Anytime, Anyplace Computer Labs

As the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) navigated periods of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, seamless access to the same resources at home, as students had at school was key. As a solution, the IT team chose Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), which allows students to access a high-performance complete modern desktop computer from any device, anywhere with an internet connection. In doing so, the WRDSB became the first school board in Canada to implement this innovative approach.

For students pursuing their individual pathways to graduation, this technology helped to ensure they were able to access the tools and software they needed to continue their learning and to prepare them for their next step. Most importantly, it ensured equity of access to computing equipment and resources for students learning remotely at home and in-person at school. 

Through AVD, students have equal access to tools such as AutoCad, Adobe Creative Suite, and the Microsoft Office Productivity Suite, all without needing physical access to a computer lab. This allowed students pursuing a pathway to graduation in the technical fields to continue to participate in their programs, even remotely. Before the introduction of AVD, these students would have been unable to access the tools they needed to continue their learning outside of school. 

Beyond supporting student learning, AVD has supported staff in their work, by allowing them to access internal resources away from their office or school. 

“Azure Virtual Desktops provided our secondary students and educators access to high-performance computer resources without the need to physically be in one of our schools,” said Ivana MacIsaac, senior manager in Information Technology Services in the WRDSB.“This provided in-person and remote learning students access to the same resources.”

MacIsaac added, “We now have over 250 classes with more than 5200 students actively using the virtual resources and we continue to receive requests from different educators to extend access for new courses.”

As the WRDSB looks to the future, the commitment to supporting student learning in any scenario, and equity of access remains strong. With a plan to add to the software library, and broaden existing resources in the AVD, this new tool will allow more students and schools to access the software they need to support their learning and to pursue their interests on their pathway to graduation.