Azure for Students: Navigating Credit Limitations and Potential Solutions

Azure for Students: Navigating Credit Limitations and Potential Solutions

The Azure for Students by Microsoft is a program designed to provide students with access to various Azure cloud services and tools for free. It offers free access to a wide range of Azure cloud services and tools for students. By signing up for an Azure for Students subscription, eligible students receive a $100 credit to use towards Azure services for a duration of 12 months. This credit allows students to explore and experiment with various Azure services, including virtual machines, databases, and AI services. 

Azure for Students provides access to all Azure products that are expressly intended to support education or teaching, non-commercial research, or efforts to design, develop, test, and demonstrate software applications for these purposes. In addition to free Azure services, students gain access to developer tools and learning resources such as Visual Studio Code and Azure DevOps. The program also promotes collaboration and community engagement through the Azure Student Community, where students can connect with peers and share ideas. 

What are the Challenges Faced by Institutions during Azure for Students Program? 

Azure for Students presents an advantageous opportunity for students to delve into the world of cloud computing and acquire practical skills that align with industry demands. It enables them to gain hands-on experiences and develop a deeper understanding of managing cloud-based systems. However, while the program offers immense value, institutions and students often find themselves grappling with various challenges throughout the process of procuring and utilizing the program benefits. 

These challenges encompass: 

  • Exhaustion of the $100 credit limit. 

The free $100 credit limit is replenished only once every 12 months. As a result, students, especially those who apply for multiple courses in the same period, may encounter situations where they exhaust this credit within that timeframe and need additional credits. 

  • The program does not support instructor control and monitoring. 

Instructors face limitations in controlling, managing, and assessing students’ cost management due to the absence of visibility into students’ accounts regarding resource and credit consumption. 

  • Instructors cannot validate students’ lab progress. 

The instructors lacked the means to verify students’ progress and completion of lab exercises. This restricted their ability to assess student competency and provide timely support as needed. 

  • Limited hands-on experience upon credit exhaustion.

Once a student’s available credit is exhausted, their Azure subscription is automatically disabled. As a result, students who deplete their credit limit before course completion are at risk of not gaining the full hands-on experience provided by the course. 

  • The process of acquisition and usage of the credit can be prone to errors. 

To subscribe to the program, students need to confirm their age of 18 or older and provide proof of full-time enrolment at an accredited two-year or four-year educational institution. Verification of academic status is required using the institution’s email address. However, this process of acquiring and using the free $100 credit can be time-consuming and susceptible to errors. 

  • The program might provide limited permissions. 

The student subscriptions could be associated with their EDU accounts, leading to restricted permissions to Azure resources. 

  • The program is not scalable for institutions delivering to a number of students. 

The Azure for Students program is individual-centric and hence may not meet the requirements of institutions delivering courses and programs at scale to hundreds and thousands of students. 

CloudLabs’ Solutions to the Challenges 

CloudLabs offers comprehensive solutions tailored to the specific challenges faced by students and institutions using Azure for Students. Our platform is designed to support colleges and other higher education institutions in delivering real-world technology learning experiences and keeping them updated through modern cloud-based lab environments. 

The solutions that CloudLabs offer to students and institutions utilizing Azure for Students program include: 

  • Scalable and structured solution to institutions

CloudLabs addresses the limitations of Azure for Students in meeting the needs of institutions that cater to a large number of students. By utilizing CloudLabs, educational establishments can optimize the delivery of their semester courses without depending solely on Azure for Students, which is primarily intended for individual students. 

Azure for Students is most suitable for students who wish to explore and experiment on their own. On the other hand, CloudLabs’ managed services are specifically designed to support institutions in delivering structured courses and labs, making them highly advantageous for educational organizations. 

  •  $ Based Credit-based allocation and management 

CloudLabs provides institutions and students with innovative credit features to effectively manage and control their resource and credit usage. 

With CloudLabs’ credit-based allocation feature, institutions can set a limit on total $ cloud spend students can consume. When students exceed this limit, CloudLabs promptly sends notifications to inform them. 

Additionally, CloudLabs allows instructors to extend credit limits by adding more cloud credits for students who have used up their free credits. This enables students to continue working on their projects without any interruptions due to credit limitations. Special customized environments are created with subscription or tenant access, ensuring that students can successfully complete their coursework even after exhausting their initial credit allocation. 

  •  Cost Reporting & Analytics 

CloudLabs enable complete transparency by providing insights and tracking reports of student activity. The daily cost reports provided full control on daily budget for each student for a particular course. In addition, CloudLabs enable institutions to set up guardrails from an infrastructure standpoint, like denial of access for certain services, daily alerts on resource consumption, and the remaining credits to ensure efficient cost-management. 

  • Instructor controls and look over the shoulder

With CloudLabs, instructors have complete visibility to metrics to determine the credit needs of each course. Instructors can easily log into the Azure portal and see all the services students have provisioned for each course. CloudLabs also allows instructor to shadow students’ lab environments and collaborate in real-time. This helps them make informed decisions for cost management and control. 

  • Auto suspension of resources when not in use 

CloudLabs provisions auto suspension of unused labs to ensure no overuse of resource and credit, such as shutting down a virtual machine after it’s detected idle for 15 minutes. Students are also provided with a support for ‘infrastructure as a code’ (IaC) which helps them ramp up to where they had left off in a certain lab, instead of trying to setup the entire environment again.  

  • Security for the institution, faculty, and students 

CloudLabs offers additional security measures to protect institutions, faculties, and students from external cyber threats. These measures include providing sandbox environments, which allow students to work in secure Azure environments, and utilizing a bastion host for VM connectivity. All environments are completely independent of institution’s Azure AD, reducing the attack surface.  

  • Simplified Lab Setup with zero management overhead 

CloudLabs supports easy lab onboarding by making VMs accessible directly through the web browser. Lab onboarding for courses is fully automated, making it effortless for instructors and students. 

CloudLabs also automates the off-boarding process by establishing specific start-to-end dates for labs. Once a course is completed, the lab environments are automatically deleted. 

CloudLabs’ Solutions for Seneca Polytechnic’s School of IT Administration and Security 

Since January 2022, CloudLabs has been working together with Seneca Polytechnic’s School of IT Administration and Security to offer cloud solutions for their Microsoft ‘Azure for Students’ program. CloudLabs provided them with a scalable solution to efficiently manage and distribute student environments, ensuring uninterrupted learning through credit extensions.

With their ongoing partnership, CloudLabs and the school expect significant growth and increased involvement in the cloud industry. Through CloudLabs, the institution now offers 34 courses that cover different Azure-related programs, accommodating more than 1,200 student accounts. 

Discover the potential solutions that CloudLabs can provide to your institution, enabling your students to make the maximum use of ‘Azure for Students’ benefits. Book a demo now. 

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