Community High School District 99 (CSD99) is a district comprised of two award-winning high schools – North High School and South High School – in Illinois. CSD99 serves a population of more than 65,000 residents and has an enrollment of nearly 5,000 students.
CSD99’s mission is to provide a caring and challenging environment where all students develop as lifelong learners, and as part of that mission it adopted a 1:1 Chromebook initiative six years ago to create and support engaged learners by increasing each student’s ability to be collaborative, reflective and empowered.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, their 1:1 initiative put them at an advantage when it came to enabling remote learning. But they quickly noticed that there was one key issue – many courses still relied on at least one Windows application that could not be accessed on Chromebooks. And without access to the physical PC labs at each campus, those courses simply couldn’t be fully delivered.
“We need to leverage the technology we already had – the fact that every student has a Chromebook – but we also needed to continue to give all students access to the critical Windows apps that they used to access in the PC lab,” said Rod Russeau, Director of Technology & Information Services for CSD99.
CSD99 turned to Amplified IT, an education-focused IT consulting firm that they’ve worked with for years, for a solution – and Amplified IT introduced CSD99 to Cameyo.
No Time for the Complexity of Legacy Solutions
CSD99 needed to move quickly to enable distance learning in response to the pandemic, and their previous experience with legacy Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) vendors had taught them those technologies were not an option for rapidly enabling remote learning at scale.
“We have worked with Citrix and VMware over the years, so we’re all too familiar with the complexities of those technologies,” said Colleen Davoren, Network Infrastructure Manager at CSD99. “When Amplified IT introduced us to Cameyo, I was amazed at how easy it was to get up and running. It was a very rapid, very easy deployment.”
“When it comes to Citrix and VMware, there is just so much complexity – not just in the deployment phase, but from an ongoing management perspective as well,” said Russeau. “With Cameyo’s Digital Workspace solution, all of the complexity that exists on the backend just melts away from the user’s perspective. The hurdles you normally hit during deployment and the ongoing issues of managing VDI and DaaS – all of that is eliminated with Cameyo. It seems like we were able to set up Cameyo in minutes.”
It wasn’t quite that fast – but it was close. As Davoren recalls:
“After our first phone call with Cameyo, we had the solution up and running within a few hours. Cameyo has simplified everything that typically causes people pain in VDI and DaaS, so you get all of the powerful functionality of enabling access to critical applications from anywhere – but without the upfront issues and ongoing management headache.”
From Quick Fix to Long Term Strategy
CSD99, like most other school districts during this pandemic, had an urgent problem to solve when it came to enabling students to continue their education effectively from home. And while providing every student with a seamless Digital Workspace so that they could access all of their critical apps from anywhere on their Chromebooks seemed like a short-term solution at the time, it has quickly become a likely part of the district’s long-term strategy.
“The success of this deployment sparked a broader conversation about what we need to do to prepare for the future, and Cameyo will now play a key role in enabling our long-term education goals,” said Davoren. “Even after we enabled our 1:1 initiative and provided all our students with Chromebooks, that did not solve the problem of giving them access to the handful of Windows applications that they still need for specialized coursework. We thought we’d be dependent on PC labs forever, but with Cameyo, that may no longer be true.”
CSD99 is using Cameyo to provide students with access to a variety of Windows applications that range from typical productivity apps to more graphics-intensive applications like the AutoCAD Suite and the Adobe Creative Suite – including Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom – all from their Chromebooks. With Cameyo, CSD99 can deliver productivity apps with a CPU-based server and deliver more intense applications with a GPU-based server. Students get access to the full desktop version of the software, all from within a browser tab, with a seamless user experience that doesn’t require any change in behavior.
“The students have had such a great experience with Cameyo that many requested to maintain access so that they could continue to utilize the applications to work on their projects throughout the summer,” said Davoren.
“Cameyo has helped us ensure that – even after the pandemic – our students may continue to have access to all of their critical applications anytime and on any device,” said Davoren. “This has helped us level the playing field, and makes our 1:1 Chromebook initiative even more effective by ensuring every student has uninterrupted access to their applications, without relying on a PC lab.”
“Cameyo has also made it possible for us to consider extending Chromebooks to our staff as well at some point in the future, because they could just as easily access all of their Windows apps from a Chromebook” said Russeau. “This really opens up our options for the future in terms of the deployment of end-user devices, and the potential reduction of expenses and the overall management effort associated with them.”