Canadian universities change the learning landscape with Azure Virtual Desktop

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Catalyzed by crisis, Canadian universities realized that awareness of the key issues of our time—sustainability, accessibility, and preparing for the future—needed to be managed alongside remote work and learning strategies. Many universities and colleges are embracing these challenges and adapting to a changing world, while continuing to support and empower their students, faculty, and staff.

Three prestigious Canadian universities are adapting to remote learning and virtual workspaces while meeting multiple, far-reaching objectives. They’ve successfully deployed Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) in urgent circumstances, leveraged AVD advantages to expand features and benefits for users, and continued the advancement of their mission. Easy and quick transitions. Seamless integrations. Cost savings. Microsoft service and support. With AVD, these elements combine to mean success in converting from on-premises labs to virtual labs.  

Sustainability and remote learning achievements meet powerfully at Brock University with Azure Virtual Desktop

Higher education students, particularly those in Gen Z, are worried about the impact of climate change on their future. In a recent survey, over a quarter of Gen Z students said that climate change and protecting the environment was their greatest concern. Over 1,100 global universities (23 of them in Canada) are committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Times Higher Education). Brock University continues their impressive efforts in sustainability by improving the remote learning experience for students and realizing power consumption savings. With Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), Brock’s IT team rapidly created their first virtual labs. From there, scaling securely was considerably easier. “Before, anything that involved labs on a large scale would be a week or a month of planning and executing and a whole lot of drama. So the agility is incredible,” says Andreas Paulisch, IT Infrastructure Architect at Brock University.

Wilfrid Laurier University expands accessibility while implementing remote learning with Azure Virtual Desktop

In higher education, 82% of global learners believe that transitioning to online learning has magnified inequalities for those unable to afford technology or access appropriate learning spaces (Gartner). Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) fosters access across devices and integrates accessibility features with Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). WLU was able—with minimal overhead and support staff—to set up virtual student computer labs with the specialty software and resources necessary for coursework. “It allowed our instructors to make labs available again, across time zones, or asynchronously as well,” explains Melanie More-Duckworth, Manager of the Information and Communication Technologies Service Desk and Technical Support at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The future of education is taking shape at Ryerson University with Azure Virtual Desktop

Forty-six percent of students said that post-COVID, they want the option of attending courses online or in person. (Inside Higher-ED). One-third of faculty report that, moving forward, their institutions will permanently add online options for all or most courses. (Microsoft). Ryerson University deployed virtual labs quickly and seamlessly with AVD, and advocates for wider use in remote learning across departments. They’ve leveraged AVD to launch valuable research projects quickly, recognizing the vast potential for AVD in research and many other sectors. “This is the future of teaching in general, not just labs,” says Michael MacDonald, Lead IT Systems/Network Specialist and Lecturer at Ryerson University. “I can’t envision students always commuting downtown, sitting in a room for three hours, and listening to me speak … when you can do that over video conferencing tools like Teams and follow along with the hands-on components using Azure Virtual Desktop.” 

Sustainability, accessibility, and education’s future: how Canadian universities are leveraging Azure Virtual Desktop

These three remarkable institutions were able to act quickly and effectively in enabling virtual computer labs with AVD and Microsoft support. Their achievements, however, do not just define these universities’ outstanding management of an extraordinarily difficult situation in 2020—they are meaningful steps toward being prepared for the world’s next great challenges.

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