Sponsored Content: Liquidware

Digital Workspaces Elevate Learning

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Liquidware helps academic institutions elevate learning for students with super-efficient digital workspaces that align cutting-edge technologies with educational objectives.

Academic institutions around the world are making major efforts to realign education to make sure students have all the skills they need to succeed in the digital age. IT teams at academic institutions can support that transformation if they take the opportunity to improve the desktop user experience. Faculty and students always have new applications on their wish lists, ask for access to new operating systems and development environments they want to try, and of course want faster, unlimited computing access from wherever they happen to be. At Liquidware, this is a familiar scenario to us, as we have assisted countless education institutions to improve their desktop delivery models, allowing them to reduce costs even as they get more out of the investments they already have made.

To improve the desktop user experience, it is critical to take a measure of what it is like on the devices students, faculty, and staff are using today. When you have this information—about login times, application response times, and any latency that may affect a quality experience—you can plan to remediate these issues. The next step is to determine which desktop platform will meet the institution's need to deliver performance while reducing the effort and complexity required to deliver to workspaces. Today, there are more options for desktop workspace delivery than ever before. In addition to physical devices, academic organizations can leverage VMware or Citrix virtual desktops, Amazon WorkSpaces, or the recently released Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD) on Azure. Liquidware supports all of these platforms and, over the years, we have developed high expertise in assessing legacy environments and helping organizations determine which of these platforms will best meet their requirements. Once the new platform is established, we can assist in the process of validating that new workspaces are meeting the needs of students, faculty, and staff.

In the higher education environment, the appropriate digital workspace architecture can deliver essential benefits, regardless of the institution size or population. These benefits include:

  • Making it easy to give users secure, anywhere, anytime access to their files and apps. This benefit is particularly relevant in two scenarios. The first is coursework-at-home programs, allowing students to tap into their school workspaces through their home or local devices, opening the door to 24/7 learning. The second advantage is that academic institutions can utilize sharing the same set of physical devices to support multiple diverse coursework through the development of dynamic labs.
  • Solving slow logins—the most common and persistent drain on user experience in education. When it takes a minute or more for users to get to their needed materials and those minutes are multiplied over the number of students, faculty, and staff affected and the repeated times that they may need to log in a day, you can end up with hundreds of wasted productivity hours in the course of a year.
  • Simplifying workspace management by supporting the use of "nonpersistent" workspaces. In this architecture, only the OS and the applications needed by 90% of users is put into the desktop image. All other "incidental" applications (i.e., those used by niche or specialized groups) can be packaged and installed on separate storage and only "layered" back when the user launches it. Similarly, the user profile with all of its customizations and the user-authored data and files can also be removed from the image and stored separately. Profiles and applications are loaded on demand when the user logs in.
  • Providing a great opportunity to make the best use of academic IT budgets after the transition. Utilizing the correct digital workspace architecture can help stretch budgets by extending the life of existing PCs, enabling the more pervasive use of cheaper thin client devices, conserving on capacity investments, and saving on software licensing costs.

This article provides an overview of the how digital workspaces specifically benefit higher education users, with highlights from our experiences with Liquidware's customers around the world.

Let Users Access Workspaces Wherever, Whenever They Want to Learn

Digital workspaces are a great fit for higher education because they align the IT architecture with how teaching, learning, and course work really get done. Students and professors do much more studying, research, and writing outside the classroom than in it, so why limit their access to university-provided applications and other resources to classroom hours?

Even the time students spend in a class isn't spent in one single classroom, so doing thing like streamlining the login process and automatically enabling follow-me printing is a big time saver and user experience booster. These capabilities—hallmarks of digital workspaces—are available for traditional physical desktops. When workspaces are digitized, users get a clean, fresh version of their desktop every time they log in, regardless of location, and all folder redirects, printer settings, application permissions, and other policies are handled in the background. Users get the resources they're entitled to because of who they are, not where they are.

Based on the same principal, you can provide dynamic teaching labs anywhere. The workstations used in labs tend to be resource intensive, so schools are limited in the number they can purchase and the support they can provide. These workhorse workstations may be heavily shared, so they are typically housed in central computer labs. With digitalization, high-end workstations are just another desktop image that can be delivered to users. Applications can be streamed on demand and CPU, GPU, and storage resources can be dynamically reallocated to resource-hungry workspaces as needed, independent of location.

Customization Improves User Experience

A typical workaround education IT admins use to overcome resource limitations is to heavily standardize user desktops. This is helpful for workspace management but not so much for personalization and user experience. With digital workspace management, users can customize their screens, app preferences, bookmarks, and browser settings and have these personalizations retained. The work required for admins to support these customizations is minimal because user profiles are saved and packaged at the end of the session, then stored and instantly streamed back to the user at the next login.

Faster Logins

Fast logins is probably the most proven, best-known, and most appreciated benefit to digital workspaces. We've worked with dozens of educational institutions, from K–12 school districts to major universities. These organizations have had many different and specific goals for digital transformation and have taken different paths to get there, but the common result has been faster logins, even when it was an unintended result.

For example, a community college IT director told us, "After we went to virtual desktops, students would say, 'Wow, what did you do to our machines? They're running great.' That was music to our ears, because we weren't expecting such an improvement. Students noticed the change because it now takes just three to four seconds to log in, compared to approximately one minute to boot up a physical PC or laptop."

Other customers have made much bigger login improvements, as the table below highlights. You can learn more about these digital workspace environments and all the other customers cited in this article on the Liquidware website.

Average Login Times


Before Digital Workspaces

With Digital Workspaces

Barking & Dagenham College

20 minutes

2 minutes

Community College of Rhode Island

1 minute

4 seconds

Northwest Technical College

> 2 minutes

< 1 minute

Orange Coast College

30 seconds

3–5 minutes

Trinity College

Up to 5 minutes

45 seconds


Digital workspace architecture is especially effective for education environments because it addresses the resource contention that's common when classrooms full of students are all trying to log in at the beginning of a class period. These login storms can be a thing of the past.

Simplify Workspace Management

Just as digital workspaces gives users anytime, anywhere access to files and apps, they give IT administrators the ability to remotely update and troubleshoot PCs without ever putting hands on the hardware. Software patches, security updates, settings changes, and other routine tasks are done once to the master image. The next time a user logs in, the desktop is automatically up to date. The one-to-many updates are a huge time saver. When there is a problem with an individual digital workspace, a clean new version can be delivered almost instantly. Those are some of the ways digital workspaces free time so IT staff can do other things.

We spoke with an IT contractor that is solely responsible for supporting a satellite campus facility shared by four different universities. That arrangement results in an unusually high amount of applications and policies to manage, especially for a one-person support unit. He chose to replace traditional PCs with digital workspaces to cut down on routine maintenance. "Before, a basic update would cause me to spend 20 minutes each on 60 machines. Now I spend 20 minutes once, so the time savings are a factor of 60 for me," he told us. Imagine the time savings for a larger user population!

Another customer, Whatcom Community College in Washington, had an almost completely different legacy—it has had thousands of students using virtual workspaces for many years. However, it upgraded its workspace management system after experiencing performance problems following a major change to its desktop environment. Using a new user experience solution made a big difference, even though the school was very experienced in managing virtual workspaces.

"Now I can see problems that are developing before they become an endemic issue that affects a lot of users," said the PC support manager. "We've gone from reacting to phone calls and fixing things to being preventive."

Streamline Application Management

One of the specific ways digital workspaces simplify support is by enhancing application management flexibility and capabilities. Typically, some apps are packaged into the base workplace image and others are streamed to users on demand, all in strict conformance to permissions, filters, and policies set by IT. We've already gone over how maintaining a single base image saves maintenance time. On-demand app streaming also helps optimize resource use (for apps, storage, and CPU cycles) and enables another benefit that sometimes gets overlooked: schools typically need fewer software licenses for digital workspace populations. It fits the current mode of paying for what you use, not paying to provision spare or underutilized hardware.

One customer, who reduced some software licensing costs by 40% with application virtualization, said, "Before, each department might buy a single application but would rarely buy the whole suite because it was expensive and they wouldn't need it all. I feel like for the first time we're finally getting full value for the software we paid for."

A university customer in the UK had similar thoughts: "We have 15,000 students but we can't have 15,000 virtual machines. The licensing costs would be insane. Nonpersistent virtual desktops make it cost effective for us to have a virtual desktop infrastructure."


Liquidware solutions are used by a growing number of education organizations to transform their current desktop strategy from a one-to-one physically constrained desktop system to an elastic digital workspace environment. To date, we have helped hundreds of educational institutions of all sizes, from K–12 to universities, reap the benefits of moving to an optimum digital architecture. Liquidware delivers user persona and application portability across multiple devices and operating systems with ProfileUnity with FlexApp. Our solution Stratusphere UX provides visibility into the user experience so that it can be evaluated, understood, and improved with the correct selection and installation of new technologies. Liquidware provides a one-stop-shop approach that is compatible with Citrix, VMware, AWS WorkSpaces, and Microsoft physical desktops and WVD on Azure. Our solutions can be leveraged across on-premises and cloud infrastructures.

J. Tyler Rohrer is Co-Founder and Director of Strategic Alliances at Liquidware.

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