Opening the door for student success on a shoestring budget.
GUEST COLUMN | by Scott Savage
Like most school districts around the country today, Pana Community School District #8 is consistently challenged to meet technology needs on a shoestring budget. As a Central Illinois public school district that’s comprised of four K-12 campuses, we are committed to giving our 1,400 students the best competitive advantage possible by providing the latest technology resources and tools for computer-based learning, online research, assessments, and collaboration.
Our technology support staff is a team of two, which consists of a curriculum integration specialist, and myself. Because of our commitment to providing quality technology in the classroom and our need to meet a limited IT budget, our team motto has always been “do more with less.”
Because of our commitment to providing quality technology in the classroom and our need to meet a limited IT budget, our team motto has always been ‘do more with less.’
So when it came time to replace the aging computers in our classrooms, we had to do it in a thoughtful manner. Our school district needed to move from our outdated Windows XP towers to a more modern, cost-effective system that would meet the requirements of teachers and students, both immediately and long-term.
After evaluating many different options, a virtualization-based solution quickly emerged as the best way to address our goals and meet our budget. The solution stood out because it would deliver a consistent experience to all teachers and students and eliminate the need for us to have to maintain individual desktops across our campuses.
We decided to replace our fleet of PCs with a desktop virtualization solution from NComputing. The system is made up of vSpace Server and L300 thin client devices. I led the initiative and It didn’t take us long to realize the true power of a virtualization solution.
We immediately realized several benefits, the first one being price. Our school district saved approximately one-third on hardware acquisition costs. Not only that, installing the thin client devices was effortless, and we’re now able to easily support multiple users. Our ongoing maintenance chores have been significantly reduced. If a teacher calls me up and happens to have an issue with their classroom thin clients, I can easily fix it at the server, whereas before, I had to push group policies or run scripts on 50 desktops then verify the changes had been successful. I’d estimate it takes me about one-fourth of the time to manage our desktop virtualization system versus our previous PCs.
We’ve also realized PC hardware repair benefits. Before, replacing CMOS batteries, power supplies, fans, hard drives and motherboards were common occurrences. Now, with our desktop virtualization solution, none of that is necessary. As an added bonus, we get to enjoy the reduced power and cooling requirements that thin clients offer. Before, PCs were causing circuit breakers to trip, resulting in classrooms being too hot or too cold because they were trying to accommodate the extra heat output of so many tower computers. Our new solution has completely eliminated these problems and has resulted in about a 90 percent power saving per workstation, not to mention a quieter, neater learning environment so our students can truly focus on the tasks at hand.
Finally, another benefit that we’ve realized from our new desktop virtualization technology is that it meets the technology requirements for our state mandated online testing. With our new thin client devices, students get a full Windows desktop experience without requiring their own PC or laptop. Beyond support for online testing, desktop virtualization has allowed our students to run a variety of programs related to reading, math and other topics.
Implementing a desktop virtualization solution within our classrooms and labs is without a doubt one of the best IT decisions Pana Community School District #8 has made. It has freed up time for teachers to be more productive and focus on teaching and has allowed our IT team to focus on enhancing our overall technology, rather than running around servicing systems. Most importantly, it has helped us support our students’ most vital educational needs – and that has made all the difference.
Scott Savage has been with central Illinois K-12 school district Pana Community School District #8 since 2008. As the district’s technology coordinator, Scott is responsible for maintaining its current infrastructure, which includes over 240 virtual desktop client devices from NComputing.