Virtual Desktop Now Available University-Wide for Students and Instructors

Ohio State’s Virtual Desktop allows students and instructors to access a select set of software applications from any device with internet access. Using cloud technology, students are now able to extend use of their applications outside of physical lab spaces, and instructors can provide the same coursework for both in-person and remote learning.

Virtual Desktop became available to all students and instructors at the university at the beginning of the semester, but this isn’t the first time it’s been used at Ohio State. The College of Engineering and the Knowlton School of Architecture developed a Virtual Desktop environment to improve the student experience prior to the pandemic. During the transition to remote teaching and learning at the outbreak of the pandemic, this resource was critical in enabling students to access software that would typically be in a lab or classroom, require a high-powered computer, or cost a significant amount of money to purchase and download on their own device.

After recognizing the value of Virtual Desktop to the student experience, the College of Engineering partnered with the Office of Technology Digital Innovation (OTDI) to offer a pilot program for faculty and students at Ohio State Lima and in select classes for the College of Arts and Sciences in Autumn 2021. During the pilot program, students reported using the tool for several common purposes.

  • Accessing software they would typically need to access in a lab on campus
  • Running programs on Windows that are not available on MacOS
  • Using course-required software that  may perform poorly (e.g. run slowly, crash) on their personal computer

The success of these programs led to a joint effort by the College of Engineering and OTDI to develop a Virtual Desktop environment to be available to all students and instructors at the university. While the Virtual Desktop tool highlights the university’s focus on access for students, the process to build it has been a testament to the collaborative IT culture Ohio State staff works towards each day. Teams from both organizations hit the ground running in May 2022 to build the Virtual Desktop technical environment for university-wide use.

Ginger Breon, Chief Technology Officer at OTDI and former CIO at the College of Engineering, has helped lead both teams through each phase of the Virtual Desktop rollout. She noted that while the tool has “come far as a service that extends access to software resources outside of physical labs for students and instructors to expand learning, it has room to grow.” The team will spend the spring semester focused on determining software that can be added to Virtual Desktop for academic year 2023-2024, further enhancing the capabilities of Virtual Desktop.

Students and instructors can learn more about Virtual Desktop, including the available software applications, and log in today.