• January 22, 2024

Natalie Montañez Talks About Faculty Buy-In for Virtual Desktop Technology

Greg M. Smith
  • by Greg M. Smith

Colleges and universities across the country are increasingly adopting virtual desktop solutions as an easy way to give their students wider access to classroom environments and a better user experience.

Getting faculty to embrace the concept? That’s not always so easy. When it comes to getting faculty buy-in, seeing is believing. Just ask Natalie Montañez.

As Instruction Technology Supervisor for Research, Teaching, and Learning at the founding campus of the University of California system, Natalie provides departments and faculty with instructional technology tools—sometimes a tricky mission.

Natalie’s campus had virtual learning environments in house, but they were hard to administer and use and not easily scalable. With the COVID-19 pandemic, her team’s need to expand helpful virtual computing became even greater.

We sat down with Natalie to discuss how they chose the right solution and made adoption easy, so her faculty and students got the best use of their virtual desktops.

Choosing the Right Virtual Desktop Solution for Higher Education

The key was to find a solution that worked for Natalie’s team, faculty, and students –– one that made the end-user computing lexicon easy to navigate and fit in with the university’s education landscape.

Natalie was looking for several benefits. The virtual solution needed to be:

  • Easy to maintain. Limiting time-consuming on-site maintenance
  • Scalable. Helping to meet the needs of all students, economically
  • User friendly. Allowing staff to focus on education instead of tech support 
  • Accessible. Providing digital equity, a top concern for Natalie and her staff

“Some virtual desktop technology can be a challenging and even intimidating prospect for faculty, but Propeller makes it very intuitive and very easy,” she said.

Natalie and her team care just as much about accessibility—and equity. “In many situations, not all students have hardware that can run the apps and programs they need for their classes,” Natalie said. “The virtual desktops from Propeller run on what students already use—it’s ready to go for them.”

Getting Faculty Buy-In with a Pilot Program

Discovering Propeller was just step one for Natalie and her team. Step two: figuring out how to persuade faculty across different departments with various needs to explore all the capabilities their virtual desktops offer.

The answer came down to word of mouth.

“We started with a pilot program,” said Natalie. “The architecture department happened to be in the market for something different and agreed to do a test run of four classes with specific software needs.”

After the faculty worked with the Propeller virtual desktops in that pilot period, they quickly spread the word. Other professors heard about the simplicity and equitable access and wanted to try it for their own classes. One faculty member reached out to Natalie after hearing from a student about “magical VMs.” 

“It was that easy,” Natalie said. “More professors started asking if they could get in on the virtual machines. We told them absolutely, just tell us your specs, we’ll get you up and running.”

The initial word of mouth helped confirm that Propeller truly was easy to use and an improvement for both faculty and students. This gave Natalie’s team the confidence to tell more departments, as instructors and students alike sang the praises. 

All the departmental buzz around the virtual learning technology countered what Natalie had often heard about and feared when introducing something new. “There wasn’t any teeth-pulling necessary,” Natalie said. “Once we showed people how it all worked, the stars aligned.”

Looking Forward with Scalability

After the pilot program, Natalie and her team started offering the virtual desktops to two longstanding clients—the College of Chemistry and School of Education. Each had different use cases and specs, but the benefits proved immediate for both.

With Propeller virtual desktops, the two departments experienced far fewer issues, such as having to help students with machines that either locked up or locked them out. “Everything we’ve seen is minor, and I like the quick support we receive from Propeller,” Natalie said.

As Natalie and her team look forward, and word of mouth continues, the push-button scalability of Propeller’s virtual desktops makes it possible for her team to serve even more groups and colleges they may not have had contact with otherwise. This includes groups who always had a need for virtual desktops but weren’t sure where to start or lacked technological expertise.

“Our goal is to create this one best option for them,” Natalie said. “With just a few clicks, any faculty can easily navigate and implement courses on their own. And students just launch it and they’re in. They don’t have to know the ins and outs. They can stay focused on the course material, which is the way it should be.”

Learn More About Natalie’s Adoption of Propeller 

Want to hear more about Natalie’s experience and how her campus has made use of Propeller since their implementation?

Natalie is a panelist at our EDUCAUSE Webinar on February 21st.

Register today to hear about lessons learned, tips and best practices for getting faculty buy-in and implementing the best solutions for your students and institution.

Worried you might not have time to attend? We’re sending a replay to everyone who registers.

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