- Cloud has become an indispensable part of the DNA of education due to Covid-19.
- Cloud desktops enable students to access courses and materials, as well as collaborate with teachers and peers with minimal bandwidth and data transfer requirements.
- Virtual desktop provides an effective boundary for the device, better administrative control and maintenance of anti-virus, thereby enhancing the security.
How have the cloud and virtual desktops impacted student learning?
Education systems, ranging from primary schools to universities, struggle with how to best address student learning in a secure, consistent manner, with an eye for budgetary considerations. Cloud has played an increasingly important role addressing educational needs in response to Covid-19 and will likely continue to expand in the future.
Forced Learnings from Covid-19
Covid-19 radically forced major changes in student learning. Almost overnight, educators were required to transition all traditional classroom instruction to distance learning. Operational challenges that initially plagued education administrators ranged from lack of student computing devices, poor internet access, budgets, and cloud expertise. As those items were quickly addressed, the benefits of cloud-based virtual desktops and remote learning systems ultimately overcame those challenges and fostered success.
Once students became accustomed to attending virtual classroom instruction, communicating virtually, and uploading homework assignments to cloud-based repositories, cloud become an indispensable part of the DNA of education. The education community realized some expected as well as some unexpected benefits that continue to drive cloud adoption in the education sector.
Cloud provides immediate access to infrastructure, including resource bursts. Rather than invest heavily in hardware and infrastructure, cloud computing enables education entities to rent virtual desktop services. When Covid-19 struck, technical staff didn’t have the time or energy to create or expand physical on-premises data centers to address the new normal associated with highly demanding compute services. Having cloud infrastructure readily available expedited the transition to remote learning and virtual desktops while minimizing technical administration requirements.
While in-person learning will likely always be the gold standard, cloud computing enables students to access courses and materials, as well as collaborate with teachers and peers. The virtual desktop that is assigned to the student presents these resources centrally with minimal bandwidth and data transfer requirements. Of course, internet service is required, but students living in households with internet data caps or less than stellar service speeds can still access learning materials.
Education has become more dynamic due to the cloud. New or updated courseware can easily be made available to address student needs by adding these materials to the virtual desktop golden image and propagating it for access. The next time that the student logs in, the updates are automatically presented as part of the virtual desktop.
Resolving student computing issues is often as simple as logging off and logging in fresh, resulting in very minimal technical interruption to student learning. Educators have their hands full with teaching students, and assisting with technical support issues should not be part of their daily work. When issues arise, it is often unnecessary to delve into what the student may have done within the virtual desktop or why or asking the student to contact technical support. Instead, a quick logoff/login addresses the majority of issues because a fresh virtual desktop is presented to the student within the new session.
Virtual desktops are instrumental in creating a standard computing platform and thus levelling the playing field for students because the physical device is largely irrelevant. Students with basic devices, such as a Google Chromebook, access the same virtual desktop as students with more robust Windows or Mac devices. Once the student accesses the virtual desktop, the resources allocated to that virtual desktop uniformly manage the user experience.
Securing Student Resources
The virtual desktop should be easy for the student to use, and it must be a secure resource. Virtual desktops provide students with access to educational resources without the need to install applications on the student computer; the student only needs to access the virtual desktop by means of a browser or inherent Remote Desktop functionality. Further, an SSL/TLS connection is initiated prior to login and for the duration of the session, and thus the virtual desktop is securely presented to the student.
The virtual desktop itself is administratively controlled and protected. Many students don’t understand system security and haphazardly access malicious web sites and/or download unsafe content to their personal devices. Consequently, viruses, trojans, or malware may infiltrate the physical device, but this does not impact the virtual desktop. This is because in addition to administrative control and maintenance of anti-virus, the virtual desktop provides an effective boundary from the student device and thus greatly enhances security.
The Future of Cloud Adoption for Education
As in-person classroom instruction resumes, usage of the cloud within the education sector will have a significant presence. Education entities will further appreciate that they can offer students better learning services by means of virtual desktops, and a blend of traditional learning with cloud-based services will become the new normal. Especially as the library of education material increases, desktops–whether due to necessity or preference–will continue to be a valid solution for many students.