UMD to become virtualization hub for surrounding community

By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
January 6th, 2012

170,000 UMD students will have access to virtualized computing.

Virtualizing software and desktops throughout the University System of Maryland’s 100 locations will be a technological boon for more than just the 170,000 UMD students who will enjoy more flexible learning opportunities: Nearby school kids also will benefit.

In what is believed to be the largest such project of its kind in higher education, UMD officials have teamed up with Dell Inc. to make available premium software such as Pearson’s MyMathLab and desktop and web publishing programs from Adobe to students and faculty members from the convenience of their own computers—or from any device on campus.

Virtualized computing is a growing trend among colleges and universities, but in a unique twist, UMD’s technology offerings stored on campus servers also will be available to K-12 students in local school systems, bringing up-to-date curriculum and software to students’ homes.

The Maryland Research and Education Network will help K-12 students at public and private schools gain access to UMD’s software.

The virtualized computing program is still in its pilot phase, being tested at several UMD sites, but officials from the university and Dell—the company heading the virtualization effort—said supporting technological access for Maryland elementary, middle, and high schools has made the program a popular one in educational circles.

John Suess, vice president for IT at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), said the proliferation of mobile devices and computer tablets made it clear that the university needed to find a way to bring on-campus resources to students at their convenience.

“How do you leverage the fact that almost every one of our students owns technology that would be acceptable to use in working with software if they could get easy access to it?” Suess asked.

Some UMD software installed on campus computers couldn’t be shared with students off-campus, because the products weren’t legally allowed to be installed on student or faculty computers, said Michael Carlin, assistant vice president for infrastructure and support at UMD.

“By providing a virtual desktop solution … we can extend the boundaries out beyond the campus” and get around these restrictions, Carlin said.

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