Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning

Remote Education Enablement on AWS

Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning 1

Augmenting Post-Secondary Education and Eliminating Barriers with AWS

With over 30,000 full-time students, Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning is Canada’s largest college based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Humber offers a broad range of advanced academic credentials and the latest technology and teaching methodologies across state-of-the-art labs and learning spaces designed to emulate real-world environments and experience.

Driven to transform the future of post-secondary education, Humber is investing strategically in digital infrastructure to foster innovation and collaboration amongst the Humber community and enable the best possible future for its students and communities.




Develop a remote access solution for academic software and applications to enable education continuity for students amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic

Services & Tech

AWS Cloud, Amazon AppStream 2.0

The Problem

One of the first initiatives of Humber’s digital education strategy was to enable remote access to academic applications so that students would have the flexibility to access course resources regardless of the device used when outside the physical campus. Humber also considers this virtualization initiative to be a potential long-term solution as it reduces the number or size of computer labs thereby enabling them to be repurposed to provide value for their students and facilitates a Bring your own Device (BYOD) model thereby optimizing their resourcing investments.

As part of these strategic goals, Humber had been in communication with Onica regarding Amazon Web Services (AWS) capabilities in this area. They initially sought a Proof of Concept (PoC) to determine how the platform would work and to gain confidence in the approach of using cloud technologies, as they were looking to expand it to all of their campuses in the future.

However, the global COVID-19 pandemic brought about social distancing directives from public health authorities. This led to the abrupt and complete shutdown of all Humber campuses serving over 30,000 full-time students, and Humber’s only academic application access was via 2,450 on-premises Windows workstations in dedicated physical locations. Due to the pandemic, they suddenly needed an accelerated response solution to enable remote access to a portfolio of over 300 academic applications through any device, by any authorized user, in any location.

Based on their experience already working with Onica on a current Banner (a student and financial information system) cloud migration project, Humber sought Onica’s guidance and expertise as an accomplished AWS Partner Network (APN) Premier Consulting Partner to provide a quick and effective remote access solution.

The Solution

Conscious of the impact any downtime in academic resource access would have on students, Onica and Humber were able to fast-track all internal processes so that Onica could resource the project before the end of that same day, thereby eliminating weeks of lag. Working with five representatives from Humber, Onica brought in a dedicated technical team to implement the project and help Humber students get back to learning as quickly as possible. Due to the unprecedented urgency and the availability of resources, Onica and Humber were able to work on the project at an accelerated pace.

Once the goals for the project had been reviewed, a clear path forward was developed that utilized AWS’s business continuity solutions, specifically Amazon AppStream 2.0. Onica designed, tested, and implemented a production-grade Amazon AppStream 2.0 environment for Humber integrated with their on-premises data center. Amazon AppStream 2.0 was selected as the choice to deploy Windows-based applications on AWS as it provides per-application deployment, thus simplifying application distribution. 

Onica used several AWS services to implement the solution involving an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) that is maintained across two Availability Zones (AZs). Amazon Route 53 is used for Domain Name System (DNS) resolution and AWS Network Address Translation (NAT) gateways gives the private subnets internet access through the Internet Gateway (IGW). An AWS Application Load Balancer (ALB) handles internal applications deployed to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances.

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The solution uses an Amazon FSx for Windows File Server for Windows file sharing and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for other storage. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) provides user and role authentication, authorization, and management. Humber College’s on-premises Virtual Private Network (VPN) terminates in the AWS Transit Gateway (TGW). An AWS Lambda function switches the AppStream 2.0 fleets between Day and Night modes, thereby reducing costs during low-use hours.

"We are really happy to have brought Onica on as our partner. The team was not only able to produce a solution that fit Humber’s accessibility, scalability, and performance requirements, but it was also able to accomplish the task at an unprecedented speed using AppStream. Onica’s efforts and support have helped us provide academic stability to our students during these challenging times, with minimal disruption."
Ryan Burton
Director, Digital Solutions
Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning

The Outcome

Rapid Remote-Enablement, Virtualization, and Cost Savings

Onica delivered remote application access to Humber’s over 30,000 full-time students utilizing Amazon AppStream 2.0. Out of 308 Wintel applications in the academic environment, the first wave of 83 applications have been moved into Amazon AppStream 2.0 with more to go. The environment for the applications was spun up in less than 10 business days. This represents a significant acceleration in turnaround time for Amazon AppStream 2.0 projects, where a typical schedule is at least 30 days to the first PoC application with another 15+ days required for production release. By the project’s completion, targeted for Summer 2020, at least 80% of the applications will be available remotely through Amazon AppStream 2.0. Due to licensing and compatibility challenges, not all applications are candidates for streaming and solutions to address this are under development. 

This solution is enabling Humber to simplify the deployment of academic applications for end users and may remove the need to provision Windows desktops in the future, which is a complex, time and resource intensive process. With built-in AWS scalability and resiliency, the solution can very quickly scale up or down as needed. Equipped with a remote access solution, Humber is no longer limited to manually provisioning and maintaining a set number of desktop systems that could serve only a relative handful of users. 

One of the greatest benefits of the project is the secure availability of academic application resources to students on any device from any location provided they have quality internet access. Other benefits include improved accessibility/flexibility and the recovery of campus space to use for other purposes. 

The project’s success enables Humber to maintain its business model in a totally shut-down, pandemic-afflicted world and support their students with the resources they need to continue with their studies and achieve their learning outcomes.


Why Onica

Onica is one of the largest and fastest-growing APN Premier Consulting Partners in the world, helping companies enable, operate, and innovate in the cloud. From migration strategy to operational excellence and immersive transformation, Onica is a full spectrum AWS integrator. Learn more at