Education During COVID-19: Enabling Remote Learning

by Paul Fisher, technical consultant at Parallels

One of the most painful takeaways for university administrators from the 2020 lockdowns is that the inability to continue academic work during a lengthy crisis can have grave consequences.

When considering current and post-Covid plans for remote learning solutions, university IT administrators should keep the following in mind.

Mobile Device Support
In order to cater to the needs of the entire student body, any solution intended to address the changes in teaching and learning methods under the new normal must support not only PCs and laptops but also smartphones. Some of these can be reinforced with peripherals that enhance the learning experience, such as the Samsung DeX, which enables users to connect their Galaxy devices to an external monitor or TV so that it feels like working on a laptop or a desktop computer.

A good alternative is the Chromebook, which is lightweight, has a long battery life, doesn’t take up much space and is good value. But only some apps are optimised for the DeX and although students might use many of the cloud-based and streaming applications designed to work with Google’s Chrome OS, there are still a lot of applications, especially full-featured Windows applications, that may be required. Unfortunately, the Chromebook has neither the computing power nor the storage capacity for locally installed applications.

Introducing VDI
That’s where virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can help. Look for a solution that can deliver applications and desktops to any device, including most devices owned by teachers and students, and convert a Samsung DeX-equipped phone into a workstation or address Chromebook’s application compatibility limitations.

The best solutions provide IT administrators with the convenience of three options for remotely delivering applications and desktops: through Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH), through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or through Remote PCs.

A Remote Learning Solution
Some VDI solutions can be complex and expensive, requiring a high spend on expensive hardware, licences and software add-ons, but there are alternative high-quality but easy-to-use and cost-effective solutions around. Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) has a proven track record as a remote working solution for universities, adding value by centralising management and control of system access so you don’t have to install, patch, configure and secure every digital resource on each individual device, and by enabling the creation of remote labs with simplified access.

In a world where distance learning is fast becoming normal, applications play a huge role in providing students the environment they need to continue classroom activities online. Through published applications, Parallels RAS enables educators to easily create remote labs that students can access easily and use from their preferred device.

Cambridge Judge Business School
Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) has around 80 academic staff and 420 students who use a mixture of PCs, Macs, iPad and iPhone devices, and Android tablets and phones to access virtual learning applications. The CJBS IT department needed a solution to create flexible, mobile-ready learning workspaces that would be simple to secure, scale and maintain through a consolidated IT infrastructure.

The CJBS IT team chose Parallels RAS to deploy a VDI solution, giving students and faculty easy-to-manage, and use, virtual machines hosted on the server. Using Parallels RAS, the business school was able to provide staff and students with secure access to learning materials on their devices and significantly reduce the hours required by IT staff to set up and maintain. Parallels RAS allowed the school to extend bring-your-own-device (BYOD) support for more devices without needing to touch them or interact in any way with the operating systems.

What to look for
A university remote application delivery solution should alleviate technical complexities, with easy configuration and fast installation, so that the focus remains on improving the educational process. Ease-of-use for both users and IT support is paramount, so look for technology solutions where students and faculty don’t have to navigate a set up before they can access their educational resources and one that has out-of-the-box load balancing technology. With these, user access will be smooth and fast, no matter where they’re connecting from.

When it comes to security, look for a solution that adds extra layers of protection such as multifactor authentication, smart card authentication, advanced encryption protocols and a granular level of filtering. You also don’t want a requirement for third-party add-ons, like universal printer redirection, resource-based load balancing, and reporting.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for location-independent learning. Parallels RAS offers the right technology for educators and students, enabling them to use the applications they need, when they need them. It has a simple licensing package that includes comprehensive services and a clean upgrade path for scalability to help keep costs down.

To find out more visit Parallels RAS

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