Meeting student expectations post Covid-19

As students head back to lecture halls, the framework for learning, particularly within higher education, has changed considerably.

Nearly a year on from the start of the pandemic, remote learning is no longer just a temporary solution, and there is likely to be an expectation of online provision continuing as students demand more from their experience. In a study of 2020 students, 90% were most concerned with having a consistent digital experience from their university and placed significant importance on having online access to administrative information processes. 59% even said it would be a factor in choosing a university.

In many instances, universities have failed to adapt to the changing environment and maintain a high quality of education. In July 2020, 33 percent of students said they were very or quite unsatisfied with the quality of teaching they had received online, suggesting that simply delivering lecturers via video conferencing is not enough.

The flipped classroom

However, for those institutions that have adapted well, there are aspects of remote learning worth adopting to achieve a truly blended approach. Popular amongst educators in recent years has been the idea of a ‘flipped classroom’ where the learning environment is flexible, and students complete more work independently. Research shows that this method resulted in increased student engagement and better test scores than more traditional teaching.

Institutions should think about how they can utilise technology to implement a flipped classroom environment capable of holding students’ attention. By ensuring work can be completed at home and remotely, valuable face-to-face class time is reserved for discussing ideas and concepts at a higher level. When installing an IT solution to achieve this goal, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Security – in the past year alone, 80% of UK higher educational institutions have experienced a breach or attack. For many institutions it is necessary to step up security and ensure data is protected.
  • Provision for mobile – an extension of a typical bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy is to expand the capability to all devices, not just desktops and laptops, to fall in line with student and staff’s preferred access.
  • Personalisation – the crux of meeting student expectations comes down to meeting the personal needs of each student. Institutions should seek to create a collaborative and student-centred approach that’s fully tailored to individual needs.
  • Cost – beyond the initial start-up, IT managers should consider scale-up, licensing and software add-on costs to avoid problems further down the line.

Why choose a VDI?

Virtualisation is an optimum choice of IT solution that allows students access to material both at home and in the classroom to create a flexible and personalised learning environment. Plus, with technologies such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and remote desktop services (RDS), educational organisations can scale both computer and networking capabilities without expensive hardware.

A virtual remote learning environment puts IT in control, enabling admins to protect student and staff data with encryption protocols and advanced filtering. Shared applications and data resources can be stored on-premise, in the cloud or a hybrid of both, reducing the possibility of data breaches.

Allowing students to choose to engage with material remotely or in person, with their own personalised learning portal, via a virtual environment will be the future of hybrid-learning.


Remote application delivery

Also worth considering is a remote application delivery solution, which makes VDI more intuitive and affordable. The best work with VDI, RDS, Windows Virtual Desktop and Remote PC to ensure that users can access all the apps they need to learn from anywhere more easily and smoothly. It also offers more flexibility and the security needed to manage a large body of student and staff. Look for a solution that uses multi-device, multi-app workflows and supports multi-cloud deployments, including Microsoft Azure (Azure IaaS) and Amazon Web Services™ (AWS).

With Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS), systems are adaptable, and will allow you to mix and match different operating systems. For example, applications can be deployed on-premises but then scaled out to hybrid or public cloud, with auto-provisioning and auto-scaling to ensure that as demand fluctuates, institutions can be best placed to respond.

Cambridge Judge Business School used RAS to replace a simple VPN solution. It wanted to provide access to classic Windows desktop applications and IBM SPSS software remotely and from any device to enable more effective campus-independent teaching methods. Using Parallels RAS alongside a VPN, the business school was able to provide secure, easy-to-use application publishing to all staff and students’ personal devices. A VDI solution was also deployed offering access to easy-to-manage virtual machines hosted on the server. As a result of the installation, Cambridge Judge Business School significantly reduced the hours required by IT staff to set up and support students and teachers and made classwork easier.

Maximising the benefits of virtualisation, even after the pandemic, can enable higher education institutions to redesign the traditional teaching format in favour of a more collaborative alternative. The past year has proved students have both the discipline and ability to exercise self-directed learning, but still desire valuable teaching sessions delivered both in person and online. A VDI, RDS or Remote PC solution with Parallels RAS, along with Windows Virtual Desktop integration, enables this balance to be struck by moving towards hybrid learning to make better use of face-to-face time when it resumes.


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