As the director of technology and media for Scotland County Schools, when I first joined the team, I went in search of a viable alternative to the costly laptop approach that we had long relied on. I was seeking out an alternative solution that offered high performance and still accomplished the objectives of one-to-one computing for drastically less upfront and maintenance costs. The answer came in the form of desktop virtualization—a software technology that separates the desktop environment and associated application software from the physical client device that is used to access it.

With desktop virtualization, schools can have one-to-one computer access at a very reasonable cost, and when it’s time for a tech refresh, the costs are minimal compared to alternative options. This should be the only way it’s done.

While reviewing desktop virtualization solutions, I evaluated the cost, performance and sustainability of established companies like Citrix and VMware. Eventually I chose technology from a company called NComputing that’s dedicated to desktop virtualization because its solution continually delivered better user performance at a lower cost, and the ease of initial deployment was extremely simple and seamless.

As a pilot project to test desktop virtualization on a wider scale, we deployed NComputing X550 units at Covington Street Elementary in Laurinburg. This product taps the unused capacity of a PC or server so that users can simultaneously share a single computer. With this, we can run five Windows workstations off a single PC server.

Each student has his/her own ID and password to log into a personal desktop environment with their own specified applications, files and settings. It’s like their own computer each time they use it. They love it. Teachers and students can choose from a number of applications for independent work, group learning or tests.

This is one-to-one computing for literally pennies on the dollar.

With the success at Covington Street Elementary, we’ve rolled out the same desktop virtualization solution to every school in the district for a total of 2,500 seats. Soon Covington Street Elementary will become the first fully virtualized one-to-one elementary school in North Carolina.

With the implementation of desktop virtualization, we’ve seen an increase in student achievement and dramatic changes in behavior. In district classrooms with a Windows desktop access device for every student, teachers have reported that students are able to work at their own pace, solving that once never-ending problem of trying to teach children that are on different paths of a learning curve. With the help of a virtual solution to a hardware question, the result is more individualized learning and more focused, interested students.