Digital Transformation Holds the Key to Equal Opportunity in Education

By: Ramesh Vantipalli, Director, End User Computing, Systems Engineering at VMware India

The winds of change currently sweeping the educational sector are nothing short of phenomenal. It’s not always the case now that students enter college at 18 with a career of their or family’s choice!  They are more likely to be part-time, juggling work and college or studying online. Whether they are studying on campus or online, they are likely to bring their own personal devices and expect to access college resources on them as easily and seamlessly as on college computers. The sheer diversity of devices they bring to the environment is staggering.  They don’t distinguish between personal and college-owned devices and like to participate and interact on all those often switching between devices in the middle of a learning process flow.

In order to meet these demands and flourish, educational institutions need to create dynamic digital infrastructure that is device-agnostic and can be scaled on demand. They need to provide diverse, engaging and effective graphic-intensive learning environments that require higher compute power and network throughput than ever thought possible earlier in educational institutions. They need to be able to mobilize different digital learning environments on the same devices as needed and in an agile manner as capital costs of maintaining different static learning environments can be prohibitive and inefficient. In addition, administrative business activity such as student records, financial details, intellectual property and access control to various facilities need to be safeguarded and managed with the same underlying IT infrastructure. Moreover, modern scientific research is calling for collaborative workspaces across institutions irrespective of the information technology systems in the mix.

It is apparent that new teaching, learning and business models are evolving. Pedagogy needs advanced tools for innovative learning models, administrators need to manage highly accessible and secure data in a context-sensitive manner while device diversity continues to ramp up on campus. Collaborative research across private/public clouds and secure & context-sensitive facility administration have integrated IT infrastructure at its core. But, this does not, of course, mean that IT budgets at educational institutions are limitless!

Virtualization beyond the traditional server virtualization provides an elegant solution to address all these scenarios. Virtualization built on the four pillars of Identity, context, Applications and devices makes the solutions more sustainable in this dynamic context.  If we consider a professional engineering institution as an example, it could digitize and distribute all the virtualized study material to students directly reducing the burden and costs while ensuring that the materials being used are always up to date. It can organize applications in a centralized application store which can be used to auto-configure itself on the device on access to the campus network making its student on-boarding and support simpler and faster. Virtualized desktops can be dynamically reconfigured based on the student profile and laboratory need making it possible for multiple laboratories to exist in the same physical space which optimizes licenses and hardware costs.

Or, take the example of a typical modern undergraduate institution that encourages its young students to access college resources from their personal devices. Virtualization ensures that apps and data remain in the data center away from any malicious devices which can be wiped out in a moment if needed. For IT management, it is a boon that the diversity of devices irrespective of their ownership can all be managed from a single console.  A virtualized environment powered by a central application store frees an organization into providing real time, simplified and friction-free access by ‘one set of credentials/ one sign-on’ approach while keeping a tight hold on security with a clear security policy and privacy framework in a typically open campus environment.

In our experience, several leading modern Indian universities recognize that their future is indeed in getting their core IT infrastructure right and ready. Many of these learning leaders are scaling and improving their services with integrated cloud infrastructure that spans public and private clouds, provide anytime-anywhere access across any device, and proactively address security threats thus protecting their academic brands and transforming the mindset from reactive security actions into proactive security compliance. What makes this an attractive proposition is that it is all being done at lower cost and higher scalability and agility.

Investment in digital transformation enables educational institutions to enhance their learning offerings, offer engaging experiences and establish innovative business models which result in revenue growth, brand building and successful outcomes. But, it does not fortunately mean that the IT teams at these institutions need to start over. Virtualization revolutionizes IT infrastructure with a comprehensive software-defined approach weaving both legacy systems and new applications into the fold. This ensures a future-proof infrastructure that ensures security from the data center right up to the device.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that it may be not be an exaggeration to say that investments in virtualization and VDI by educational Institutes could help India create an educational revolution and equality in India. There is no more an excuse to leave anyone behind in their pursuit of knowledge.

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