A computer lab that students use, but never see

North Carolina State University might never build another computer lab, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education: Instead, the university has installed racks of equipment in windowless rooms where students and professors never go. The project is called the Virtual Computing Lab, and users enter it remotely, from their own computers in dormitory rooms or libraries. They get all the features they’ve had in the past, including access to expensive software packages, such as 3-D modeling tools and advanced statistical programs, that they need for courses. But now the programs run on powerful computer servers behind the scenes, instead of on desktop PCs. And this lab never closes. Perhaps more important, the virtual lab doesn’t have the limitations of being controlled only by the university’s information-technology department. Unlike in physical labs, professors can install anything they want in the virtual laboratory. Students say they like the convenience, and administrators are happy because the virtual lab is far cheaper to build and maintain than a physical lab…

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