What is bwLehrpool?

bwLehrpool is a cooperative project between the University of Freiburg and the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences. The project is funded and supported by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Education and the Arts. This puts bwLehrpool in line with further Baden-Württemberg state services such as bwIDM, bwLSDF, bwSync&Share, bwHPC, bwCloud, bwFLA, bwPC1). bwLehrpool enables the flexible and efficient availability of virtual teaching and laboratory environments in the PC pool rooms of the universities as well as the cross-university cooperation for their development. Overarching goal is the improvement of the teaching and the infrastructure by pooling the competencies with the aid of inter-institutional cooperation.

bwLehrpool offers instructors in colleges and universities in Baden-Württemberg the possibility to quickly, simply and independently create teaching environments for students. The foundation for this is the possibilies offered by virtualization and the comprehensively developed IT infrastructures offered by the compuer centers in the institutions of higher learning.

With the help of special-purpose software, the bwLehrpoolSuite, it is possible for all university employees to upload and download virtual machines (VM). Using the provided VMs as templates, instructors can adapt the environments to fit the requirements of their courses. These specific VMs can then be uploaded and are immediately available in either all or specific pool rooms. Additionally, VMs can be shared state-wide with other institutions, to achieve maximal synergistic effect.

The use of bwLehrpool provides a range of advantages, for the instructors as well as for the computer centers and the pool administrators:

  • Immediate availability, no deadlines such as beginning of the semester
  • Reduction of all-purpose images suffering from software bloat
  • Individually tailored environments
  • Variety of OSes available (Windows 7, 8.1, 10, Ubuntu, Suse, Debian)
  • Course computers available in every computer pool (or can be limited to specific rooms)
  • Environment is not persistent, i.e., rebooting returns everything to the original state
  • No need to copy the images onto each pool computer
  • Virtualization reduces hardware dependence
  • No need to log in to the Windows Domain. Quicker start/boot time.
  • Responsibility for the VM is in the hands of the image creator

Currently, a range of enhancements are being developed, allowing for example students visiting other institutions to log in using bwIDM for identity management and use local resources. This functionality can of course be turned off, limiting use to members of specific institutions. Additionally, VMs can be shared with other institutions directly via the bwLehrpool-Suite. An instructor could grant state-wide availability for example to exchange the VM with remote colleagues.

In order to use bwLehrpool, a university requires a so-called Satellite Server. This is configured and administered by the local computer center. Then, pool computers are configured to load a minimal Linux base system via PXE from the satellite server. This runs VMWare Player, allowing the desired virtual machine providing the learning resources to be started.

First Level Support is provided by the local computer center. The bwLehrpool Team is available to provide Second Level Support.


An additional important building block is the electronic exam. These are increasingly being requested and used by universities. This often requires either a relatively large effort or purchase of an external examination provider. The implementation of bwLehrpool provides an ideal platform for in-house electronic exams. Virtual machines can be booted in a special “examination mode”. This mode prevents network access or USB devices and is therefore independent of the hardware. This provides the possibility of completely new, real-world testing environments using software such as CAD, Matlab, Excel, programming frameworks, etc. As opposed to solutions such as the Safe Exam Browser2), the test candidates can use a full-fledged Windows or Linux operating system and not just the individually released software packages. The environment can be set up so that the virtual machine contains only the desired software. By mounting network drives, the results can be securely and simply submitted. The flexibility of bwLehrpool allows pool rooms to be switched in and out of exam mode with the click of a button, saving extensive effort changing the network or computers.

Multiple test exams have been carried out successfully at the University of Freiburg 3) and the Offenburg University of Applied Sciences 4). If you are interested in using the system or have any questions, please contact us.