Otago students will be able to access key University applications at any time and from anywhere thanks to a virtual desktop currently being rolled out.
In a first for New Zealand, the University of Otago is in the process of releasing a virtual desktop experience to its 21,000 students - allowing them to access key University applications on their own devices when, where and how they want.
"Now 98 percent of our students own their own laptops … Students prefer to be able to access course materials in their own time and space rather than having to use a University-provided computer in a prescribed location."
The new virtual desktop is an exciting evolution for students that will change the way they can work and learn, according to Manager of Teaching and Learning Facilities Emerson Pratt. It also meets the University's vision for providing access to learning anywhere, on any device, at any time.
“When the current student desktop was commissioned in 1999, only 14 percent of students owned their own laptop,” Mr Pratt says. “However in the intervening 15 years there have been significant changes in the way we interact with computers.
“Now 98 percent of our students own their own laptops, and the convenience of computer labs has been surpassed by the use of personal devices. Students prefer to be able to access course materials in their own time and space rather than having to use a University-provided computer in a prescribed location.”
Students will be able to launch the new virtual desktop on their own PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets – regardless of make – via a web browser. It will give them access to popular learning applications, many of which were previously only available in the University's campus computer labs.
“Students not only want to check the University's learning management system email from a mobile phone, tablet or other mobile device but also be able to use any one of the 60 other applications like SPSS, Endnote and Mintab amongst others. So that's what we are ensuring can happen,” Mr Pratt says.
In addition to providing an enhanced IT experience to students at the University's Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Invercargill campuses, the new virtual desktop will allow distance students and students on placements to have remote access to University applications and software that are not installed on their own devices.
The new desktop was released in the Central Library last week, and Mr Pratt says it has been smoother than they could ever have hoped.
"The feedback we have received from students has been overwhelmingly positive. The second day we launched we had students lining up waiting to use the new desktop."
“The feedback we have received from students has been overwhelmingly positive. The second day we launched we had students lining up waiting to use the new desktop.”
Mr Pratt is full of praise for the staff who have worked on the project.
“It has been an amazing project to be part of and has only been possible due to the amazing team from across ITS who have created something that really will make a difference to our students.”
Over the coming weeks the system will be released in more and more computer rooms and to students' own laptops and mobile devices.
The new student virtual desktop is based on the modern Windows operating system, ensuring an enhanced experience for students using tablet devices as well as traditional laptops and PCs. It will complement the suite of cloud-based Office 365 productivity tools that are available to Otago students.