Virtual Labs as a Service Pilot Brings Access and Flexibility to College Students and Faculty

Inland Empire / Desert Region Community Colleges Are Set to Experience Cost Savings and Educational Expansion

An innovative pilot program is underway in the Inland Empire/Desert region to embrace and actuate Strong Workforce Program metrics established by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office to increase enrollment, facilitate more student completions and expand exposure to career opportunities to under served communities throughout the region. Stakeholders throughout the region are working together to bring virtual, cloud-based labs to all twelve community colleges. This effort has been driven by Susanne Mata, the regional Director of Employer Engagement for the Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and Digital Media sector, with planning, design, vendor selection and implementation being coordinated and managed by SynED, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting innovation in education.

This effort allows students to access labs for a variety of subjects, from Information Technology (IT) and cybersecurity classes to software development and business office technology classes, at any time and from anywhere. It also significantly reduces faculty workload thus allowing faculty to serve more students and increase the number of trained professionals in the workforce to fill the thousands of open jobs positions in the region and across California.

Traditionally, students have practiced computer networking and security skills at a centralized physical lab (and equipment) or a limited virtual lab appliance at their educational institution. Physical labs and college-based data centers have high costs associated with the maintenance and repair of the hardware and software. Further, researchers noted that the cost limitations for a physical lab and college-based data center should include personnel, electricity, and other physical environmental costs.

An external service providing a turn-key virtualized environment that is identical to the corresponding physical environment will decrease the need for high-cost physical labs yet provide open virtualized environments that let students experience the real-life scenarios that are so critical in educating for technical careers. Virtual lab platforms must serve students with on demand, 24x7x365, access to a virtual lab environment from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Virtual labs must also represent the full functionality of a real-world setting.

Our region is committed to serving local business by preparing the 21st century workforce needed to support economic growth,” said Dr. Melody Graveen, Dean of Instruction, Career and Technical Education, Moreno Valley College. “We are excited to participate in regional projects of this type that are designed to support equitable access to high-quality educational pathways and resources for our students.

The IE/Desert region desired to implement Labs as a Service (LaaS) with 24×7 support for faculty and students, third-party licensing bundled within the lab course, and a service level agreement (SLA) in place for availability and security thus eliminating much of the campus based overhead.

Practice Labs, the selected vendor stood apart from its competitors because of its proven ability to provide a pool of shared licenses for use by all 12 colleges in the region, integration with Canvas and other learning management systems and 24/7/365 help desk for students and faculty. LTI integration allows for seamless and secure communication with Learning Management systems and gives students single sign-on access to all the tools they need in one place. In addition, it substantially saves time for faculty in managing their classes and grading students work.

This project would not have been possible without the dedication of key individuals from our Inland Empire colleges including faculty, administrators and staff.” Said Susanne Mata, Regional Director of the ICT sector. “I am so pleased to be able to work with so many fine professionals willing to give of their time, energy and talent for the betterment of our region, students and communities. Throughout this project I have been reminded of something Henry Ford said; Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Initial pilot scope will be limited to three colleges. The pilot project will continue throughout the coming calendar year adding additional colleges as they are ready. As the pilot program gains traction it can be expanded to include other sectors and K-12 schools.

About Inland Empire / Desert Region

The Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium (IEDRC) serves as a regional framework to communicate, coordinate, collaborate, promote and plan career and technical education and workforce and economic development in the Inland Empire/Desert Region. The region includes nine community college districts comprised of 12 community colleges, two county offices of education, 56 public school districts, four regional occupational centers/programs, and more than 50 charter schools.

About Practice Labs

Whether you are providing IT learning solutions for the following vendors – Microsoft, Cisco and VMware or offering CompTIA and Security certifications. Practice Labs provides unified access to all these through a single common interface. No longer do you need to integrate with different vendors to provide an on-line live lab solution.

About SynED

SynED is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting educational excellence by providing higher education professional services to facilitate the development of new models of curriculum, industry alliance, service, and delivery. SynED seeks to facilitate collaboration and communication to find common ground in an increasingly complex and diverse educational ecosystem.

Share this Article: