Virtual desktop program launched

April 23, 2013

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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville has launched a pilot program, Virtual Desktop, for Collaborative Engineering Program students with a goal to include the entire UW-Platteville campus community in the near future.

UW-Platteville began this project specifically for students taking courses through the Collaborative Engineering Program. The UW Colleges, a network of 13 two-year campuses, has been collaborating with UW-Platteville for nearly 10 years, preparing place-bound students from across Wisconsin for electrical and mechanical engineering degrees.

“When UW-Platteville broadens this program to the entire campus, there won’t be a need for as many computer labs that exist today on campus. We could put appropriate software and educational tools on one larger server and be able to use them from anywhere in the world. I can go to Turkey in the summer and have access to these programs,” said Dr. Mesut Muslu, electrical engineering professor at UW-Platteville.  “Virtual Desktop should allow significant efficiency improvements and cost savings throughout our campus.”

Virtual Desktop is a pilot program designed as a single outlet where any student can have access to computer programs required to complete coursework on their own computer or tablet away from UW-Platteville’s campus.

“The goal of this project was to simplify how we are delivering computer applications to our students,” said Michael Sherer, deputy chief information officer in the Office of Information Technology. “Certainly, to the students who are not physically at UW-Platteville, there has always been the challenge to get the applications in front of them.”

“The Virtual Desktop program provides our students a consistent environment, and provides students at a distance the opportunity to use the same software we have on campus,” said Dr. Bill Hudson, dean of UW-Platteville’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science. “Is it completed at this point? No. But the technology is always going to be evolving and this is just another step that UW-Platteville can provide for a better educational experience to our students.”

UW-Platteville’s Office of Information Technology launched Virtual Desktop’s probationary period in fall 2012, which permitted access only to Collaborative Program mechanical and electrical engineering students. It was offered to Collaborative Program students because it is heavily College of EMS funded. With the fall success, OIT expanded Virtual Desktop’s environment to allow industrial studies students in the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture who are currently located on UW-Platteville’s campus to use the software.

To use the Virtual Desktop, students and academic faculty download the VMWare client, which is the central software that hosts the Virtual Desktop. The VMWare asks for a username and password, which is the same username and password students and faculty use for everyday computer actions such as e-mail and Desire2Learn access. After being successfully logged into VMWare, it presents a desktop providing all the software required to complete coursework.

Professors using Virtual Desktop submit a list of students enrolled in specific courses they are teaching in the next/current semester allowing OIT to authorize student access.

“VMWare on the Virtual Desktop allows students to have platform independent access to software that they haven’t had prior to this year,” said John Goomey, UW-Platteville electrical engineering lecturer, who teaches courses such as Circuit Modeling I and Analog Electronics to Collaborative Program students using Virtual Desktop. “Students have expressed that this allows a convenient method of access to the programs we have in place in our labs on UW-Platteville’s campus.”

Other UW System schools (such as UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison,) use similar programs.

Dr. John Iselin, UW-Platteville mechanical engineering professor, teaches courses such as Computational Fluid Dynamics to Collaborative Program students using Virtual Desktop detailed how the program has considerable potential when the phases are complete.

OIT’s final phase and ultimate goal is to allow the entire UW-Platteville community access to the VMWare and the Virtual Desktop.

“As the Virtual Desktop evolves, we will improve the computing environment for all of our students. The College of EMS is going to continue to work together with the rest of the campus to gain efficiencies and support the educational needs of UW-Platteville students,” said Hudson.

Written by: Eileen McGuine, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, mcguinee@uwplatt.edu

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