• June 13, 2022

5 Ways Virtual Desktops Level the Academic Playing Field and Create a Better User Experience

Greg M. Smith
  • by Greg M. Smith

Virtual desktops took center stage when the pandemic kept students and teachers away from traditional classrooms. But these vital tools are about much more than supporting online education and bringing education into the 21st century. 

They’re also about equity. 

The flexibility and ease of virtual desktops enable all students—regardless of their location, economic status, device, or work/life obligations—to access the curricula, technology, and support they need to succeed in school.

Here are just a few ways virtual desktops expand equity and access in the classroom—and beyond: 

Students don’t need pricey laptops to access software.

Laptops powerful enough to run memory-intensive software used in 3D design, engineering, and other technical disciplines often come with hefty price tags. Even base models can exceed $1,000. 

With virtual desktops, students can access the very same tools just by signing in from much more affordable Chromebooks and tablets.

For a real-life example, see how virtual desktops helped Molly pursue her dream of designing video games. 

Students don’t need to be on campus. 

Plenty of students—especially commuters and adult learners—have obligations outside of school, including work, childcare, and caring for other family members. Any of these can make getting to campus difficult, especially on evenings and weekends. 

Virtual desktops free these students from classrooms and computer labs. They can complete assignments and access software from their personal device, from the comfort of their own home. 

Further, during high-demand times, such as finals week, students don’t have to compete for open spots in a computer lab. From an equity standpoint, this prevents students with busy job or home-life schedules from having to camp out on campus just to complete their assignments. 

Virtual desktops also support 100% virtual programs. These degree options can reach a broader range of students, enabling a greater number and diversity of students to pursue technology-intensive degrees. As one example, since launching virtual desktops in 2018, Maryville University has seen an increase in enrollment from 3,500 to 11,000 students, primarily in online courses. The university began by expanding its virtual nursing program and then added virtual cybersecurity and data science programs.


 Students experience a single, uniform, user-friendly platform. 


Learning a new platform or navigating a new device every time you start a class or lab can be frustrating and time consuming. It can also keep some students from succeeding. With virtual desktops, students encounter a uniform presentation, allowing for a smoother transition from course to course. Economics lab? Physical geography lab? Physics lab? It all looks the same when you sign into your virtual desktop. 

Furthermore, young learners can use their virtual desktop to complete homework assignments at home, so assignments look the same at the kitchen table as they do in the classroom. 

With persistent virtual desktops, students can also carry forward their same desktop throughout their course or degree program. A device-agnostic environment with a persistent look, feel, and functionality can flatten the learning curve, reduce transition friction, and improve user experience and adoption. Further, students who feel comfortable navigating a learning platform are more likely to engage with and fully utilize its features. 

Faculty and staff have more time for teaching—and students have more time for learning. 

User-friendly virtual desktops free up faculty to spend more time teaching and less time troubleshooting technology problems. Experts from Propeller help educators and IT departments achieve an easy, fast, and smart deployment, offering guidance and customized support from the very beginning and at every step along the way. 

A classroom of students who feel confident using their technology will run smoother and more fairly than one where some students are confused and others are tech masters. In a poll, a majority of students reported having no difficulties using Propeller’s virtual desktop—a big win for students, faculty, and IT departments alike. And with expert, on-demand support when problems do arise, teachers can focus more time on what’s most important: helping students learn.

Enrollment in STEM and CTE courses is no longer limited by the size of a computer lab. 

Virtual desktops mean that STEM  and CTE courses aren’t limited by the number of computers available in a lab or classroom. With no cap on enrollment, more students can elect to take data-intensive STEM/CTE courses such as programming or environmental science. This is especially significant for K-12 learners who can use early advanced coursework to catalyze their STEM/CTE studies post-graduation. 

Learn more about how virtual desktops from Propeller advance equity, expand access, and create a more positive user experience

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