Virtual Computing Lab


The Virtual Computing Lab solution is offered either in conjunction with a physical lab reservation or as a standalone resource.  It gives students and instructors remote access their computing environments 24/7. The platform hosting the Virtual Machines (VMs) is Propeller - a higher education-focused third-party vendor that provides VMs as a service.  

VMs are accessed via a class's bCourses page - all students enrolled in the class and in the bCourse have access to the VMs. Compute resources can be tailored to expected usage, and can flex for anticipated high-usage periods throughout the semester (for example, the weekend before a project is due) to minimize queue time for students attempting to access a VM.  

Virtual Machine Options

There are two main types of VMs available: Persistent and Non-Persistent. Non-Persistent VMs are the class standard; they are the most cost-effective (see pricing table below) and simple to use. Students log into a new VM for each session they launch - no data is saved or carried over from login to login, so it's important that students save their work to an external storage option (Google Drive or a USB storage device).

Persistent VMs are better for smaller classes, as each student gets a dedicated VM that is theirs for the semester. All their files remain on the VM upon logout, and any modifications made will remain intact the next time they log in. This option is considerably more costly, and is therefore recommended for smaller classes or classes that require each user to have their own dedicated machine. 

Reservations Available

If you are interested in the VCL option on its own, email with the following information:
  • term your class will be held (for example: Summer 2024 session A, Fall 2025)
  • estimated number of students enrolled in your class
  • examples of software you will need (examples: Matlab, Arc GIS Pro, Rhino, Office Suite, Stata, etc)
  • if you're interested in the persistent or non-persistent lab option
  • any other questions or requests!
If you have a new or existing physical lab reservation and would like to add the VCL option, please make a note in your response on our physical lab reservation form


Pricing is set based on the amount of compute usage expected to be required. This usage is estimated based on class size, software requested, and overall amount of student use anticipated. The following two tiers are provided as a reference:

Tier 1 - basic - $2,000 per semester

  • best for software like Matlab, Stata, browsers
  • typically used for classes of fewer than 100 students

Tier 2 - enhanced - $4,000 per semester

  • best for software that requires higher processing capabilities (Aspen, COMSOL, ArcGIS Pro, etc)
  • typically used for classes of 100+ students

Tier 3 - persistent VMs

  • cost is dependent on number of individual users
  • rough cost is expected to be between $250 - $350 per user per semester (high usage may incur an additional compute cost charge)