digital workspaces

Why every campus should provide today’s students with digital backpacks


Understanding how digital workspaces can enable a flexible and democratic college experience for today's savvy students.

Technology is a critical component in education delivery and growing moreso by the day, but the story of higher learning is not solely a technology story. It is a story about intellectual growth and delivering a consistent learning experience across the entire student population – agnostic of curricula, socioeconomic factors or hardware inventory.

Meshing the current information and technological tumult, these core modern challenges face colleges and universities especially acutely given the unique preferences and demands of today’s students.

Across the country, institutions of higher learning are increasingly exploring the transformative benefits of digital workspaces to ensure a consistent and democratic delivery of learning experiences for all students at any time, on any device, anywhere.

Components of a Digital Backpack

Such “digital backpack” technology ensures students have access to the tools they need to succeed, when they need them, and is especially helpful for students who aren’t living on campus or are unable to get to campus on a regular basis. Within digital workspace environments, processing power is housed in the data center, not in the endpoint user device. This enables efficient and secure access to applications through virtual portals across smartphones, computers and tablets of any make or model.

Without being attached to a designated computer lab or campus location, students can complete schoolwork anywhere and on their own time, even picking up where they left off on assignments from a completely different location. Students with past-generation laptops can enjoy the same experience as those bringing the latest products from the marketplace to campus.

Most students today use multiple devices, and through the digital workspace, they can work with the information and applications they need at any time, day or night, wherever they are–on their smartphones walking across campus, on dedicated workstations at home or in the classroom and even on tablets in the library, quad, coffee shop or student union.

(Next page: Best practices from universities in their digital backpack implementation)

VMware’s digital workspace team is currently working with Auburn University to integrate our Workspace ONE solutions into their academic ecosystem–marking the culmination and intersection of several recent trends in education technology.

Digital workspaces incorporate and enable hybrid cloud environments, virtual desktop infrastructure and myriad devices accommodated by institutions’ Bring Your Own Device policies.

Beyond Auburn, other institutions of varying size and IT scale–including Michigan State University, Western Carolina University and others–have worked with VMware to deploy digital workspaces on campus that extend the learning environment off campus. Primary and secondary school districts are tapping digital workspaces as well, further exposing young minds to the benefits of technological mobility and agility.

No More Tail-Chasing

This is especially notable because previously, organizations may have elected to meet a challenge head-on by onboarding new hardware or devices in a somewhat piecemeal approach. Often, this would amount to “chasing the tail” of a problem, as devices inevitably become obsolete with innovation and evolution in the marketplace.

Digital workspaces insulate institutions against the expense of perpetually onboarding new hardware. Virtualization of the server, network and desktop infrastructure allows for rapid deployment and customization of new applications and segmented security frameworks around sensitive information.

Importantly, the secured digital workspace is highly scalable and, as such, accessible for the full spectrum of academic institutions–including community colleges, small private institutions, two- and four-year universities and vocational/technical schools.

Millennials and digital natives–rapidly growing segments of the modern workforce–are becoming hardwired to expect the flexibility, convenience and productivity benefits of the mobile experience and the freedom to work anywhere by the time they move into their freshman dorms.

This underscores an impetus for institutions of higher learning to have empowering, easy-to-use IT solutions like digital workspaces in place that will meet the expectations and demands of incoming student populations for mobile technology and access to learning tools.

eSchool Media Contributors