Waterloo Region District School Board is the public-school board for the Region of Waterloo in Ontario, serving more than 64,000 students. 

The Board was challenged with the need to provide secondary school technology students with access to high performance applications supporting remote learning. The object of the project was to enable a secure and ubiquitous remote desktop experience allowing students to access course software from anywhere, anytime, from any device.  

 

CHALLENGES

The Waterloo Region District School Board was facing the combined challenges of aging computer labs being unable to run the latest software, a high cost to replace equipment, and unequal access to computing equipment for at-home or hybrid learning students. 

The Board required a solution that enabled students and staff to have access to a high-performance complete modern desktop from any device, that offers complete security and compliance. Built on Azure, Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (previously Windows Virtual Desktop) would provide a simplified IT infrastructure, enhanced flexibility and productivity, lower costs, and enhanced security.  As an on-demand cloud system, costs could be managed by only paying for the computing resources when they are in use, and accessible available from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

SOLUTION

Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) was implemented as a solution for Waterloo Region District School Board’s needs as it is not only scalable, but it is built on the familiarity and compatibility of Windows 10. A customized AVD solution was implemented for the School Board that tailored to their specific application set and infrastructure. The implementation addressed an initial set of use cases that included high-performance GPU technical workloads, standard Office Suite applications, and administrative applications. 

The service was first piloted with an internal staff implementation, where the benefits of AVD were discovered. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Softlanding was engaged to speed up timelines and ensure a successful deployment across all schools. The Waterloo Region District School Board chose a graduated rollout of AVD that would increase the number of classes transformed over three months. This strategy helped to ease the service into the hands of the students, teachers, and IT staff leading to better adoption rates. Further, to support change management, Tech teacher champions were identified and worked to train their colleagues on the adjustments and transformation occurring within the organization. 

Prior to the implementation, classes were not able to operate without access to physical labs. This solution enabled all students to have equal access to tools such as AutoCad, Adobe Creative Suite, and the Microsoft Office Productivity Suite in a hybrid learning situation. As of November 2021, more than 5200 students use the virtual platforms scaling up to 150+ host pools, giving them access to resources without booking physical access to computer time.  

The solution proved to be great for students, teachers, and IT staff, and a long-term adoption plan was created to increase the use of AVD across the Waterloo Region District School Board.

RESULTS

Improved Student & Teach Experience

  • Access AVD from anywhere, anytime, from any device: PC, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Apple OS and via HTML5 with the same experience in all locations, thus leading to improved collaboration 
  • Allow users to work with on-prem applications without a VPN or remote view software 
  • Consistent application performance across all devices 

Increased Business Benefits

  • Eliminate hardware purchases for student Labs and support costs for equipment and software 
  • Return computer labs back to classrooms – reducing the need for portable classrooms 
  • Ability to scale up and down based on class schedules 

Improved Security & Support

  • Secure workspace that is controlled by your policies regardless of where or how it’s being accessedNo VPN Software required. No special setup required. 
  • Deep Integrations with Azure security features including MFA, Conditional Access, and more  
  • Reduce software fragmentation 
    • Changes in curriculum offerings can be rolled out quickly and uniformly