Samantha works part-time as an assistant manager at a local boutique, but she dreams of owning her own business. To prepare for her goals, she enrolled at DeVry University part-time, which allowed her to take classes onsite and online on her days off and in the evenings after work. Samantha loves the flexibility that’s helping her work toward her MBA, but there are a few challenges she’s encountered as a hybrid student.
“For those students that crossed back and forth between onsite and online, there was a huge adjustment from one environment to the other,” says Jim Karagiannes, PhD, professor of engineering and information services and member of DeVry’s national curriculum development team.
From course to course, students had to relearn different lab environments and couldn’t download additional applications or resources without IT intervention. They were working in multiple platforms that had disparate learning environments from what they were experiencing in the classroom.
To combat this, DeVry furthered its partnership with Microsoft and adopted Azure Lab Services in early 2018 to provide a better educational environment for its students and faculty.
Building on existing Microsoft platforms
DeVry created a “mini-Microsoft world” for their students, says Karagiannes. They did away with their existing learning platforms and integrated their existing Microsoft platforms, including Office 365 and Visual Studio, with Azure Lab Services. With the cloud, students are in full control of their computers and software and can install applications at their discretion to help them achieve their academic goals.
The first two Azure Lab Services courses rolled out in July 2018, and more classes were added during the September and November sessions. The students enrolled in the classes that were part of the pilot program have said the Azure environment is much better than previous platforms.
In July 2019, the first fully integrated course was launched, with a national rollout planned for September. After this rollout, DeVry will begin gathering statistical data and continue rolling out more courses on Azure Labs.
The platform helped DeVry provide a standard user experience for all courses, as well as put the power in the students’ hands.
Students can now be more creative with their individual educational experiences and build stronger relationships with their instructors. Any issues that arise with a course’s design can be directly addressed with the course’s instructor. Before, instructors would have to reach out to IT to figure out how to solve these types of issues. Microsoft tools allow online-only and hybrid students to engage in more one-on-one interactions with their instructors.
Prior to adopting Azure Lab Services, DeVry had multiple vendors to provide the same service they’re now getting from Microsoft. Students no longer need to log in and out of different platforms to complete their work—Azure Lab Services provides a one-stop environment for them.
“Microsoft creates an actual lab environment that doesn’t require virtual servers,” says Jeff Krischel, platform owner and architect for Microsoft at DeVry. “It contextualizes and isolates the course environment for students and takes the burden off what the educational institution would normally have to do to create those spaces.”
Other technology upgrades are in the works, too. There are plans to have DeVry faculty start using Surface devices to design and teach online courses. This will enhance the instructional aspect of the courses and integrate Surface with DeVry’s other Microsoft tools and platforms.
DeVry students who have taken courses on Azure Lab Services are enjoying the improved platform. As the pilot program continues to roll out nationwide, DeVry will continue working to enhance the student learning experience by creating online learning opportunities for the physical classroom.