Virtual desktops reduce stress for students

Posted on April 17, 2020

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has delivered online courses for some time – but transitioning the entire course load to a virtual environment required some quick and creative thinking. The Faculty’s IT and Facilities team came up with some innovative solutions to  quickly scale up their systems and ensure that students could access the software and information required to continue their studies.

“We were already set up with Virtual Desktop infrastructure, but we needed to make sure that students could also access and run the necessary applications for their courses,” says Graydon Smith the Faculty’s Manager, Systems and Administration. “Many engineering courses require very specific and sophisticated software.” The team began using the “AppsAnywhere” technology in the Fall to give students access to the applications that they need, allowing them to download the programs and run them locally on their computers.

Mac users faced some additional difficulties, however, as not all of the software is compatible. Other students simply don’t have a laptop that is robust enough to handle the programs. To support these students, Smith and the IT team found a way to give students virtual access to the computer labs at Beamish Munro. “Students can sign in and actually have a virtual ‘seat’ in the lab,” says Smith. “They can access all of the programs that they use in the lab. It’s like being in the building.” This solution has proved to be very popular, with many labs running at near full capacity on assignment days.

The team continues to brainstorm ways to improve online learning, given the uncertainties around the pandemic, and is seeing this as an opportunity to review alternate approaches to curriculum delivery and optimize the student experience.

“It’s already a stressful time for students,” says Smith. “Our goal is to help them through this time by making virtual learning as seamless as possible.”

students working in ILC in Beamish-Munro Hall