Today’s students and employees are learning in new ways, much of that forced upon them by the recent pandemic. Many struggle to access the applications they need to accomplish the learning tasks they need to accomplish. At the same time, educators are struggling to make the remote learning experience richer and more accessible.
While most students and teachers yearn for the days when they will go back to school, a recent RAND Corporation study notes that, “About two in ten districts have already adopted, plan to adopt, or are considering adopting virtual school as part of their district portfolio after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (emphasis added) The same appears to be happening around the globe.
Almost all remote learning means that the student or educator will be interacting with a Learning Management System like Canvas, Blackboard, Google Classroom and Moodle. As a father of six and husband to a nursing school student, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to interact with most of these in the recent past. One of the things I constantly struggle with is getting access to the applications and other resources that my family members need to be able to complete their assignments. This might be simple apps like Office or more complex applications like AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Suite or Nursing simulation software. As the home IT guy, I’m also constantly having to help provide elevated privileges for thick apps to be installed, worrying about why certain web-sites aren’t working as expected or worrying about where they are saving their assignments to ensure they can be graded.
This brings me to the need for desktop containers and application streaming. You may be asking, what is are desktop containers and application streaming? Desktop containers are applications that are self-contained and don’t require students to perform complex installations or impact existing software on their computing device. Application streaming is the ability to deliver your applications on any device your users are using. By coupling these capabilities with your learning management tool you reduce the complexity for students to access the applications they need to complete the assignments they need to complete, and make it easier for educators to provide a consistent learning experience.
Now, let’s quickly review what Micro Focus Desktop Containers is and what features the Application Streaming add-on provides on top of it. Micro Focus Desktop Containers is a solution that allows you to quickly and easily package your Windows applications into self-contained packages that can be easily executed on any Windows device. This allows you to address common problems such as:
- Browser, plug-in and application compatibility
- Application conflicts with software already on the students device or applications from other courses
- Complex installations that require rights that students may not have
- Accessing firewall protected resources from a student’s desktop
This can be done on any Windows device, including an employee’s corporate windows desktop, a student’s school provided windows laptop, an employee’s BYO Windows device or a student’s home Windows PC. Micro Focus Desktop Containers also provides a native web-based portal that makes it easy to make these applications and managed web shortcuts available to your users, anywhere.
Application Streaming takes this functionality to the next level by allowing you to leverage packaged applications and Windows Remote Desktop Services to make your applications available via direct streaming from your Desktop Containers Application server (Netflix-style) on both Windows and non-Windows devices including Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook and more.
Micro Focus Desktop Containers also includes powerful tools for enabling:
- Expiration of applications
- Simple license enforcement capabilities
- Tracking of how the applications are being used
To help students and teachers with ensure their files end up where they belong, Micro Focus Desktop Containers includes what we fondly refer to as the T: drive, allowing an organization approved cloud storage and network storage locations to be available withing the containerized application. This means that when a student or employee saves data, they have easy access to that T: drive sitting in OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and soon Micro Focus Filr, directly from the application.
So again, how does this help remote learning? First, let’s look at the benefits of packaging software as a desktop container. By placing software into a single file or a link on a web page and allowing it to be run with a click of a mouse, you make it incredibly easy for your students to access those applications. You don’t have to worry about whether the student has Administrative privileges on their desktop to install that piece of software, because there is no install. You don’t have to worry about what version of that software might already be installed on the student’s PC, because it’s isolated and won’t conflict. Additionally, because you can bake in capabilities like expiration and licensing you can provide access to those applications for exactly as long as you want them available.
Another capability of the new Desktop Containers release is the ability to create Web Applications and links in the Micro Focus Desktop Containers server as shown below:
When you define a web application in MFDC you can specify the URL and icon of course, but you can also specify that the application should be opened with a specific containerized browser.
This means that for applications where the browser version matters or you need specific plugins, you don’t have to worry about telling the user how to install the plugins, or which browser to use.
Instead, when the user clicks the application it immediately launches the containerized browser either by delivering that browser to the desktop or streaming it from your Application Streaming server.
If you are a student and remote learner, you know how frustrating it can be to try to keep track of where all of the things you are supposed to use to get your classwork done, and as an educator, you know how hard it can be to support students and even parents.
The just released Micro Focus Desktop Containers 21.1 introduces Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) integration capabilities that allow you to integrate your Desktop Containers portal right into a student’s learning environment, further simplifying their remote learning experience.
To do this you simply connect your MFDC server to your Canvas, Blackboard or Moodle implementation by enabling LTI capabilities and adding the MFDC plug-in. After you’ve done this, educators can publish any application from MFDC directly to the course in the LMS.
Now students no longer need to search for the applications, figure out how to install them, ask their parents to provide elevated credentials, determine what browser and/or plugins to use to access their web-based applications.
All they need to do is login to their LMS, go to the course and browse to the list of applications for the course. With application streaming enabled you can even deliver that same experience to their home computers and mobile devices and with the T: drive integration you can make sure that when they save data from the application it is stored in their organizational cloud storage.
Finally, with the new application sharing capabilities, you can even provide direct links to applications as part of course instructions, making it easy to launch applications as part of any assignment.
What are you waiting for? Check out the latest version of Micro Focus Desktop Containers and see how it can help improve the remote learning experience for students and educators alike.