Students at Otago Polytechnic are now better connected than ever thanks to the polytech’s investment in a new state-of-the-art Virtual Application Delivery Platform to provide better connected learning for its 10,000 students. By looking at the applications students wanted to use and the devices they use most often, Otago Polytechnic and Citrix were able to upgrade the infrastructure on campus and create a more versatile, collaborative learning system.

Students were keen to use online applications and media in their studies, but the polytechnic’s hardware was outdated, the existing virtual desktop environment was badly overstretched and couldn’t keep up with the demands of the student body. Network demand could shift from 130 students a day to in-excess-of 500 students per day during peak periods.

Otago Polytechnic needed to give their students access to a range of applications and online media, in particular streaming HD content, from any device. To do this while keeping down the need for ongoing maintenance, Otago Polytechnic enlisted the expertise of Citrix’s specialist partner Inde.

Inde led a workshop to explore how Citrix solutions would perform in real-world scenarios faced by the students at Otago Polytechnic. Students – more than staff – have high expectations and demand a superior end-user experience, so the main goal of the workshop was to test the capacity of Citrix products under extreme circumstances.

The workshop highlighted that students in diverse courses were restricted to specific on-premises computers, limiting the usefulness of the polytechnic’s technology, and restricting students’ access to learning resources. Courses that required students to integrate digital applications into practical learning, such as architecture students’ use of CAD Software, required students to be on-premise whenever developing computer aided designs.

Because of its recent increase in student enrolments and the heavy processing requirements of modern applications, Otago Polytechnic needed a more reliable solution that would allow students to access the programs and services to do their work from a range of devices. It also needed a solution that would be up and running quickly so that students could be moved to the new platform within weeks, rather than months.

In the workshop, they tethered a laptop and Chrome book routed through an international VPN to test viewing high-definition videos and movies over the Virtual Apps and Desktop Service, powered by Citrix cloud. Based on the excellent workshop results, the school decided to use Citrix products for its new cloud-based rollout.

The full rollout took only a short number of weeks, and combines Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform with the polytechnic’s traditional networking infrastructure. Students now have the ability to use personal laptops or iPads to access software applications – even for high-end, CPU-hungry applications such as CAD design applications.

This has unchained students from computer labs, opening access to learning resources to students anywhere and at any time – a far cry from the limited, scheduled and often booked out hours of a traditional university computer lab.

“IT staff significantly reduced the amount of time that they spent maintaining and upgrading the platform and were able to focus on delivering the services that students need”, said Steven Turnbull, Chief Information Officer at Otago Polytechnic.

By choosing to step outside of their existing networking and step into the cloud, the new system is versatile and scalable to meet the needs of the student body. With the same applications and experience now offered on personal devices, students are provided with one of the most seamless, open and flexible learning experiences possible.

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