Remote Computer Lab Access

With the decision to deliver instruction online for the Fall term, IST has been working to prepare remote access solutions for computing labs on North Campus. We deployed and piloted our LabConnect service successfully during Spring term, and will continue in Summer term.  Now we need your help to prepare for Fall term.

As part of this change, we are requesting the assistance of departments and instructors. We have developed an opt-in process where instructors can provide IST with information on the courses they are delivering remotely, and the software they will need students to access.

To take advantage of this service, please note the following requirements:

  • A completed Fall 2020 - Remote Access to Lab Software form for each course must be submitted no later than July 1, 2020. Submissions received after the deadline may not be able to be accommodated.
  • This service requires that students have access to a personal Mac or Windows computer, and a stable internet connection.
  • As the LabConnect service functions within a shared infrastructure environment, there are limitations on the total number of users that can connect simultaneously. To manage these limitations, IST will provide recommendations and restrictions on when courses and students can access the system.
  • Remote access is not appropriate for timed or proctored exams — that requires a continuous and stable internet connection to the University. IST is unable to guarantee connectivity or performance from off-campus locations. Assessments should be conducted via eClass, another method that runs on a personal computer, or via an alternative (a.k.a. authentic) approach.

How are courses accessed?

Please reach out to IST by completing the Fall 2020 - Remote Access to Lab Software form for each course that requires remote access to software.  This needs to be submitted by July 1, 2020.  

Instructors will then be contacted by IST to discuss their requirements.

Which computer labs can be accessed remotely?

IST can offer remote access to IST managed Windows computer labs.  For a complete list,  refer to the table below:

Centrally Scheduled Computer Labs Departmental Computer Labs

Windows Labs

  • Arts 1-09
  • Arts 1-18
  • Biological Sciences CW 4-03
  • Business B-18, B-24, B-28
  • Cameron Library 1-30
  • Central Academic Building 3-31, 3-35, 3-41, 3-45
  • Edmonton Clinic Health Academy L1-250, L1-270, L1-350
  • General Services Building 2-17, 8-66
  • Mechanical Engineering 3-3
  • Medical Sciences 2-50
  • Natural Resources Engineering Facility 2-117, 2-125
  • Rutherford Library South 2-03, 2-05A
  • Telus Centre 1-43
  • HM Tory B-39

Windows Labs

  • EAS - Tory 2-87
  • Biological Sciences - Bio Sci B-108
  • Rehab Medicine -  Corbett Hall 2-11
  • Education - Education North B1-25/B1-27
  • Pharmacy - Practice Labs - MSB 1-15, 1-25, 1-35
  • Computing Science - CSC 1-67
  • EAS - CCIS L1-219
  • Physics - Wet Labs on CCIS L2 Level (Various)

What computer labs cannot be accessed remotely?

The following labs cannot be accessed remotely due to technical limitations:

Remote Access Not Available

Macintosh Labs

  • Arts 1-12
  • Coutts Library L-110
  • Education South 1-55A/B
  • Fine Arts 1-7
  • Fine Arts 2-36
  • Industrial Design Studio 1-02

Windows Labs

  • Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science L1-150, L1-207
  • WCM Health Sciences 2F.102

What kind of software is available remotely?

Any software application that can be installed on Windows 10 within the on site computer labs can be offered remotely.  However, there are exceptions such as Adobe Creative Cloud, or some custom developed applications.  Please contact IST if you have any questions about your software requirements.

Unfortunately, IST is unable to provide remote access to Macintosh software.

What do my students need to access the remote environment?

  • Students need to have a Windows or Macintosh desktop or laptop computer.
    • Mobile devices (phones/tablets) are not supported.
  • Students must install the Vmware Horizons client software to access the environment.
    • This software is free of charge.
    • IST wil provide instructions and support.  Information to be provided at a later date.
  • Students should have a fast and reliable wired Ethernet network connection, such as Shaw and Telus high speed Internet, for best results.
    • Wireless connections are supported, but may perform poorly.
    • International students and those in remote or rural areas may experience challenges using this service. If this is an issue for your course please contact IST to discuss impact and alternatives.

What are the limitations of the remote environment?

Capacity

As mentioned, the VDI environment is a shared infrastructure resource.  Access and usage must be managed and there will be restrictions on how and when the remote environment can be accessed.  This is necessary to ensure that IST can provide a good user experience, particularly for large classes and combined sections.

Higher Performance Requirements

  • IST has been able to provide  base level computing resources for all remote access sessions.  The amount of resources allows students to run most software applications without issue.
  • Specialty software applications may require additional resources to run efficiently.  These applications are primarily in the Science and Engineering disciplines, but can be associated with any software application.  Examples of resource intensive applications include, but are not limited to:
    • ArcGIS/ArcGIS Pro
    • AutoCAD
    • Solidworks, Ansys
    • Petrel, HRS Suite, Geoscout

Software Licensing

  • Most software applications are bound by software agreements and license managers.  Depending on the needs of the departments, licenses may need to be purchased to service the demand.
  • All department-held software license agreements should be validated for the following:
    • Does the license permit students to install the software on personally-owned devices?
      • Many educational license agreements require software to only be run on university owned hardware.
    • Does the license provide enough seats to adequately and legally service a course?
      • Not all license agreements provide unlimited seats.
        • ie: SPSS for Windows is limited to 180 lab seats across for the university.
      • Seat count is particularly important if a department is considering combining sections. 

Assessments

Due to the nature of remote desktops, delivering timed exams cannot be guaranteed or supported.  Please refer to Delivering Remote Exams for best practices and suggestions for delivering fully remote exams using the eClass quiz activity or determining alternative assessment options.

Alternative Delivery Methods

Students and instructors may have access to low or no cost software applications that can be installed directly onto their computers.

  • OnTheHub
  • Direct to vendor
    • Departments are encouraged to reach out to vendors directly for applications that are not listed through the OnTheHub service.
  • Web based solutions
    • Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office
    • MATLab Online
  • Free/Open Source Software options, for example:
    • R and RStudio
    • GNU PSPP - SPSS replacement
    • Blender - 3D content creation suite
    • GIMP - image editing

What are the potential costs associated with remote access?

At this time, it is unclear what specific financial implications will be incurred for delivering software remotely for the Fall term. However, costs can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Session Resources:
    • Software applications that require additional technical resources such as memory, processing power or graphics processing.
  • Software Licensing:
    • Software applications may require additional licenses based on course demand.
  • Cloud Resources:
    • Once capacity limits have been reached on the existing on-premise environment, IST will be required to augment remote access with cloud based software delivery.

Once IST has a more comprehensive understanding of the requirements for Fall term, we will be engaging with departments to discuss the financial implications of remote software access.

More Questions?

Please contact IST at IST@ualberta.ca or call 780-492-9400.