New Lab Technology Improves Student Experience

Campus IT staff and student workers unbox new equipment for the VDI upgrade in the Arkansas Union. (Photo)

New virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology arrived at the University of Arkansas over Spring Break with a major upgrade in three computer labs. VDI is the future of the student experience, making it possible to ultimately provide a consistent environment for everyone, regardless of their location on campus.

“VDI is a brand-new paradigm for us,” Chris McCoy, chief information officer, said. “The problem with traditional computer labs is all the software is local, so when a student goes to another lab they get a different experience. With VDI they get the same experience wherever they go.”

PCs running on VDI were installed last week in computer labs located in the Arkansas Union, J.B. Hunt building and Northwest Quad B. This upgrade was the first step toward a comprehensive mobile experience, which will one day allow students, faculty and staff to access their desktops from anywhere using any device.

“We’re working on a plan to support the mobility piece which promises to deliver a consistent technology experience,” Paige Francis, associate CIO for academic technologies and shared services, said. “We want to empower our students to connect to our campus and their coursework regardless of their personal location, access to a strong internet connection or choice of mobile device. This is our end goal—meeting the students where they are."



Eventually VDI will be tailored so that students can get their software in any computer lab or on any device, regardless of their academic major. For example, a student in the Walton College of Business will someday be able to access their college-specific resources anywhere, anytime.

The upgraded computer labs now run on VDI making them more reliable and cost effective. In the upgraded labs, each PC is linked to a central server on campus that issues a virtual Windows 10 desktop, providing a better user experience free from the usual errors and crashes of the past.

“Another advantage is that computer lab upgrades happen in the background so we can avoid disruptions for our students,” Chuck Mitchell, director of support services, said.

VDI technology is also greener than traditional desktop computers. “We can confidently project that we should have about 283% overall power savings using VDI as opposed to physical desktop computers,” Chryss Crotser, system analyst with IT Services, said.

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Created: 8:19 a.m. on Wednesday, March 29, 2017