Banks of student workstations may soon be replaced by online computer labs

Mobile learner Lizzie TREES smallAlmost all of the software that Alberta students need —€” whether on campus or at a distance —€” can now be provided by a virtual workstation that is accessible from a laptop.

Whether your students need access to powerful computational software or everyday software packages, both can be provided through a virtual computer lab — in the cloud. The cloud effectively provides a single installation of the software that can be used by all students.

Over the past year, Alberta's advanced IT agency, Cybera, and the University of Alberta have worked closely together to pilot a project called the Virtual Computing Lab. Opportunities to expand the service to other educational institutions are now being explored.

"€œPrior to providing the Virtual Computing Lab, most students in my courses spent long hours in, or waiting to use, the graduate computer lab,"€ says David Ryan, Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Alberta. "€œAs someone who teaches almost solely in the area of econometrics, a quantitative side of economics that makes extensive use of computing, I have come to greatly appreciate this service."€

The online tool frees up campus space for classrooms, reduces the need for banks of computer workstations and their costly maintenance and upgrades, and allows students to get access to course software at any time, from any location with an internet connection.

"€œIn one case, the Virtual Computing Lab has completely eliminated the need for computers in the lab,"€ says Donna Gorday, Director of Client Services, Academic Information and Communication Technologies. "€œStudents tell us they find the online lab is easy to use, and it'€™s certainly reduced calls to our help desk. It'€™s a win-win-win situation."€

To find out more about the program, the software it supports, and how your institution can take advantage of the Virtual Computing Lab, please contact:

David Chan
Project Manager, Cybera
(403) 210-5332