UGA launches new virtual lab service for students

August 22, 2013

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Athens, Ga. - The University of Georgia has launched a new virtual lab that allows students to remotely access applications like Microsoft PowerPoint in a computer lab "anywhere, anytime" via any device with a Web browser.

Dubbed the vLab, this new initiative allows up to 900 students at one time to access software on computers at the Miller Learning Center either at the facility or remotely on their phone, tablet, laptop or personal computer. All that's required is that each device has a Web browser and Citrix Receiver installed. Citrix Receiver is free to download and install.

Students told EITS in comments and a March 2013 survey that they wanted more access to university resources on their own devices. And when EITS was planning to install new computers at the Miller Learning Center this summer, they decided to virtualize the new computers.

"With vLab students can have the same experience using a computer at the Miller Learning Center or using their smartphone, tablet or laptop at their home, classroom or anywhere," said Shawn Ellis, director of client services for Enterprise Information Technology Services. "They can write a paper in Microsoft Word or create a Microsoft Excel project without ever downloading the computer program or leaving their residence hall. The vLab is a great example of a ‘Bring Your Own Device' initiative to make teaching and learning more seamless for anyone, anywhere."

The vLab features the same applications on computers at the Miller Learning Center and for students accessing the virtual lab remotely. Those applications include Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access), and statistical software (SPSS, Stata) tools for writing and research (EndNote) along with several other packages.

To remotely access the UGA vLab, go to vlab.uga.edu and follow the instructions to install Citrix Receiver. After installing Citrix Receiver, students will enter their UGA MyID and password to access the vLab. Once they have been authenticated, students may use all of the applications in the vLab-just as though they were physically in a computer lab.

Students at the Miller Learning Center will access the vLab automatically when they login with their UGA MyID to a computer in one of the labs.

"The technical setup creates the ability for students to login to a computer at the Miller Learning Center, do some work, disconnect from that session and pick it up again in a different location exactly as they left it," Ellis said.

To accommodate the vLab environment, this summer EITS installed 375 new computers with thin client technology at the Miller Learning Center. The new computers replaced aging PCs.

The vLab is a partnership between the University of Georgia Libraries, the Center of Teaching and Learning and EITS. It is funded by the UGA Student Technology Fee. For more information, see vlab.uga.edu.

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