April 9: Teach from Free Virtual Computer Labs

Access specialized software and computing resources for classes and lab work without installing it on your computer using the Duke Office of Information Technology’s Virtual Labs.

Virtual Labs allow employees, students and staff to use free software containers and virtual machines that provide Duke computing resources from a web browser, which prevents troubleshooting issues on personal computers.

All Duke community members can use a Virtual Computing Manager to claim a semester-long reservation on a virtual software container or virtual machine for course work or student projects. General packages for Windows and Linux systems are self-service and available in near-real time. They include popular software for data analytics, modeling, programming and discipline-specific software like Jupyter Notebook, RStudio, MatLab, Mathematica and Snapgene.

Currently, Duke Virtual Labs are supporting about 3,700 reservations for general and class-specific virtual computing resources.

John Fay, instructor for Ecosystem Science & Conservation at the Nicholas School of the Environment, used OIT’s “Custom Software Containers for Duke Courses for his students to download “ArcGIS,” a mapping and analysis tool.

“My students, using the virtual containers, were able to continue on-line learning  seamlessly,” Fay said. “Others using the virtual machines have an option to continue working if their home machine can’t support the notoriously demanding GIS software.”

Kenneth McKenzie, a laboratory administrator for the Department of Physics, used Duke Virtual Labs to get his “Intro to Experimental Physics” students working on “Jupyer Notebook” to share computer coding. 

My students and I were able to use them for our first ‘distance learning’ session of the class,” McKenzie said. “Everything went very smoothly, and students were able to chug through a substantial frame by frame analysis of video data.”

If you teach a course that could benefit from a custom software container, complete the online form.