining stability and uniformity was a challenge. 

GOAL 

In addition to providing a more cost-efficient and effective replacement for their existing virtualization options, the UCI IT team wanted to expand its functionality to support more software and devices.  

Faculty also wanted controlled testing environments (e.g. LockDown browsers) for online student exams and the university needed to improve its IT security. 

SOLUTION – VIRTUAL COMPUTER LAB  

In Fall 2018, UCI piloted Apporto’s streaming service. It was so well received that they moved the service into full production in February 2019.  

Because the service is completely browser-based, there’s no change in process or usability on different devices. Files are stored on a secure server and fine-grain access controls ensure that students only access what they need for their course load. 

RESULT  

UC Irvine deployed app and desktop streaming in their collaborative and active learning initiatives, both remotely, on campus, and in the Anteater Learning Pavilion, with excellent results.  

Since switching from their VDI to Apporto, support calls dealing with course software issues have become almost non-existent. There’s a significant cost savings and the UCI IT team is planning to expand its usage of Apporto.  

Virtual Computer Labs: The Future is Now  

As these three case studies show, leading higher ed institutions are making the computer lab more relevant than ever. Labs are being reconfigured virtually to deliver interactive learning, online learning, student collaboration, BYOD policies, and other new use cases.  

At the same time, IT teams are rebalancing their computer lab footprint to reflect new learning methods. Adopting this approach allows IT departments to deliver on strategic initiatives, lower their overall costs, and empower students to reach greater success.  

Contact us today to schedule a live demo and see for yourself why hundreds of colleges and universities across the globe trust Apporto with their transformation from physical to cloud-based infrastructures.  

[1] Urton, J. (2020, March 9). Underrepresented college students benefit more from ‘active learning’ techniques in STEM courses. https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/03/09/underrepresented-students-stem-active-learning/ 

Customer Stories: Reinventing the Computer Lab, Part Two – Emory University

In part one of our three-part blog series, we discussed how Apporto helped Ithaca College reduce spending while delivering robust computing power by virtualizing and streaming apps and desktops to remote and on-campus users.

Part two will discuss how Emory University used Apporto’s virtual computer lab platform to  empower mobility and reduce IT support workload.

Empowering Mobility And Reducing IT Support

Students at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School (GBS) have access to a traditional computer lab. The IT department also provides students with access to necessary software, which can be downloaded onto their own laptops as part of their orientation. 

CHALLENGE  

Many of Emory’s GBS students are working professionals and did not want to spend time driving to the computer labs to use software – therefore, the computer lab was often unused. One week before finals, the lab was empty!

Emory’s IT support staff also had to help students with complicated installs. This led to slow support ticket response times. 

Another challenge was that students’ files lived on their devices, with no Cloud backup. If a student lost or broke their device, they’d lose their files and have to reinstall the program all over again. 

GOAL 

The GBS IT team wanted to free students from the hassle of being tied to a lab – or even to their own laptops. They wanted students to be able to work on multiple devices, without installing software and without being required to have a specific OS. 

Essentially, they wanted their computer lab to become a virtual-first experience.

Virtual Computer Labs: 2-year Impact Assessment Conducted by IIT

The Office of Technology Services at The Illinois Institute of Technology has completed a two-year assessment of its transformation from physical infrastructure to Apporto’s virtual computer lab.​ Read their findings here.
Illinois Institute of Technology

RESULT  

Moving to a streaming model has allowed students to focus on learning, drastically reducing time spent on course software issues. The IT team is also reimagining the computer lab as a virtual space that supports student collaboration and growth. They are also looking at using Apporto for faculty to use when working from home. 

UC Irvine also looked to Apporto to help them take a more collaborative approach to learning. You can read their story in Part Three of our series here 

A trusted partner for higher education institutions and enterprises since 2014, Apporto works with customers to understand their unique needs in order to reduce demands on IT departments, maximize productivity, and boost security architectures. Contact us today to learn how our turnkey DaaS solutions empower educators and inspire student learning.  

  

  

Customer Stories: Reinventing the Computer Lab, Part One – Ithaca College

Since the 1990’s, campus computer labs have been critical hubs for connecting higher ed students to new technologies. They provided free and easy access to computers, scanners, printers, and the internet, for completing homework and projects.  

With student device ownership fast approaching 100% and on-campus computer labs consuming significant budget dollars in the form of hardware, software, IT support hours, and real estate, the question facing many higher education IT leaders this Fall is how can they equip their computer labs to serve emerging use cases, stay within budget, and deliver a secure and user-friendly experience?   

In this 3-part blog series, we’ll explore how three leading schools are rethinking their approach to computer labs and what they are doing to ensure all student and faculty needs are met.  

Reducing Spend While Delivering Computing Power  

Ithaca College (IC) maintains over 60 computer labs and e-Classrooms. They use a four-year refresh cycle; each year, approximately 250 computers are replaced. Even so, IC’s computer labs were often underutilized. At times, students visited a lab to use the high-quality monitors, or, they treated it as a place to use their own devices or collaborate with their classmates.  

CHALLENGE 

Maintaining this type of lab is expensive, and the IT team needed to reduce unnecessary spend without compromising on user experience. Meanwhile, student desktops were not persistent and lab usage stats were vague. For students, using course-specific software was either inconvenient (requiring multiple visits to a physical lab) or expensive (purchasing their own software).  

GOAL 

IC wanted to re-evaluate their computer lab concept, reducing the costs associated with physical labs while still providing students with the infrastructure and services needed for their courses. The goal was to move to a solution that was Cloud-based and built on modern computing standards. This would allow students to use course software and desktops anywhere, at any time, and on any device.  

Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator

Apporto’s virtual computer labs maximize learning and optimize efficiencies at 50-70% less than the cost of traditional VDI solutions. See for yourself why the Navy and top universities like UCLA and Emory have already discovered by using our Virtual Computer Lab ROI Calculator.
ROI, Return on investment, Business and financial concept.

SOLUTIONVIRTUAL COMPUTER LABS

IC worked with Apporto to virtualize and stream apps and desktops to remote and on-campus users. This has enabled IC to provide all students with course-critical software and computing power at a lower cost. It also allows the IC IT team to deliver persistent desktops and secure file storage to students. Since this Cloud-based Virtual Computer Lab service is billed based on usage, it eliminates IC’s underutilization problem, and it requires a limited financial investment.  

RESULT 

Students and faculty who have used Apporto love the platform. Rather than just seeing an instructor demonstrate techniques, students can follow along in class using their own devices in an engaging and interactive format. Built-in usage analytics allow the IT team to see how the service is being used, and support requests have primarily been limited to asking for new apps to be added to the service – which the Apporto team does within days. 

COVID-19 and the subsequent move to remote and hybrid learning accelerated the digitalization of higher education organizations. Now that students and faculty have experienced the flexibility and security afforded by remote learning technologies, it will be very difficult for colleges and universities to revert back to the traditional 100% in-person teaching model. Expectations have changed and schools have to change to meet them. Virtualizing and streaming apps and desktops to remote and on-campus users is one way in which organizations can enhance students’ learning journeys and future-proof their operations.         

To learn how Emory University empowered mobility and reduced the need for IT support, read Part Two of our series here. 

A trusted partner for higher education institutions and enterprises since 2014, Apporto works with customers to understand their unique needs in order to reduce demands on IT departments, maximize productivity, and boost security architectures. Contact us today to learn how our turnkey DaaS solutions empower educators and inspire student learning. 

Virtual Technology is Higher Ed’s Secret Weapon to Combatting Declining Enrollment

Virtual Learning Environment

As the global pandemic prompted higher education institutions to adapt to a new learning frontier, it shined a spotlight on virtual technologies and their ability to provide secure and engaging learning experiences anywhere, on any device, at any time.

The same technology that helped colleges and universities continue to deliver high-quality education to students during COVID-19 could now be the very solution that they need to overcome a new crisis facing higher education.

This blog will examine the various virtual technologies that facilitated remote learning during the pandemic and explore how the institutions that continue to embrace tech-forward teaching will be the ones to win the battle for new students this Fall.

The Technologies Virtualizing Education and Why They Remain So Popular

In a 2021 EDUCAUSE QuickPoll of university administrators, IT departments, and other staff, nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would like a remote option post-pandemic. This strongly echoes student sentiment regarding future learning preferences. In a 2021 Digital Learning Pulse survey, 73 percent of students polled “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that they would like to take some fully online courses in the future. A slightly smaller number of students, 68 percent, indicated they would be interested in taking courses offering a combination of in-person and online instruction [1].

Why is there a desire to hold on to remote learning when it is no longer a necessary conduit for socially-distanced education? Technologies such as virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, and virtual cybersecurity labs enhance the learning process and help modernize instruction in today’s highly digitalized world.

Virtual computer labs (VCL) are instrumental in helping students learn, work with software programs, complete assignments, and interact with classmates and instructors. With virtual computer labs, instead of a student visiting a physical computer lab, a student can use any device connected to the internet to access a virtual version of that lab and leverage its respective software and resources.

The VCL is accessed via a web-browser interface and is platform independent. All operating systems, software, and applications are centrally maintained in the cloud, so end-users do not need to house or maintain any of the programs or software on their own machines; instead, they simply login to the cloud-based system to access everything they would use when visiting the brick-and-mortar campus computer lab.

Zero Trust virtual desktops are virtual desktops built around the core Zero Trust concept of “Trust no one and always verify.” Zero Trust is a relatively new security framework that ensures everyone both inside and outside of an organization is authorized before any interaction with network applications or data occurs. Zero Trust virtual desktops deliver data, apps, and tools securely in the browser via HTML, so there’s no need to worry about maintaining the security level of each endpoint device.

As with Zero Trust virtual desktops, students access virtual cybersecurity labs by logging in from any virtual device with an internet connection. End-users do not need to house or maintain any of the programs or software on their own machines; instead, they simply login to the cloud-based system.

With a scenario-based approach, cloud-based virtual cybersecurity labs provide the best training environment for teaching network security. Students encounter and work through real-life scenarios in cyber labs that reinforce the lessons learned in the classroom.

Although each virtual solution has particular benefits exclusive to them and their specific use cases, users of virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, and virtual cybersecurity labs often cite the following benefits:

  • Flexible and equitable access. Virtual technologies enable students to complete their work at the student’s convenience. Students can engage in an active learning environment anytime, anywhere because they are no longer bound to a certain location or schedule. Furthermore, students don’t need high-end devices to access advanced resource-intensive applications and do not have to load it onto their personal devices. Once their device of choice is connected to the interne, each user will be provided exactly the same user experience.
  • Collaborative Learning. Like their students, instructors are able to securely access campus applications virtually, giving them much more freedom as to when and where they can review assignments and answer questions. Students benefit from their teacher’s expanded access by receiving feedback and instruction in real-time or outside of traditional classroom hours. Instructors can offer help at various points, as well as track analytics like user participation.
  • Top-notch equipment. Schools and students that use virtual technologies have access to cutting-edge technology without the hefty price tag. Companies that build and maintain these virtual technologies compete with each other to stay ahead of technology progression and that raises the quality of options for teachers and students. Students do not have to settle on outdated, yet expensive, equipment because a school cannot afford to replace it consistently.
  • Lower costs. There is a fee associated with using virtual technologies but the capital and maintenance costs are drastically reduced. Customers pay a predictable low cost. Everything is already included; that means no implementation or consulting fees and no costly hardware replacements. This allows school to provide a better learning experience for students at a fraction of the cost.
  • Less Pressure on IT: Third-party Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) providers provisioning the virtual technologies store and manage operating systems, software, applications, and data in cloud-based data centers around the world, allowing customers to free up both on-premises equipment and IT resources to focus on other mission-critical priorities.

Virtual Computer Labs: 2-year Impact Assessment Conducted by IIT

The Office of Technology Services at The Illinois Institute of Technology has completed a two-year assessment of its transformation from physical infrastructure to Apporto’s virtual computer lab.​ Read their findings here.
Illinois Institute of Technology

Winning the Enrollment Battle Through Technology

The decline in college enrollment is worsening. According to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), the overall two-year decline in college enrollment has reached 7.4%, or nearly 1.3 million students since spring 2020 [2].

One way in which higher ed institutions can turn the tide on declining enrollment is to showcase their ability to support remote learning. Expanding the number of remote courses and programs available, and giving students the technology to support their virtual pursuits, will make schools more appealing to students who want to maintain the educational flexibility to which they have become accustomed during COVID.

According to an Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum, 72 percent of respondents predict that hybrid learning models will be the norm by 2025 [3]. By enlisting remote-access teaching and learning tools like virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, and virtual cybersecurity labs, colleges and universities stay ahead of the curve and ensure that students receive hands-on educational experiences regardless of their physical locations.

The transition to online education is also enabling institutions to reach out to nontraditional students and students from underserved areas and under-represented communities. Nontraditional students (students identifying as any combination of: part-time, adult learners, returning/re-entry, commuter, veteran, online/distance learners, individuals who work full-time, who have dependents other than a spouse or partner, or students who do not have a high school diploma) make up almost 75% of the nearly 20 million students currently enrolled in post-secondary education [4]. Institutions can show that they can accommodate the educational needs of nontraditional students, by supporting a flexible learning ecosystem that gives students more options, allowing them to take courses while managing other responsibilities.

Additionally, the anytime anywhere access to critical academic resources afforded by virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, and virtual cybersecurity labs, opens the doors to digital spaces that may have otherwise remained closed. Because these technologies only require an internet-connected device and not expensive hardware or software, the student experience is equalized from a technological standpoint and every student’s success is supported. Someone with a $100 Acer Chromebook will have the same user experience as someone with a $2,800 M1 MacBook Pro [5].

Conclusion

To keep schools competitive, institutions must quickly adjust to students’ new expectations and use all available digital resources to improve the student journey. Learning institutions that offer virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, or virtual cybersecurity labs within a flexible learn-at-your-own-pace environment will not only maximize their student capacity, they will also open up a world of possibilities to nontraditional students and students from underserved areas and under-represented communities; providing a more rewarding and inclusive academic experience for everyone.

A trusted partner for higher education institutions since 2014, Apporto works with customers to understand their unique needs in order to reduce demands on IT departments, maximize productivity, and boost security architectures. Contact us today to learn how our virtual computer labs, Zero Trust virtual desktops, and virtual cybersecurity labs can enhance your students’ learning journey too.

References:

[1] McKenzie, L. (2021, April 27). Students Want Online Learning Options Post-Pandemic. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/04/27/survey-reveals-positive-outlook-online-instruction-post-pandemic

[2] Nietzel, M. T. (2022, May 26). New Report: The College Enrollment Decline Worsened This Spring. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2022/05/26/new-report-the-college-enrollment-decline-has-worsened-this-spring/?sh=463def7f24e0

[3] Morad, R. (2022, March 11). Universities Reimagine Teaching Labs for a Virtual Future. https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2022/03/universities-reimagine-teaching-labs-virtual-future

[4] Gilbert, N. (2022, June 30) 19 Higher Education Trends for 2022/2023: Latest Forecasts To Watch Out For. https://financesonline.com/trends-in-higher-education/

[5] Beidas, S. and McHugh, L. (2022, March 27) The COVID-19 Pandemic and Retooling Application Delivery: The Transformation from Physical to Cloud-Based Infrastructure. SIGUCCS ’22 Virtual Event, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3501292.3511580

Try It Now

Meet Apporto, A Modern, Blazing Fast and Secure Cloud Desktop