From education to employment

New £53 million campus at Ayrshire College gets modern VDI platform and IGEL technology to deliver a truly flexible learning environment

VDI changes the whole way students access applications on the state of the art campus
IGEL, a world leader in the delivery of powerful unified endpoint management (UEM) software, thin clients, zero clients and all-in-one solutions, today announced that Ayrshire College has invested in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to support the move to its brand new £53 million campus in Kilmarnock. 
Built on the site of a former Johnnie Walker whisky bottling plant, the land for the 10-acre campus was gifted to the College by Diageo to help regenerate the area and is now home to 338 staff and 5,500 students who study over 100 courses.  The new campus was officially opened in December 2016 by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and is one of three main campus locations operated by the College.   
Brad Johnstone, Ayrshire College’s head of ICT, explains “A modern building needs modern technology which supports and enhances the students learning experience.  Installing traditional desktop PCs was initially considered but rejected as it didn’t give the freedom or flexibility for students to work.  Instead, we’ve invested in a Citrix XenDesktop VDI platform to create an environment where students can log in from wherever they are to access their own personal desktop profile and applications.”
Ayrshire College has purchased IGEL multimedia UD3 thin client terminals for 12 classrooms and Universal Desktop Convertor (UDC) software to run on 400 new laptops.  This converts any x86 device into a universally deployable IGEL Linux-based thin client.
Virtualized desktops with thin clients changes the way subjects are taught
The use of VDI and IGEL thin clients is radically changing the way the College operates at Kilmarnock.  Previously, applications were loaded onto computers in dedicated laboratories or classrooms subject to the curriculum requirements per course. If timetabling changed, software would have to be then added or removed which was a time-consuming overhead for the onsite IT team of six. 
David Keenan, Ayrshire College’s ICT team leader, says “Citrix has empowered us to move away from this with the software each student requires served up when they login. This means the classroom setting becomes irrelevant and we can use our space much more productively introducing IT to areas which didn‘t have it before.”
For example, students studying for an HND in Beauty can now bring a laptop into a salon and work on a presentation or type up their notes. Previously IT wasn’t available in these learning spaces and they would have to go elsewhere such as the Learning Resource Centre.
Furthermore, this approach means that Ayrshire College can respond quickly to the local economy it serves by preparing students for work. Johnstone explains “If an airline decided to boost flights to our local airport at Prestwick, we could introduce new aeronautical courses and train people locally to do the jobs.  Having a responsive and flexibility IT back-end means we can be nimble to local needs.”
Thin client technology is ideal in an educational context
The use of IGEL thin clients is perfect in a classroom context.  They are compact, quiet, produce a minimal amount of heat and consume less power which helps with the College’s green initiatives. 
When a student logs into their virtual desktop, they get access to a web browser, Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF packages, applications specific to their course and an online learning tool from Moodle.  Each student currently gets unlimited storage space for their work.
Ayrshire College has taken advantage of IGEL’s UDC software and loaded it onto 400 laptops to convert them into thin clients.  These are stored in twenty rooms – called IT enabled labs – which have 20 laptops each housed in two cabinets. A lecturer has the keys to the cabinets and controls lending the laptops to students so they can do group work, research, theory and so on.
Furthermore, by converting laptops into thin clients, applications start up quicker and battery life has been boosted such that a full teaching day can be delivered from a single charge. 
Keenan says “Students love the new system.  In the old Kilmarnock Campus, some of the PCs were nearing end-of-life and were about to be decommissioned. Now everything is a lot quicker and the students get the same experience irrespective of the device. This means they can jump from one to another and it’s the same experience. And if there is an actual rare unit failure, they don’t lose work as their data is stored on our central servers.”
Citrix XenDeskop sits on top a Microsoft Hyper V virtualization platform running on Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Moonshot Servers. A HPE 3PAR StoreServ all flash storage array is used to provide storage for the college.
Easy to manage infrastructure provides a platform for the future
IGEL thin clients are robust, and, using IGEL’s free Universal Management Suite (UMS), easy to set up, configure remotely and manage day to day with support requests able to be dealt with quickly.
The Kilmarnock Campus is phase one of the approach to deliver IT flexibility throughout Ayrshire College.  Based on its success, the aspiration – subject to funding – is to introduce Citrix and IGEL across not only the three campus sites, but additional satellite locations which offer courses such as motor vehicles and horticulture, so that all students are given the software they need when, where and how they want it. 
Johnstone explains “Our job is get students ready to go to university, into employment or wherever they aspire to be in their lives.  Delivery of the right IT tools and software is integral to this. If some-one wants to use AutoCAD on an iPad at 3am in the morning – because that’s their optimum work time – so be it, we have the infrastructure in place.”
Ainsley Brooks, IGEL’s UK & Ireland country manager, says “Ayrshire now has a desktop solution in place at Kilmarnock to really deliver and technology which can be developed throughout the College.  IT staff will now be engaging with students and teaching staff to work out precisely what this means so that it can harness the power of a combined Citrix and IGEL solution even more.”
About IGEL: IGEL delivers powerful unified endpoint management (UEM) software that is revolutionary in its simplicity and purpose-built for the enterprise. The company’s world-leading products, including the IGEL Universal Management Suite™, IGEL OS™-powered thin and zero clients, and all-in-one thin client solutions, deliver a smart and secure endpoint management experience that shifts granular control of thin and zero client devices from the end user to IT. This enables enterprises to remotely control all thin client devices from a single dashboard interface. IGEL has offices worldwide and is represented by partners in over 50 countries.

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