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In a quest to keep up with student demand, Kingsborough Community College constantly added computers to labs. But the Brooklyn college could never keep up.
And increasingly, faculty members want students to do research, build e-portfolios and take assessments in class. While they tried to use wireless laptop carts, they lost 10 to 15 minutes of instruction time just setting them up.
By virtualizing desktops, the Brooklyn college will cut back on lost instruction time and provide students with tools to build e-portfolios and take assessments.
"It's making technology transparent and focusing more and using more of the class time in actually imparting the education rather than challenging them with setting up computers and logging in and bringing in the carts," said Asif Hussain, CIO.
For its virtualization and other technology initiatives, the college earned first place in the large college category of the Digital Community Colleges Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Education.
Last year, the college started a pilot with 45 thin clients in classrooms. Based on feedback from faculty and students, the IT team worked with vendors to solve ergonomic and accessibility challenges.
"By doing this, I think we've been able to successfully take care of and cater to the needs of a majority of the students and faculty."
When everyone had monitors in front of them, the faculty member couldn't see who was asking a question. But with flip technology that's being retrofitted into the college's existing furniture, the monitors can flip down when they're not being used.
Then students have a flat desk that doesn't separate them from their instructor. And the classroom actually looks like a classroom, not a lab.
To make sure the devices were accessible for students with disabilities, the college created accessible areas of the classrooms and ran the thin clients on Windows 7.
After the pilot process, Kingsborough installed 200 thin clients in classrooms and will have 500 total by the end of the fiscal year in June 2012. Over the next few years, the college plans to have a thin client for each student in all its classes.
Along with bringing thin clients into the classroom, the college finished virtualizing most of the servers in its data center. The physical servers were only being used to 33 percent of capacity. And now with virtual, blade and application servers, the data center operates more efficiently.
After the IT team members started virtualizing applications, they learned that not all applications work well when they're virtualized, despite vendors' claims. So they started carefully picking which ones to virtualize. But in case of a disaster or disruption at the college, they did make virtual copies of all the applications so staff members can access them, even though they won't work as well as the physical ones.
Aside from virtualizing desktops and servers, the college is working with vendors including Avaya to bring video conferencing technology into every classroom. Kingsborough Community College had already installed SMART technology in basically every classroom, so with cameras and other video-based technology, they'll be able to leverage that investment.
This year, the IT team plans to add video conferencing capabilities to at least 10 classrooms. With the tools in place, faculty members will be able to bring in experts in different fields to talk with students.
For online courses, the college has set up audio and Web conferencing features that will work with the Blackboard learning management system. The video, audio and Web conferencing technology will help faculty members grab students' interest in various subjects.
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