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.
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.
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 finding an open seat.
“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.
Teachers and students soon realized that 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.
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.”