I think you're badly overestimating the difficulty of VMs. This next Friday, we're planning on providing VMs to students to compete in a local programming contest, and we fully expect that for most of them the bulk of the effort involved will simply be the downloading of all the relevant bits (as in, literal bits). After that, it's just "vagrant up" and off they go. If you haven't fiddled with them in a few years (which is what that sounds like), there's been a lot of advances since then. They're almost trivial now.