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Lessons That Universities Can Learn From Corona Crisis

3 min read

The novel coronavirus has afflicted almost every aspect of our life: work, social gathering and even education.

Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, has cancelled its convocation program, while Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore, and Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad, have deferred the same till a later date. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, have suspended their classes.

To date, colleges and universities in several states across India have been temporarily shut down. But temporary suspension of classes or campus closures is the immediate effect. And there are possibilities that the impact will only intensify as the Covid-19 is still spreading unabated. Result: students’ studies and consequently their future hinge on the balance at this moment.

Why Normal VPN or VDI Isn’t A Solution

Though temporary, the suspension of classes or closure of campuses is a tremendous disruptor, hampering studies and creating a huge sense of anxiety among students, their parents and teachers. For the students, the main concern is how to access the labs and libraries from home.

Many universities and colleges use generic VDI solutions to enable students to access campus resources on their own laptops and computers from their homes. But generic VDI solutions render teachers and students dependent on IT teams for remote access to study-related resources. Also, most of these solutions lack security features to effectively prevent data pilferage and don’t give enough flexibility to share resources among departments without IT team’s intervention. Deficient user experience and limited BYOD options are among other shortcomings of normal VDI solutions used by universities and colleges.

Need for A Virtual Lab Solution With Automated Orchestration

With an advanced Virtualization and Remote Access solution, institutes can transform their IT infrastructure and create virtual labs on the fly. Coming-of-age virtual labs enable dynamic ICT lab provisioning to facilitate automated orchestration, monitoring and centralized management.

Proprietary Virtualization and Remote Access solutions are convenient to deploy and use. Such virtual labs can be deployed and managed by teachers through a self-service portal without IT team’s intervention. And students can securely access virtual labs from any location, any time and on any device.

What Institutes Should Look for In A Virtual Lab Solution

Minimum help from IT team: Students and teachers should be able to access the resources from their own devices without IT team’s intervention. It should have the flexibility to allow teachers to deploy and manage virtual labs on their own, without any prior knowledge and training of the underlying infrastructure. The institute should be able to make the resources available to end users without requiring any pre-configuration on end users’ machines.

Schedule-based remote access to virtual labs: It should provision a single virtual laboratory for teachers as well as students, providing them access to dynamic resources in real time during lectures. The solution should enable remote students to have real-time access to lab environment and let them learn and practice, anywhere, any time.

Strong authentication to safeguard resources: The virtual lab solution should have strong security features to restrict users to running limited applications and prevent them from copying data from institutions’ applications. The presence of multi-factor authentication would ensure that only authorized users access university labs. The institute should also be able to monitor who access what and at what time.

The Benefits of Virtual Lab Solutions

Empower Departments and Teaching Faculty:  A comprehensive virtual lab solution gives institutes the opportunity to have all the resources and tools they need to aid education programmes. Further, every department and teacher have their own specific requirements. Virtual labs would encourage them to bring in new applications and tools that would enable them to impart better education. So, teachers get full control and freedom to suggest, deploy and manage tools of their choice.

Enhance digital learning experience: With the virtual solution, the lab environment is no more locked inside the brick and mortar of the institutes. Thus, students get the flexibility to study anywhere, anytime. While resident students can access the labs from anywhere on the campus or hostel, students at remote locations also have the same lab environment to support their studies.

Efficient utilization of lab resources: Advanced virtualization and remote access solutions allow reservation function that enables a dynamic way to provision virtual desktop to end-users. Time-based provisioning allows automated, hassle-free sharing of the virtual lab infrastructure across departments.

It’s Not Only About Fighting Covid-19 Crisis

Virtualization and remote access solution is not only about dealing with the current crisis; it has long-lasting positive implications for institutes. IIMs, IITs, MICA and a whole lot of other universities and colleges have been adding more and more courses and campuses to extend their reach. With virtualization, universities and colleges can start distance learning online courses, providing the same classroom experience to students sitting in any corner of the world.

Further, with features like schedule-based access, universities and colleges can have centralized infrastructure for all departments and consolidate their budgets for better utilization. This may be a positive unintended consequence of Covid-19 that will benefit the present as well as future students.