Since we were doing a “small” installation, we needed a primary server that contained all the essential Citrix applications, Web Server, and Terminal Services. We would also need servers to host the applications required for the various courses that would use the system. Our initial thought was that we would need maybe one or two server for the applications to be hosted for each course. So we created the expected servers on one of our VMWare servers.
Our time of installation, testing, and tweaking, and then more testing and tweaking was basically from the middle of June to the middle of August. And somewhere in there we had to get some training on the product. So, because of our greatly shortened timeline, we contacted a systems integrator to help. We used webex sessions for the installation so we could see what was being done and still ask questions on how things worked. This helped us get intense training with the product, its operation, and its management. This was also a great way for us to keep costs at a minimum since there was no on-site contractor.
One of the best features of Citrix is its integration with Active Directory. Once the Farm was created and configured, we could use Active Directory to help control access to the system. We created separate Organizational Unit for the Citrix system. By creating this OU, we were able to keep all groups, servers and services in a central location. This helped with the Group Policies, permissions, management, and unique characteristics of the Citrix environment.
We created security groups for each of the courses that were going to use the Citrix system for applications they needed for the course. Those security groups would contain a list of the Active Directory users who would be part of that course, namely the faculty and students in that particular course. But how to populate the security groups efficiently and affectively without too much administrative time?
Well, we use Blackboard. What we found was that those listed as teaching assistance for a particular course and section in Blackboard were able to view a full list of those in that class. Further, the list in Blackboard provided the email address for each of the students. This was great since we could use the email address to find the student in our Active Directory. So we were able to import the list of students out of Blackboard and into Excel, do a little Excel magic to create scripts to add users to a security group, run the script on a domain controller and populate each of the security groups created for access to the Citrix system.
This procedure is effective and efficient because Blackboard is populated from the registrar’s office with those students who have enrolled in that particular course and section. This works great for the beginning and end of semesters because it cuts down on administrative time and overhead. However, as we all know, students add and drop throughout the semester so there is still manual administration that is required for those late adds. Generally, those are handled one or two at a time.
So now we have the servers hosting the applications installed and the security groups that allow access to the applications populated, but which course needs what applications. To help with administration, Citrix uses a directory-like structure for the various pieces parts of the system. One of those is a folder for the applications to be hosted. So, we created folders for each course in the Applications folder
And then inside each of the course folders, we configured the applications for that course. This also added to ease of administration since now we could see which course was using which applications. As we found however, sometimes instructors sometimes forget to tell us what other applications are needed for the course. For example, Info 3010 contained applications that were basically Excel add-ins that when the icon for the add-in was clicked, Excel would open and then load that add-in. Not a problem until the students indicated they had trouble accessing Excel. So the instructor asked if we could add Excel to the list of applications for that course. This directory structure makes it easy for us to add the application and know that it is for that particular course.
Ok so now the applications are created and ready to go. Granting access to applications is rather easy using the security groups we created and populated in our Active Directory. Once we add that security group to the application, we never really have to address security issues within the Citrix system again. More importantly, adds and drops can be quickly granted access simply by granting or removing membership in the security group for that course. Any Active Directory administrator can assist with that process. Again, that is also a efficient way to handle this issue. If we had only a single Citrix administrator who was responsible for the entire system, then that person would have very long days and would not be able to go on vacation or get sick while the semester was in session. No single point of administration.
So how do the users get access to the system??? Basically, the student goes to site, downloads and installs the client on their machine. Windows users go through the typical install as with any other application installed from a website. MAC users are a little different. The application is downloaded to the machine’s Download folder and the user has to actually go to the download folder and execute the install. Again, the MAC install follows the same typical install for MAC’s. Not really very difficult for anyone who has experience with their machine. Notice http://freemancitrix1/. Since we had a very limited number of licenses, we had to keep the system available in the classroom and not all over the world. So we did some DNS magic, or non-magic, to make this look like it was only available from within the classroom.
Once the client is installed, the student has the standard set of applications. If there is a problem with the install, we simply uninstall the client and re-install without a problem. Once the student’s level of expectation has been firmly established, the student has little problem using Citrix in the classroom.
With our focus on the classroom experience for the student and instructor, we needed to be able to efficiently and effectively control the student’s use of the system. We found all kinds of problems right off the bat. Browsers IE 7, 8, and now 9, Mozilla, Chrome, Safari. Operating systems Windows XP, Vista, and 7, MAC OS IV, X. Experienced users, new out-of-the-box user, never used MAC before! So, we offered in-class walk-through to set up the Citrix client on the student’s machine. We also provided handouts to the students to install the client for themselves. Well, as you can imagine, this worked only slightly since many of the students had received their machines just the night before or could not figure out what Finder was. So, to help enhance the student and faculty experience, we offered out-of-class training session to get those troubled users up to speed. We needed the students to be able to walk into class and access the system promptly with little or no problems so the instructor could teach without technology intervention. Remember, our philosophy is that the Citrix technology is simply another tool for teaching like an overhead projector or chalkboard. We needed to maintain a good classroom experience for both the student and the instructor. Finally, there are the Licensing issues such as SAS, SPSS, etc that do not allow their applications to be hosed via Citrix.
1. You can take the course out of the computer classroom but you can’t take the computer classroom out of the course Tom Gerace Michael Harrison SIGUCCS Management Symposium April 12, 2011
2. AgendaDecision to move courses out of computerclassrooms– Types of problems that presentedSolution proposed by ITImplementationSuccess and the future
3. You can take the course out of the computer classroom but you can’t take the computer classroom out of the course “Turning crisis into opportunity”
4. Tulane UniversityTulane UniversityFreeman School of Business
5. A. B. Freeman School of BusinessFreeman School of Business– Undergraduate, Graduate, and Global Programs– 2 buildings on Tulane’s main campus– Houston campus
6. BackgroundNotebook computer requirement– Student-provided– Specifications modelHistorical use of computer classroomsDecision to move classesResults
7. ChallengesThe need to present a standard application setto the studentsNon-homogenous machines in the classroomThe need to enforce notebook computersoftware requirements in the classroom All of this creates a bad classroom experience for students AND a bad teaching experience for the faculty
8. Proposed solutionCitrix virtualized applications– Our “Ah ha!” momentOur methodology– Tested the idea with a Citrix vendor– Presented demo to the affected faculty– Obtained commitment to participate and support at a high level Converting crisis into opportunity
9. Pilot ProjectImplement virtualized applications for alimited user set– Small initial Citrix license purchase Fit into remaining fiscal year budget– Robust VMware servers already in placeOur project…
10. What hardware is required?Primary ServerApplication Servers
11. Citrix ConfigurationContracted with Systems Integrator fordeploymentHands-on training during installation
12. Active Directory IntegrationCreation of Organizational Unit just forCitrix
13. Use of AD Security GroupsCitrix permissions granted either by user or groupCreate AD groups based upon course
14. AdministrationCourse rosters from Blackboard were used topopulate the AD Security groups
15. Hosted Applications Configuration – cont.User access based on Course enrollment
16. Hosted Applications ConfigurationApplications based on Course needs
17. Hosted Applications Configuration – cont.Applications specific to each course
18. Administration – cont.AD Security groups were granted permissions tothe applications for that course
19. What about the end user?Open browser and go to serverInstall the client
20. What about the end user? – cont.Applications are presented
21. The ChallengesSTUDENTS!Different browsersVaried levels of “computer experience”– In-class training sessions helped some faculty Others handled students by themselves Intense week of in-class training– Offered out-of-class training sessionsNot all software is licensed to run virtualized– Some courses will have to stay in a computer classroom
22. Success!A successful Fall semesterGreat feedback from the faculty– We “saved the day” (paraphrasing)Spring 2011 semester– Continued success– Additional problem courses identifiedCurriculum Committee discussion– Decision to expand– Funding
23. Expansion for Fall 2011Upgrade server environment to meet increasedcapacityExpand licensing– Vmware and CitrixIncreased support costs– System administration– User administration– End-user support
24. ConclusionOur solution to an identified problemFaculty involvement and supportDeliver the computer classroom TO the courseCouse evaluations have returned to normal
25. ConclusionEven with these successes, we still needcomputer classrooms– Standardized testing facilities– Teaching environment for applications that cannot be virtualized– Training facilities for non-student and outside affiliates
26. ConclusionEven with these successes, we still needcomputer classrooms– Standardized testing facilities– Teaching environment for applications that cannot be virtualized– Training facilities for non-student and outside affiliates Classes requiring the facilities of a computer classroom are more successful and provide a better student experience if they are presented in a computer classroom.