Queen's University deployed a unique solution to allow engineering students to access a wide variety of complex software applications on their own devices.
Located in Kingston, Ontario, Queen's University is one of the oldest universities in Canada. Queen's University was founded in 1841; however, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science predates the university and was founded as the School of Mining. About 25,000 undergraduate students call Queen's University home. Queen's offers an exceptional learning experience and is known for its leading research-intensive teaching. Queen's is proudly ranked number sixteen in US News & World Report's list of best global universities in Canada, in the top half of US News & World Report's list of best global universities in the world, and number eleven in Times Higher Education's list of Best Colleges in Canada.Footnote1
The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen's University is a leading school that continuously teaches through innovation. In 2019, the Information Technology (IT) Services department realized that its delivery of software applications needed to evolve with the modern student to ensure the success of students across the school. Through the implementation of AppsAnywhere, Queen's University has improved and modernized its most historical department while improving the experience of its students.
Challenges with Legendary IT
Traditionally, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science utilized a ton of labs, and those labs housed physical desktop computers. Having so many desktops was a considerable challenge for a bunch of reasons. Physical desktops take a lot of time and resources to image and maintain. Because engineering software applications are so enormous, imaging the applications on each desktop took a long time. Getting all of the software requirements from instructors during the summertime was also challenging. If someone did not request a software application by the order deadline, they had to wait until winter break to get what they needed. Imaging aside, the other challenge with physical desktops is just that, the actual machine. Desktop machines in the computer labs had to be updated regularly and repaired (and sometimes even replaced) if damaged.
Thinking Virtual Desktops Were the Answer
After facing the challenges with physical desktops in computer labs across the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science school, the IT Services department decided to replace the machines with virtual desktops, or zero-clients. A zero-client machine is a desktop with no hard drive and no replaceable parts. They are very simple devices designed purely to connect back to the server. This solution worked well for what IT Services needed it to do. Imaging became a bit simpler, and maintenance was manageable on the machines. It also gave students the ability to access the desktops virtually. Even with these benefits, students were having trouble using the desktops. They found the zero-client machines difficult to use because they couldn't be personalized, and some heavy-weight applications did not run properly. Even though students were accessing a virtual desktop from their own device, they were not using their own desktop. At the end of the day, students wanted to use their own devices the way they wanted to use them.
Finding and Implementing Queen's Perfect Solution
Trying to find the perfect solution to deliver software to students was no easy task for the IT Services department because the solution had to meet a detailed list of requirements. First, it had to allow students to access all of their applications no matter the size. As previously mentioned, engineering software can be very large, which can impede its performance. IT Services wanted a solution that worked for everything. Next, the desktop needed to be customizable to enhance the students' experience. The solution also needed to support all Windows and non-Windows devices. At Queen's University Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, 40 percent of students (surprisingly) use Mac devices. With students using a variety of operating systems, the solution needed to be able to deliver Windows applications to the non-Windows devices.
After carefully considering everything on their checklist, IT Services landed on AppsAnywhere by Software2 as their solution. In April of 2019, the department began the implementation of AppsAnywhere. By the beginning of the fall term, IT Services had packaged ninety-seven applications. Today, they have over 110 applications packaged, and they are continuously doing more. The Queen's University IT Services department put teams together to ensure the efficiency of packaging and the quality of work to be done.
Happy Students Equals Successful Students
As with any change, there is always a possibility that challenges may arise. With AppsAnywhere, this was not the case. Students adapted quickly to AppsAnywhere and began using the solution as soon as they arrived on campus in the fall. With AppsAnywhere, students have a single point of access to all the applications needed for their courses. The app store design is native to today's students, so it is easy for them to find their desired applications. The flexibility of AppsAnywhere has improved the student experience because students are no longer tethered to a single computer lab. Instead of making sure to reserve time in a designated lab, students can access their work from the comfort of their dorm on a device they are familiar with. Queen's University IT Services knew they wanted students to be able to access applications according to their preferences. Engineering students can now access their software applications anytime, anywhere, and from any device.
- "2021 Best Global Universities Rankings," US News & World Report, Education (website), accessed April 29, 2021.; "Best Global Universities in Canada," US News & World Report, Education (website), accessed April 29, 2021; "Best Universities in Canada," Times Higher Education, THE Student (website), September 2, 2020. Jump back to footnote 1 in the text.
Julia Redbord is a Marketing Executive at Software2.
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