The Lenawee Intermediate School District (LISD) offers more than 20 Career Technical Education (CTE) programs for K-12 students in Lenawee County, Michigan. To ensure students can continue their CTE programs from home and access the software on the lab computers, the LISD deployed Splashtop to enable students to remotely access lab computers from their own Chromebooks and other personal devices.
The Challenge of Career Technical Education and Distance Learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for K-12 school districts, including the Lenawee Intermediate School District. Going into the 2020-2021 school year, the LISD wants to ensure that students can continue their education in the event that they are unable to attended classes in-person.
One important area that needed to be addressed was how to make the Career Technical Education (CTE) programs accessible to students from home.
CTE programs offered through the LISD TECH Center include Video & Audio Production, Graphic Imaging Technology, Engineering, and Design & CAD.
These CTE programs are taught in specialized classrooms in the LISD TECH Center. The classrooms are equipped with lab computers that have the same software applications used by professionals. These applications—such as Photoshop, After Effects, Premier Pro and AutoCAD—are often resource intensive, requiring powerful computers to run.
While the LISD TECH Center is able to provide students with the necessary hardware and software tools they need, a major problem arises when students are distance learning. Without access to the computers and software applications, they cannot continue their education.
Leveraging Existing Lab Computers with Remote Access
Nicholas Adams—the Director of Information Technology—and Mats Holm—the Network Administrator—recognized that the best way to overcome this challenge was to enable students to remotely access the lab computers.
“We couldn’t provide all students with their own high-powered Mac desktop,” Adams said, “so we wanted to provide a solution where they could connect remotely. Some schools provided their students with Chromebooks. In other cases, the students are using personal devices.”
Chromebooks are popular in the education industry, but are notorious for not being able to run most software applications. Also, many students have personal devices that aren’t as powerful as the lab computers. Adams and Holms had to keep this in mind when looking for solutions.
“We wanted to leverage our existing infrastructure,” Adams said. “If they had a Chromebook, we wanted to make sure the applications worked when accessing from a Chromebook.”
Splashtop for Remote Labs Gets the Job Done
Adams and Holm evaluated a few remote access products. In the end, Splashtop for remote labs was considered the best choice.
With Splashtop, students are able to remotely access school computers from any Windows, Mac, iOS, Android or Chromebook device. Once in a remote desktop session, students can remotely control the school computer and use it as if sitting in front of it. They can run any software application and open any file on the remote computer with ease.
There were several reasons why Lenawee ISD preferred Splashtop:
Audio when remotely accessing Mac
A problem Adams and Holm had with the other products they tested was that they weren’t able transmit audio across the remote session when connecting into a Mac. This was a big problem considering the video and audio production lab is comprised of Mac computers.
However, the remote audio worked great when they started using Splashtop. “I installed Splashtop on a few of Macs and tested it from my own computer and the sound worked, so I was very excited about that,” said Holm.
“We specifically got Splashtop because it was the top solution for Macs,” said Adams.
“FERPA compliance is very important to us,” Adams said. "It’s great to know that Splashtop isn’t going to retain, manipulate or do anything with the students’ information. Splashtop wouldn’t have passed the gate if they didn’t have that.”
(see how Splashtop is compatible with FERPA requirements).
Priced by Concurrent Users
Rather than charging per student or per device, Splashtop for remote labs is priced per concurrent session, keeping costs down for school districts and colleges.
“Our administration was sold on Splashtop because we’re doing concurrent seat licensing,” said Adams. “We’ll assign a computer to the student during a certain time, just like we’ll assign a seat in the class.”
Even after the pandemic passes, Adams and Holms see many potential benefits to having Splashtop for remote labs in place.
“We’re prepared now whether students come in or not,” Adams said. “Once we’re out of this pandemic scenario, we might have students that need to stay home for other reasons. Splashtop will allow us to provide them with remote access. It also opens our labs for a potential 24-hour virtual lab scenario that wasn’t previously identified as a need. We can provide students with the opportunity to access anytime, anyplace, anywhere."