Delivers remote access to lab computers during COVID closures, while simultaneously cutting costs on hardware and software
When campus closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheaton College needed a way to intelligently reduce costs and deliver results, by understanding exactly how their IT resources were being used, while seamlessly delivering them to students unexpectedly studying from home.
Jaime Mejia, IT Support Specialist at Wheaton College, says that prior to the pandemic, “requests for additional software and hardware resources were made based on perceptions and feelings. The IT department and the requestor did not have an efficient way to evaluate usage of existing software or equipment.”
Before COVID, there was also no way for students to access computer labs remotely. Instead, students were encouraged to visit labs physically during open hours, and special access was provided when extra hours were needed. “This special access contributed to the feelings that additional resources were needed,” Jaime said. He worked with the team, and they explored ways to improve the students experience and the ability to provide support as well as they could.
Then, everything changed when COVID hit. Suddenly, with labs closed and budgets spent, Jaime and the team needed to immediately transition to remote-only mode, while effectively prioritizing the availability of assets based on need and demand.
- Understand hardware and software usage patterns to verify and validate real demand
- Configure labs for remote access, allowing students working from home to use campus resources
- Reduce peak demand by making lab resources available remotely at all times
“Before the pandemic, remote computing was not prioritized and there was a general sentiment from faculty that ‘we want to have students in lab spaces to promote social interaction and to be close to faculty when questions might arise,’ Jaime said. “Unfortunately, the pandemic came and we had to close the labs. Sassafras was one of the most important parts at this time, because we were able to make those computers available remotely with just one click. Not just for students on campus, but even students in other countries were able to remote into the computers. This is one of the things that I always share, because I think that is what Sassafras is: more than reports: it provides the resources we have to students.”
Sassafras AllSight is easy to deploy and configure, with well-documented steps and responsive, reliable support. AD integrations for client organization and user authentication automate initial setup, while automatic product auditing and one-click usage tracking make data collection simple and quick. Remote access features are compatible with RDP, VNC, Guacamole, SplashTop, NoMachine, and other Remote Desktop technologies, and built in schedules let administrators restrict access to virtual labs and classrooms to specified users during class periods.
“Everything was basically straightforward, with no major issues. During the training, we were exposed to a lot, but it wasn’t difficult to learn. We were using [a competitor’s product] before, and it was prohibitively complicated! Now, this is just my point of view, but the most frustrating thing was that when I had questions, [the competitor] couldn’t respond. They would say, ‘we don’t have the answer, but we’re going to find out.’ Well, we used their service, but we never got the answers. The good thing about the Sassafras team is that they are very supportive. With any question that I had, they responded right a way. They were willing to set up a remote session to show me how to do things, not just send an email, but also remoting in and showing us.”
Remote Access – Wheaton College’s Availability maps not only allow students to locate computers with the specific software titles they need to complete coursework, but they can also log in remotely and use lab computers from home, reducing health risks while making full use of IT assets that might otherwise sit idle for months.
“I remember a few months ago we had a conversation with one of the colleges nearby about how we are using remote as a resource for our students, and I was able to say that the most important key to our success is Sassafras.” —Jaime Mejia
Wheaton College has solved many remote learning challenges using Sassafras AllSight’s availability maps, remote access, and usage reports to provide continuity of IT services despite campus closures and social distancing. Students can now use on-campus computer lab and classroom resources from home, while IT administrators monitor usage trends and find ways to reduce costs in the midst of a public health crisis. By analyzing detailed computer login and software usage reports for each lab and classroom, IT admins now have the ability to predict trends, allocate resources, and cut costs by right-sizing hardware and software purchases based on true demand.
“Sassafras is seen as the most important key during the pandemic. And I think it’s getting better and better,” said Jaime, who is also author of “The Service Desk Biweekly”, Wheaton’s helpdesk newsletter. “I have students connecting remotely, not just on campus; people from other countries. We have a student from China, Korea. And they all connect remotely to our computers.”
IT humor: Jaime summed up the benefit students get from Sassafras AllSight’s Remote Access functionality with this “Meme of the Biweek.”
AllSight doesn’t just save students money, however. The detailed hardware and software usage reports provided by AllSight gives Wheaton College a valuable window into hardware and software usage patterns, allowing them to save money by reducing their hardware and software spend to match need. In 2020, Jaime estimates the college saved thousands of dollars year-over-year.
“Before the pandemic there were a few members of faculty requesting to expand our computer labs, because we had more students coming to the labs. The same thing with Nvivo software. Well once we ran the reports we were able to demonstrate that even with the students connecting to use the software, we couldn’t justify buying more.”
“In the past—for me it’s good to compare what happened before and after Sassafras—we were getting requests for more computers and software applications for students. And we were providing them because we did not have the reports to prove whether software was used enough. Well, once we got Sassafras and we started creating reports and logging usage, now we have a very complete report that we can bring in to the provost or the department and say, you’re requesting more computers. Well, if we look at this report for the last 3 months—the lab is being used, but not enough to justify buying more. We can now produce proof that the resources we have are enough.”
To learn more about Sassafras AllSight’s availability maps, remote access, and usage reporting, please visit:
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