User Stories

Georgia Tech Lowers Educational Barriers Through Software License

Challenge

Provide students and faculty with access to the tools and applications they need for multidisciplinary classes and research projects

Solution

Create a MATLAB enabled campus with a MathWorks Campus-Wide License

Results

  • Computer lab and server demand reduced
  • Interdisciplinary, interdepartmental classes facilitated
  • IT support interactions simplified

“The vision of IT as an enabler is one of the guiding principles in our software investment strategy. Expanding access to software makes it possible for students to focus on their work and for faculty to focus on developing an innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum better aligned with industry demands.”

Didier Contis, Georgia Tech
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With more than 13,500 students, the College of Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology is the largest engineering college in the U.S., and it is consistently ranked among the country’s top 10 engineering institutions. Offering dozens of degree programs, the college is organized into eight schools covering diverse disciplines, including aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering.

Georgia Tech’s Technology Services group provides students and faculty with IT support, computing and networking infrastructure, and access to a broad portfolio of engineering software and applications. The group acquired a Campus-Wide License to deploy MathWorks software as part of its effort to increase educational and research efficiency.

“Like any public university, we have budgetary constraints,” says Didier Contis, director of technology services for the College of Engineering (COE) at Georgia Tech. “The college focuses on investments that provide indirect value by empowering students and instructors and enabling them to focus on research and education instead of wasting time getting access to the software they need.”

Challenge

Several years ago, the Technology Services group launched a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) initiative to provide students and faculty with remote access to engineering software running on central servers. While this solution worked well, it required the COE IT team to predict capacity requirements based on worst-case scenarios. For example, when a particular application was to be used by a large class, the team had to ensure enough server capacity to handle the entire class accessing that application simultaneously. To address this issue and to ensure students could connect with modeling software and low-cost hardware, the team wanted to enable students to use their own laptops for certain applications.

A second goal was to simplify curriculum planning for interdisciplinary and core courses. Specifically, the team wanted instructors to be able to plan courses without worrying about whether their students would have access to the required software. Lastly, the team was eager to shift from explaining to students and professors why certain software was unavailable to simply telling them how it could be accessed.

Solution

Georgia Tech acquired a Campus-Wide License; it then increased the scope of the license in a multiphase process.

In the first phase of this process, the college transitioned from a traditional network license model to a Campus-Wide License model. This model provided faculty with on-campus access to MATLAB®, Simulink®, and the toolboxes most commonly used throughout the college, including Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox™, Image Processing Toolbox™, Control System Toolbox™, and Optimization Toolbox™.

In the second phase, the college expanded the Campus-Wide License to enable students to install MATLAB and the most commonly used toolboxes on their own laptops. This change reduced student demand for computer lab time and VDI computational resources.

Recently, Contis and his team completed the third phase, in which the Campus-Wide License was extended to all available MathWorks products. With this change, faculty can design courses and assign projects that require MATLAB, Simulink, and any toolboxes and blocksets, knowing students will be able to access them easily.

The team is currently working on maximizing faculty and student awareness of the open access to MathWorks products that is available to them through the Campus-Wide License program.

Results

  • Computer lab and server demand reduced. “These days, it makes no sense for students to make a 2 a.m. walk to a computer lab just to access software,” says Contis. “Extending software licensing to student’s system enabled us to tap the computing power of the students’ own laptops, reducing server farm and computer lab load and simplifying infrastructure demand forecasting.”
  • Interdisciplinary, interdepartmental classes facilitated. “More and more of our classes are cross-listed between departments,” notes Steve McLaughlin, chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. “Campus-wide access to software enables us to lower barriers across classes, disciplines, and degree programs.”
  • IT support interactions simplified. “Before the Campus-Wide License, we often had painful discussions with students and faculty explaining why a particular tool was not available,” says Contis. “Now, if someone wants to work on an innovative project with any MathWorks products, we say ‘Go, ahead—show us what you build with them.’”

Georgia Tech provides campus-wide training through MATLAB Academic Online Training Suite. This portfolio of self-paced online courses covers a range of topics and is used to increase productivity, support multidisciplinary projects, and enhance student skills.