Put a computer lab in the hands of students
Like schools across the United States, the Logansport Community School Corporation quickly switched to distance learning in the spring of 2020 when social distancing requirements for COVID-19 meant students could no longer congregate in class on time. full. Logansport also introduced a new virtual learning opportunity for students in its Century Career Center, with a Computer Lab as a Service (CLaaS).
“We introduced CLaaS to allow students working remotely to complete their classroom projects on their student devices,” said Cyle Dibble, director of technology at Logansport Community School Corporation. “Without this solution, students would not be able to do their work and participate in class remotely. “
Integrate career tools in the cloud
The Logansport Community School Corporation serves approximately 4,300 students in four elementary schools, a sixth grade academy, seventh and eighth grade college, high school, and the Century Career Center. COVID forced the district to switch to distance learning for much of the 2020 spring semester. During the 2020-2021 school year, the district mostly used a hybrid model, combining learning in person and remotely, until he can resume teaching in person in April 2021.
The Career Center prepares Grades 9 to 12 students for careers in the health sciences; advanced manufacturing; art, media and communications; architecture and construction; and several other areas. Some classes rely on specialized software tools, including Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD, and Autodesk Inventor.
Traditionally, students have used this software in the Centre’s computer lab. Since 2019, Dibble and his team have explored ways to move these tools to the cloud so that students can use them even when they are away from the lab.
When the pandemic forced the switch to virtual learning, the search for a cloud-based solution went from a pleasant project to a top priority. A hosted solution does more than give students more flexible access to applications that were previously available only on more robust desktops. With students learning at home, a cloud solution was the only way to provide them with access.
Many of the hosted solutions available that Logansport considered have proven to be prohibitive, Dibble explains. His team then evaluated the CLaaS solution from ByteSpeed, an IT solutions provider based in Moorhead, Minnesota.
With CLaaS, schools can offer students better access to high-end applications without purchasing more expensive workstations for their labs or converting valuable real estate into a school building to make more lab space.
The game changer
ByteSpeed developed CLaaS to meet the needs of many school districts whose students were using devices to attend class and complete homework during the pandemic. With the Amazon AppStream 2.0 desktop platform as a service from Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its foundation, CLaaS securely delivers the applications students need to do their jobs, whether they are platforms – Bandwidth-hungry engineering forms or Microsoft Office programs.
ByteSpeed worked with SynchroNet, an AWS advanced consulting partner in Houston, TX, to design and create CLaaS, conduct a pilot project, and then bring the solution to the K-12 education market.
After launching its first school pilot on September 1, 2020, ByteSpeed started working with Logansport in early December. Students started using Appstream on December 9.
Because CLaaS can use Google or Microsoft Azure for authentication, students can sign in with the same credentials they use in their daily classroom instruction. They can then access lab apps from their home or other location using a laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or other device running a web browser.
“ByteSpeed presented a cost effective solution for schools,” says Dibble. Rather than charging a recurring subscription fee, ByteSpeed offers a set of usage hours that schools consume at their own pace. For example, a student who uses CLaaS from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. consumes three hours of use. The same goes for three students who each use CLaaS from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
“The idea of buying hours rather than paying for fully hosted services and resources has been a game-changer for us,” says Dibble.
To launch the new service, Logansport simply needed to provide a purchase order based on the quote from ByteSpeed. “We didn’t incur any additional costs to set up CLaaS,” says Dibble.
The implementation only took a few days. “After that, it was all about monitoring and adjusting how much resources are available to students and when,” says Dibble.
Rather than running 24/7, CLaaS allows access to Career Center apps on the days and times that Logansport students are most likely to use them, says Dibble. But refining this availability was not difficult.
The other aspects of the CLaaS implementation were also straightforward. “As with any project, there is initial time invested in requirements analysis, research, demonstration, piloting and deployment,” explains Dibble. “ByteSpeed made it really easy, and it wasn’t a big burden on my department, ByteSpeed taking care of all the setup. My team’s role was to serve as a facilitator and train teachers on how to show students how to use the new system.
The dashboard helps with planning
When students first started taking advantage of CLaaS, Logansport used a dashboard included in the solution to better understand how students use cloud-hosted applications. The dashboard allows school officials to track which apps students are using, when they are using them, and for how long.
“We asked for the dashboard early on to help us monitor our usage so we could plan better and not be surprised when we ran out of hours,” Dibble said. “It also allowed us to see our maximum uses and learn how to work with ByteSpeed so that we have the necessary resources. “
This information helped Logansport determine what hours students most needed to access CLaaS. “ByteSpeed configures the environment to add more resources when we hit thresholds during peak hours,” says Dibble. “That way, students don’t have to wait 10 to 15 minutes for a resource to be available during peak hours.
Long term benefits
Although Logansport adopted CLaaS to facilitate distance learning during the pandemic, the solution will benefit students long afterward. With CLaaS at their disposal, students can use advanced software in the evenings, weekends, or any other time when the school is closed. This is of particular benefit for students who need more time to complete class projects or who cannot use a computer lab in the late afternoon due to professional or athletic commitments.
With CLaaS, schools can offer students better access to high-end applications without purchasing more expensive workstations for their labs or converting valuable real estate into a school building to make more lab space. Students can work on their own devices, or schools that provided Chromebooks to students during the pandemic can increase the return on that investment by using them as lab devices.
“We plan to keep this solution and make it available after school hours and during e-learning days,” says Dibble. Whether a student needs to catch up on an after-lunch project or a teacher needs to teach a distance lesson on a snowy day, students will have easy access to the teaching tools they need.