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The Journey to a Virtual Desktop Learning Environment at Colorado Christian University.

A degree program at any university is made up of many layers that a student will never see. This is true at Colorado Christian University as well. The components of a course include the content, the instructor, the location, the environment, and the students.

This blog is about how traditional technical education is done and how CCU is changing the paradigm for technical courses using a virtual desktop environment.

In the traditional model, a course is taught by a professor/instructor and the course content is created before the class starts by the instructor but can be changed as the course progresses. The students are taught in person on campus with a lecture style and a learning management system is used for content. You can bring a laptop to class but that is not a requirement. The age demographic is changing but is usually 18 – 22 year-olds. The course content is proprietary. 

In the College of Adult and Graduate Studies (CAGS) at CCU, the current computer information technology, Information Systems Management, Cyber Security, and Project Management courses at Colorado Christian University have evolved to present higher education in a way that is familiar but different because of our virtual desktop infrastructure environment.

In the technical CCU online model, the following occurs.

  • A course is taught by a professor/instructor and the course content is created before the class starts by curriculum development and is used by all instructors for consistency.
  • The content is locked down to match the student learning outcomes, program learning outcomes, and strategic priorities.
  • The students are taught online with a desktop operating system by multiple virtual machines, eLearning software (Articulate 360), and a learning management system asynchronous.
  • Laptops or any device can be used to access technical software using the virtual desktop (VDI).
  • Biblical integration is in all classes.
  • The instructors or professors are identical between the two models.
  • How the courses are created is based on instructors’ talent (traditional) versus curriculum development consistency and student learning outcome alignment (online).
  • The philosophy of teaching is flexibility (traditional) versus measurable outcomes (online).
  • Advantages:
    • Real-time feedback (traditional) versus geographic diversity (online).
    • Time-constrained (traditional) versus time flexibility (online).
  • The learning management systems are identical between both models.
  • Content delivery is familiar and easy to create (PowerPoint, traditional) versus engaging and built-in knowledge checks (Articulate360, online)
  • Style of delivery is students listening and taking notes (lecture style, traditional) versus participation and engagement (asynchronous delivery, online)
  • Notes and research (traditional) versus installed software and ability to access from any device (online, VDI).
  • The biblical integration is a narrow focus (traditional) versus a broad focus (online).

For CCU to remain competitive in the online education market we must be innovative. We must also consider meeting the needs of our learners (being more visually driven). To accomplish this, we purchased software like Articulate 360.

  • Online courses have a higher dropout rate than traditional classes (Bawa, 2016). Crone and MacKay (2007) said, “…it is clear that how students are motivated to engage in higher education has been changing and will continue to change rapidly” (para. 3).
  • This means we need to include more engaging content in our courses. To give each student the best chance at succeeding in online classes, more interactive content needs to be created to visually stimulate students, increase student engagement, and increase retention of knowledge. And prepare students for remote work.
  • Desktop virtualization may even lead to higher retention rates for online students.

The differences stated available in our CCU online class could be replicated in seats by many universities if they wanted. What sets Colorado Christian University apart is the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure environment. The virtual environment at CCU contains over 95 applications residing on a remote operating system and windows desktop that students can access as part of a class. Other universities have virtual desktop environments but they are not done at the class level or have as many applications available.

Each class is configured in a way to know what kind of software should be used.

  • This virtual desktop can be accessed remotely by any device including applications like windows pc, Linux pc, chrome books, Macintoshes, all phones, iPad, etc. This is critical because the majority of technical courses are using windows software that does not exist on other platforms.
  • Another advantage of what is in our virtual desktop is the ability to have a virtual desktop within a virtual desktop so we can run a remote access software called Linux software.
  • We also incorporate 3rd party remote access software to have state-of-the-art  cyber security simulations, certifications, and  data warehousing from virtual desktop service industry leaders.

The software below is just some of the specific software in the environment.

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(Click the infographic to expand)

Traditional education has its place but if you are considering online educations seek out CCU and how its technical programs enhance your ability to learn using the VDI applications. Since 2019 the VDI has been accessed over 2000 times with a variety of software. The goal is to produce more than just developers but with exposure to a lot of languages, software, databases, project management, and critical thinking create architects that can design as well as code.

The virtual environment is a complement to the vision of the computer information technology program and a more enhanced user experience.

Vision for the Computer Information Technology program

  • A program that is Christ-centered integrating faith and a biblical worldview between and across courses while providing mastery of current technologies using the web, object-oriented and structured concepts.
  • A program that emphasizes analysis and design with a problem-solving approach over just the ability to code software.
  • A program that teaches the evaluation, skill to read, and fixing of existing software over an individual’s ability to generate only code they understand.
  • A program that emphasizes critical thinking over rote memorization.
  • A program that emphasizes innovation and maintainable solutions over a “that is how we have always done it” mentality.
  • A program that is holistic and cohesive from beginning to end.
  • A program that moves beyond files, which are limited in scope and analysis to databases and information that through business Intelligence is accessible and vital for business decision-making.
  • A program that integrates business concepts with technology to enhance requirement creation and understanding of business users.
  • A program that uses gamification to challenge the norms of teaching.
  • A program that illustrates the importance of security.
  • A program that teaches how to choose the appropriate project management approach.

Why would you get an online degree at CCU? Because it is a degree that does not adhere to past practices or conventions, combines diverse elements into a whole adaptable groundbreaking degree. 

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Blog post was written by: Bren Triplett

Bren has 35 years of experience in information technology. He has worked for companies like IBM and Verizon and has built large data warehouses. Bren is a director and assistant professor in charge of the computer information technology program at CCU and collaborated with the creation of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure environment for teaching classes at Colorado Christian University.

Experience the CIT vision through the implementation of the VDI and begin your journey now at CCU.

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