Providing students with remote access to crucial on-campus software on devices in computer labs

What to do when COVID-19 shutters your computer labs

Providing students with remote access to crucial on-campus software on devices in computer labs

When the COVID-19 shutdown first hit us at Wayne State University, spring break had just begun. In our initial optimism, we wondered if all we’d suffer was a two-week spring break.

Soon, however, the faculty, instructors, and students in the university’s College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts (CFPCA) realized this coronavirus pandemic would be around for a while. That meant figuring out how to finish the term remotely.

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Doing lectures and other classroom-based teaching was workable using Zoom and other videoconferencing solutions, and students could do things like write papers from home. But one major challenge loomed: how to provide access to software running on the 300 computers in computer labs on our campus in Detroit, Michigan.

Computer labs run software with specific hardware requirements

When people think of computer labs, they most often associate them with crucial resources for computer science, engineering, and similar courses of study. That’s true, but in recent years all kinds of disciplines have become dependent on sophisticated software applications.

Here are just a few examples from Wayne State’s CFPCA:
Theatre design students rely on software programs including Vectorworks (3D stage design), AutoCAD, and Lightwright, Beamwright, and Capture lighting design programs.
• A new faculty member in the textiles department began teaching a course based on Gerber AccuMark, a CAD fashion design program. Other instructors in the department use WeavePoint (weaving) and Pointcarre (textile CAD) software.
Music students use programs such as Avid Pro Tools (audio editing and music software), Finale (music notation), and Logic Pro X (professional music production that runs exclusively on Mac computers).
Fine arts and graphic design students use Blender (3D creation), Autodesk Revit (drafting, modeling, and rendering), Autodesk 3ds Max (3D computer graphics), and Rhino (3D CAD modeling).
Film, media arts, and other communication studies majors might use Avid Media Composer (video editing) and Autodesk Maya (3D modeling and animation) in their work.
• Students across many disciplines use Adobe Creative Cloud software.

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