When it comes to technology in education, there’s no bigger buzzword at the moment than “Bring Your Own Device”, or BYOD as it’s more commonly known.

The phrase BYOD came to prominence around 2009. It encouraged students to bring personal laptops, smartphones and tablets to campus and lectures, rather than relying on the use of the university’s own computers in libraries, study centers and labs.

Although BYOD brings many benefits to universities and students, there has always been an elephant in the room… How does the university deliver the software apps that a student needs for their course, to their own devices?

With increasing tuition fees, students want to see this monetary value reflected through improved access to learning material. One approach is through the devices that they’re familiar with, anytime, anywhere. 

Nearly 10 years on from the ‘BYOD’ buzz, how far have we come?

It’s true that student-owned devices have become smaller. Laptops are more powerful and affordable than ever. Wi-Fi and connected services have become quicker and the reliance on online services to store documents has increased exponentially.

However, the way apps are delivered to these devices hasn’t changed. There’s still a heavy reliance on the traditional ‘installed’ application that natively executes on the device, regardless of whether that device is running Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS or Android. They all have their respective new app stores, but heavyweight apps that are typically used within a university are excluded from these methods of delivery (mainly due to their size and complexity).

So, it’s more traditional tools that are used by a university to deliver software. Tools such as Microsoft System Centre (SCCM), Norton’s Ghost, traditional FAT deployment tools, and sometimes a bit of VDI or RDS thrown in for good measure.

Current methods of software deployment

I’ve visited over 200 universities over the last few years and regardless of the country I visit it seems they all face the same challenging deployment issues…

Deploying apps to university computers

Traditionally installed apps to a manged estate are typically deployed by a tool that places an application in an image with the core OS. That image is then deployed to lab and open access areas. These tools have been around for years, so the universities are familiar with how to use them.

The first problem arises when this image gets too large and they have to start splitting it into multiple images. Some IT teams will use alternative tools that allow the segregation of these applications. This is what’s commonly known as ‘image bloat’, and is a problem that won’t go away with these traditional tools.

The second issue is with an ever-increasing image size, the time that’s spent creating and updating this image can be vast. And typically, the universities I’ve met with must do this all in the summer, ready for the new semester. Often, applications don’t get updated until then, so there are a full 12 months that most apps don’t get patched with the latest security updates or version tweaks.

Deploying apps to student devices

Student and staff laptops have been introduced to the university network for years. The introduction of eduroam made sure that all students have a good quality internet connection and access to most common services such as cloud storage and email. But as I alluded to earlier, the ‘elephant’ in the room has always been the fact that most students can’t access university software apps on their own devices.

There are many ways that universities have tried solving this problem. In the past, some kind of RDS or VDI solution has been thrown in to the mix, that will allow a certain number of titles to be made available to students and staff through a remote or virtual desktop.

VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)

VDI has always been touted as the way to scale large infrastructure environments. But with such a large IT estate, universities often find that to scale to the size needed to support all students, a large backend infrastructure would be required, along with a huge pile of cash each year and a dedicated technician (or two) to support it. To me this seems unnecessary, when all most students want is the application, not the full desktop! They want apps to perform at the same speed as if they were installed, and with most VDI tools that becomes even more of a challenge. Especially when it comes to heavyweight apps like MATLAB and AutoCAD…

What people want…

How university IT wants things to work

We believe that supporting the desktop environment in a university is one of the most challenging IT scenarios. If you take the average university estate you’re looking at 100s of applications that you have to deliver, to a huge range of different devices and potentially 10,000+ users.


The way universities have approached this is to use a number of different delivery technologies to deliver apps to an end-point. And how that application is delivered really depends on the end-user’s circumstances. A quick example would be if you’re a science and engineering student using AutoCAD within the university on a managed device, then typically the application would be deployed via Microsoft SCCM or other traditional FAT installation tools. However, if that same student is off site, at home or in a coffee shop, then the university may choose to deliver that app in a different way, maybe through Cloudpaging or deliver it through a remote session.

The dream for an IT department is to have one software package that they can distribute amongst the most common delivery methods within the university. The idea being that regardless of the delivery technology used, the application is packaged only once, reducing the time it takes admins to prepare and deploy software.

What do students want from university IT?

For students, the requirement is more straight forward. A student wants to use their own device. The desire is to use university software on their own device, anywhere and at any time. Ideally the ability to acquire this software from one place is desirable regardless of the device they’re using, and they would like to have software perform as if it were ‘locally installed’.

Students love the flexibility of being able to access apps wherever and whenever they need to, and not being tied to the restrictive opening hours of on-campus computer clusters (labs). Being able to study flexibly improves the learning experience and it improves student outcomes.

Students want to be able to work anywhere

The holy grail of the university desktop and BYOD in 2021

Because of the unique IT environment faced by universities (100s of apps, 1,000s of devices, 10,000s of users), when it comes to application delivery there's unfortunately no silver bullet. Remote Desktop Services (RDS), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), application virtualization, desktop virtualization, imaging, SCCM, VMware, Citrix... the list goes on.

To meet student expections and improve the student experience of IT, what universities really need is a combination of some of the above, to deploy apps to users on any device on-demand, within budget.

AppsAnywhere from AppsAnywhere

AppsAnywhere does exactly what it says on the tin. We give university IT the ability to provide any Windows app on any device. In addition, you can maintain full control over access to ensure you’re within the terms of your software licenses. Full license control enables universities to see which apps are, and more importantly, are not being used – driving down costs and increasing efficiency for university IT.

AppsAnywhere University App Store

We've reinvented the way students access apps. AppsAnywhere enables access to apps wherever they are, on any device, at any time, both on and off campus. Students (and staff) can even access apps on their own laptop, from a completely customizable 'app store'. Students no longer have to follow apps. Now the apps follow them.

The holy grail of application delivery and BYOD

No single method of delivering apps is the best. That's why AppsAnywhere has been built to support a variety of software delivery methods, including Cloudpaging, VMware, Parallels RAS, SCCM and App-V. That means you can deliver any application and deploy them all through AppsAnywhere, our beautiful user access portal. And yes, that includes 'tricky' Windows apps like SPSS, SAS, NVivo, MATLAB and AutoCAD!

Cloudpaging by Numecent

One of the key delivery methods that AppsAnywhere integrates with is Cloudpaging from Numecent. Cloudpaging is an application virtualization tool, which has built on the foundations set by legacy equivalents such as Microsoft's App-V and VMware's ThinApp.

Unlike those legacy tools, Cloudpaging supports the virtualization of 100% of Windows apps. Applications virtualized using Cloudpaging technology run at the same speed as if they were fully installed on the end-user's computer. That means you can deliver graphics-intensive software without needing an expensive backend infrastructure to support it!

Try it now

Deliver any Windows app to any device

Apps run on the end device, using its hardware

Software performs as if it were actually installed

On-demand application delivery

AppsAnywhere is the most beautiful way to deliver apps to students and staff. It gives your students a seamless, consistent and cool way of accessing the software they need, through a web-based portal that your university or college can brand and customize to really make its own.

Try AppsAnywhere today: Try it now >

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Improve student outcomes by delivering a better IT service, on and off campus. Make any app available on any device, enable BYOD and repurpose your dedicated lab spaces, all without the need for complex VDI environments.