Established in 1876, Texas A&M University is a research-intensive university dedicated to the discovery, development, communication, and application of knowledge in a wide range of academic and professional fields. More than 59,000 students reside at its main campus in College Station, Texas.
For students in the Industrial Systems Engineering department to work with the applications their studies require—including high-end design and engineering apps—they had to use a university-issued computer. This often meant they had to walk a considerable distance across the large campus to a computer lab, only to discover it was fully occupied with no PCs available.
“We needed a way to let our students access their applications from off-campus, on whatever device they had available,” says Mark Henry, the university’s manager of virtualization and learning technologies.
Delivering secure apps on any device with Citrix
For the students in the Industrial Systems Engineering department, Henry and his team used the Citrix XenApp software to virtualize applications for anywhere, anytime, any-device access. Users can even access demanding design and simulation apps such as MathWorks MATLAB and Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS on both Mac and Windows laptops and mobile devices.
With processing handled centrally in the department’s data center, Henry was able to replace traditional lab computers with lower-cost, longer-lasting Chromebook thin clients.
Enabling innovative instructional models for teachers and students
Students quickly embraced the ability to do their lab work beyond the lab. While some students have to continue to make in-person visits to the lab due to software limitations, most students no longer need to endure long waits or make late-night lab runs in hopes of an open seat.
Beyond this immediate benefit, teachers and students soon realized that much more is now possible. Instead of spending valuable class time simply following along as teachers introduce a concept, students can use their own devices, working wherever they choose, to gain hands-on familiarity with the subject matter before class starts.
“Our classrooms can now evolve into places for discussion, not just demonstration, where students can bounce hard questions off each other to stimulate deeper learning,” says Henry.
Increasing IT staff productivity to allow freedom to innovate
With students able to use any device, including their own laptops, Henry says, “Why do we still have to provide so many computers for students? If we don’t have to maintain traditional PCs in classrooms and labs, we can save tremendous IT time and gain the freedom to do more interesting and innovative things.”
The university is now consolidating software labs, freeing space for other uses such as research. To run the few applications that still require local installation, the department is replacing traditional computers that have a three-year lifecycle with lower-cost zero clients that will last eight years or more.
Extending data security beyond the campus
“Our campus IT environment has always been highly secure, but when we started talking about extending access off campus, people were naturally concerned about security,” says Henry. “With Citrix, no data actually leaves campus, regardless of where students are working; it stays protected on our own servers. We don’t lose any of the security we already have, with the benefit of letting students work anywhere they choose.”
Paving the way for innovation
The initial virtualization project in the Industrial Systems Engineering department has become the proof of concept for a much larger initiative.
“Our dean said we need any-device, anywhere access and the emerging new classroom model for the whole college of engineering,” says Henry.
The college has now launched a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program for its 15,000 students and is consolidating labs and shifting to zero clients across all of its departments. The university is designing a new 55,000-square-foot building around a more collaborative approach to instruction, slated for opening in 2018.
Students will be able to use college-issued Chromebooks or their own personal devices and perform computer work at home, on the road, or anywhere on campus. As the implementation expands across campus, the university will use the Citrix NetScaler solution to ensure scalability and quality of experience.
“Five years ago, I was just another guy in IT focused on operating systems and CPUs,” says Henry. “Since introducing Citrix in our environment, I’ve become known as a key driver of innovation for the college and its learning technologies.”
Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS) aims to power a world where people, organizations and things are securely connected and accessible to make the extraordinary possible. Its technology makes the world’s apps and data secure and easy to access, empowering people to work anywhere and at any time. Citrix provides a complete and integrated portfolio of Workspace-as-a-Service, application delivery, virtualization, mobility, network delivery and file sharing solutions that enables IT to ensure critical systems are securely available to users via the cloud or on-premise and across any device or platform. With annual revenue in 2015 of $3.28 billion, Citrix solutions are in use by more than 400,000 organizations and over 100 million users globally. Learn more at www.citrix.com.
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