Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS) Education, a charter high school that focuses on high school dropout prevention and recovery, was operating with outdated computer workstations and support infrastructure that was past the end of its life.. These workstations and infrastructure elements needed to be improved so that students would have better access to learning materials and class content, minimizing the frustration that often leads to students dropping out.

Vanilla Workstations worked with ALS Education to replace 4,500 desktop workstations, incorporate laptops for temporary classroom locations, and eliminated outdated support infrastructure within the constraint of several testing dates and deployment timelines over multiple schools and states. These upgraded workstations allowed ALS to migrate to a cloud-based management model, eliminating the need to replace or maintain dozens of old servers. These changes improved student experience and reduced total school system IT costs.

ALS Education is a multi-state charter high school alternative. They provide services to school districts and charter school boards, including a teacher-led, self-paced, and technology-enhanced dropout prevention and recovery program that keeps children in school and re-enroll students who have dropped out and desire to return.

Their campuses are located throughout 22 charter schools in three different states (Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina), and each permanent school has an average of 200 desktop computers for students. Temporary school locations have an average of 200 laptops in daily classroom use.

In 2020, the ALS Education firm was in the process of being acquired, and the IT support company that had been supporting them for the past eight (8) years would cease operations. Everything in their school’s computer and network system was built about a decade ago and needed to be updated. Vanilla Workstation was commissioned to comprehensively assess the school’s support infrastructure and computer systems. After presenting an assessment and strategy, ALS Education requested Vanilla Workstations to carry it out for them amid COVID-19, when the schools had a finite amount of time to comply with grant funding.

After Vanilla Workstations completed a comprehensive assessment, they found that the current legacy workstations in ALS schools were more than eight years old and employed an older “thin client” style of network support architecture. Thin client steups connect individual workstations to a networked server. The server does all the hard work, storing data and accessing applications. Each computer has only the hardware that the user needs to be able to work with the system.

Over time, ALS’ computers could no longer keep pace with increased technical requirements for students’ required software, leading to long load times and audio and video playback issues.

ALS is an organization focused on serving nontraditional students, many of whom are over the age of 16. These students attend the school with the primary goal of completing a diploma, without any inspiration to stay. With the outdated ALS technological infrastructure, students face frustrations accessing learning materials and content. Although these frustrations in accessing content might seem small, they can contribute to students leaving the school without completing a high school diploma.

Additionally, the schools’ workstations were approaching the end of their life. The combined cost to replace the entire existing system was projected at more than $7M. Futhermore, as the organization continues to expand to serve more students, they will continue to rely on temporary classroom space that must seamlessly tie into their more permanent network architecture.

Student retention is essential in the management of schools, especially one which is not financially independent. School administrators must look into ways to keep more students from leaving, so they don’t lose revenue. Vanilla Workstations’ streamlined user experience in ALS Education’s schools will lead to higher retention and completion rates of students.

Vanilla Workstations provided, deployed, and integrated 4,500 units of workstations to ALS Education. We worked with them to migrate to modern standalone workstations running student applications locally (instead of remotely as in their former thin-client model).

Our work with ALS Education helped in prolonging their schools’ support infrastructure. During this process, we eliminated nearly a hundred servers and shifted to a cloud-based model for ALS Education to manage student workstations. In addition to dramatically improving the student experience, this deployment model eliminated the need to replace their systems. This also led to significant cost savings, with a total price tag of $2.3M.

In terms of delivery and deployment, Vanilla Workstations called its factory and was able to schedule seven weeks of manufacturing for 4,500 units ordered by ALS Education. This was a fast manufacturing process because usually after units are made, they would still have to sit for about two weeks running in the factory for a Burn-In Test. This test ensures that all units are running in excellent performance before they are shipped and deployed.

However, to hit the timeline that ALS Education needed, Vanilla Workstations had to cut it down to just about a week, thereby reducing the unit testing time. Delivery was staggered at the client’s request to allow planned deployment at the schools during the summer vacation.

The value of Vanilla Workstations was highlighted after a lot of time working with ALS on several live tests. These tests included from a single unit validation, to a whole class, and to the entire school before going live with all the workstations.

It is noticeable that the new workstations are substantially speedier than the previous ones. This reduces the amount of time it takes for websites and programs to load. The older workstations needed to be upgraded to play higher definition video without the audio becoming choppy and useless. Although we could not update all 4500 workstations in a single night, we could roll out updates for the entire school system in a day rather than a week, as was the case with the previous approach.

1. Students are rough on hardware

We observed that students were jamming random objects into the fan ports, causing devices to be returned for repair. This has caused us to change the casing design so that students can no longer push something like a penny into the case and break the cooling fan inside.

2. Computers needed to be shipped with a default BIOS setup

During the initial testing, we found that some units failed to establish the BIOS password during the installation process. We revised a section of our setup plan, allowing us to now offer units with the BIOS password preconfigured, ensuring that they are set up correctly without a password. This eventually allowed students to come in and alter the computers so that they could boot from thumb drives and have full internet access.

3. Packaging

The packaging used to deliver the units used three layers of cardboard boxes and plastics to secure the workstations and their cables. This traditional packaging took 3-5 minutes for each computer to be unboxed. Adding up to 4,500 units, it took a lot of time to just unbox the units, disregarding their installation. 

More than that, this transaction generated a huge pile of trash, which was not recycled. This is why Vanilla Workstations decided to shift to a massive, entirely cardboard shipping box that could fit 20-25 units. This will not only lessen the trash but also reduce deployment time for schools.

"Purpose-Built for Schools"

Computers are essential education tools, both in classroom and distance learning settings. Vanilla Workstations wants to give you powerful computers designed to perform reliably over time. Here’s why you should choose us:


For assistance on large-scale deployment of bulk orders, please get in touch with us.