Academic Technology Services

Virtual Computing Lab (VCL)

The Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) is a system that enables faculty, students, and staff to remotely access specialized software on any computer. If you are a Mac user and need to run Windows software, no problem, the VCL makes this possible.

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Features and Benefits: 

Currently, the software environments available though the VCL include:

  • ArcGIS
  • CentOS
  • ChemDraw
  • CSPro
  • Eviews
  • Insight Research
  • IRTutor
  • Logal Explorer
  • Matlab
  • MicroCase
  • R and Rcmdr
  • SPSS
  • Ubuntu
  • Volocity
  • WinMDI

The VCL is available to faculty, staff and students from any of the Five Colleges. Access the system online using your home institution log in credentials.

To use the VCL you will need a computer that has an Internet connection and a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) client installed. Your computer must be on campus using the college network of one of the five colleges - Amherst, Hampshire, Mt Holyoke, Smith or UMass Amherst.

For the RDP client, we recommend CoRD for Macs (note: This is an external link to a website where you may download the CoRD software. Follow the prompts in the installer to download the software.). We recommend this RDP client for the VCL for Windows computers.


Getting Started: 

First make sure you have an RDP client installed on your computer, see Requirements section above for more information.

Access the VCL from Moodle:

Step 1:  To access the VCL from Moodle, use the Virtual Computing block on the lower-right side of any of your Moodle course sites.

Step 2:  Under New Reservations choose the software application you want from the drop-down list menu and click create reservation.
Make reservations for time in the future to guarantee the application will be available when you need it.
Faculty can make block reservations for classes using the VCL Moodle plugin.

Step 3:  Click the Connect button to launch a window containing the computing environment and the application you want to use.

Alternate Method of Accessing the VCL:

Step 1:  Go to, click on the Amherst College seal or choose Amherst College from the drop-down list menu. 

Step 2:  Go to the Reservations menu and select New Reservation.

Step 3:  Choose the software application you want from the drop-down list menu and click create reservation.
Make reservations for time in the future to guarantee the application will be available when you need it.
Faculty can make block reservations for classes using the VCL Moodle plugin.

Step 4:  Click the Connect button to launch a window containing the computing environment and the application you want to use. 


To get detailed instructions and more information about the VCL go the VCL Help page at

Additional Information: 

Amherst students, faculty and staff - If you are working on an Amherst campus lab or public computer, make sure to store all data and analysis files in your Userfiles or U: Drive. Your U: Drive is automatically accessible on any Amherst lab or public Windows or Mac computer when you are logged into the computer.

If you are using your personal computer and wish to access files on your U: Drive or other Amherst network storage, first connect to your network drive, then click the Connect button to lauch the VCL.

Unix Servers

Amherst IT provides two Unix servers for general use, Romulus and Remus. They provide the main interface to working with the College's traditional web server, and are also used to learn computer programming and for scientific research. There is also a computing cluster for resource-intensive projects that can be split into many independent or semi-independent tasks.

The Unix operating system was one of the first multiuser operating systems running on small computers, appearing in 1969. Educational institutions were early adopters, and they used it to develop a large number of programming and networking tools. Currently there are many different implementations of Unix, but one of the most common is called Linux. The College's Unix servers run the Linux implementation called CentOS.

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Features and Benefits: 

Both Romulus and Remus have 16 GB of RAM and 8 CPUs. They run 64-bit CentOS 6.4 (Red Hat Linux 6.4).

Available software includes:

  • Mathematica 9 (with FeynArts-3.8, FeynCalc-8.2)
  • Matlab R2013a and Octave
  • R
  • Python 2.7 and 3.3 (with NumPy, SciPy, and Matplotlib)
  • Java
  • GNU C and C++
  • Fortran
  • Haskell
  • Eclipse
  • TkGate
  • Alpine (formerly called Pine)

You can only access the Amherst Unix servers remotely over the network, from another computer such as your desktop or laptop.

You can log in to these servers a number of different ways:

  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) provides a graphical user interface;
  • Secure Shell (SSH) provides a command-line (text) interface;
  • X11 provides a graphic interface to individual applications such as Emacs, Mathematica, or Matlab, but is usually initiated by command line;
  • VNC and NX servers are also provided for those who need them, though these access methods are discouraged in favor of the above for security and performance reasons.

You can also exchange files with these computers using built-in Macintosh and Windows file-sharing, as well as applications that provide Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) or Secure Copy (SCP).

Getting Started: 

Romulus and Remus are mirror images of one another, so you can choose to work with either or and see the same set of files.

There are a couple of ways to access Unix files from your local computer.

It's often convenient to work directly with your files by connecting a network drive to your local computer:

You can also copy files to and from the servers using the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), a popular method because it has less overhead:

Every member of the college community is given 500MB of file space on Romulus and Remus (accessible through either one). Learn to manage your file quota so you can avoid exceeding your limit:

Department Computer Labs

Art and the History of Art Chemistry Music
Asian Languages & Civilizations Computer Science Physics
Biology Economics Psychology

Art and the History of Art

The Digital Photo Lab is located on the 3rd floor of the Fayerweather building. It is co-maintained by the Department of Art and the History of Art and Academic Technology Services. There are 13 Mac Pro computers with specialty displays and software specific to digital photo editing.

Asian Languages & Civilizations

The Asian Studies computer lab in 101 Webster is maintained by Academic Technology Services. There are 4 Windows computers with the standard Amherst College software plus specialized software for Asian language learning. The room also includes a Windows instructor's workstation which is connected to a projection unit and audio equipment.


The Biology Computer Lab is located in 425 McGuire Life Sciences. The lab is co-maintained by Biology and Academic Technology Services. There are 12 Windows computers and software specific to Biology classes.


The Chemistry Computer Lab is located in 411 Merrill. The lab is co-maintainted by Chemistry and Academic Technology Services. There are 12 Windows computers and software specific to Chemistry and BioChem classes.

Computer Science

The Computer Science lab classroom is located in 014 Seeley Mudd. The lab is co-maintained by Computer Science and Academic Technology Services. There are 23 Windows computers with software specific to Computer Science learning as well as an instructor's station and projection unit.

The Computer Science student lab is located in 007 Seeley Mudd with Unix computers available for student work. It is maintained by the Computer Science department.


The Economics Computer Lab is located on the 3rd floor of Converse Hall. The lab is co-maintained by Economics and Academic Technology Services. There are 9 Windows computers and software specific to Economics classes.


The Music computer lab is located in the Arms Music Building. The lab is co-maintained by Music and Academic Technology Services. There are 2 Mac computers with software specific to Music learning.


The Physics Computer Lab is located in Merrill Science. The lab is co-maintained by Physics and Academic Technology Services. There are 12 Windows computers with software specific to Physics learning.


The Psychology computer lab is located in Merrill Science. The lab is co-maintained by Psychology and Academic Technology Services. There are 4 Windows computers with software specific to Psychology learning.

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Moodle is the College's learning management system (LMS). It hosts individual course websites used by instructors and students. 

Features and Benefits: 

Provides quick and easy access to online course content.

Provides intructors and assistants an easy way to email students.

Provides protected access to course eReserves.

Uses your Amherst username and password.


Amherst and Five College Students

You must either be registered for a course or officially shopping a course in order to access the Moodle course site.

Amherst College students "officially" shop a course by adding it to their Preferred Courses list in the Registration section of ACDATA.

Five College students who preregistered for a course automatically have access. If a Five College student registers for an Amherst course during add/drop, they will receive their Amherst account information once their registration is processed. Because this can take a week or more, Five College students can also request temporary access to online course information, which will give them Moodle access until their registration is processed.

A week or two after Add/Drop ends, Moodle access is stopped for students who have not registered for a course.

High School Students and Amherst Employees

Local high school students and Amherst College employees taking an Amherst course will only receive Moodle access once their registration is processed by the Registrar's Office. 


Course auditors receive Moodle access by filling out the audit request from, having it signed by the instructor, and returning it to Seeley Mudd 11.

Teaching Assistants, Language Assistants, and Other's Designated by the Instructor(s)

The course instructor or department ADC must use the Classroom Assistant Request form to give TAs and others access to a Moodle course.

Getting Started: 

Instructors and students can log onto Moodle directly by going to Also, from your My Amherst page on the Amherst website, you have links that take you directly to your course sites. 

Course websites are created for all courses every semester, and students are given access automatically once they either shop or register for the course. Instructors need to activate a course, however, before students can access the course website. Note however, that courses containing video or other e-Reserves are automatically activated.


For help, contact the Help Desk.

Instructional Design

As Amherst College's Instructional Designer, hari stephen kumar works collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students to foster and sustain our collective sense of meaningful joy in teaching and learning. Toward that purpose, hari offers in-depth consulting on a wide variety of pedagogical concerns such as course design, student engagement, innovative pedagogies, assessment and evaluation, and integrating technologies with teaching. hari provides a range of services including individual consultations, workshops & seminars, private coaching, research & resources, in-class sessions, and collaborative design projects with cross-campus staff from a variety of relevant teams. hari specializes in inclusive and critical pedagogies through active learning and collaborative student work.

Features and Benefits: 


Set up an individual session with me to work on any aspect of your course design process, such as syllabus planning or organizing effective group projects or managing in-class activities or crafting new types of assignments. Consultations can also cover matters of student engagement, learning styles, evaluation and assessment of student work, or developing pilot projects around innovative pedagogies.


For more comprehensive design work, such as significantly overhauling an existing course or building a brand new course from the ground up, we can set up a cross-campus team dedicated to collaborating with you. The team will include me as the Instructional Designer as well as relevant staff from Research & Instruction LibrariansAcademic Technology ServicesWriting CenterCenter for Community Engagement, and any other departments.


Get specific and focused feedback on a particular aspect of your teaching through private coaching sessions, which could include unobtrusive classroom visits on request or insightful analysis of evaluations. Together, we can develop a thoughtful evidence-based plan for addressing a concern or for experimenting with a novel idea.


For topics that are of broader interest, I can design and facilitate hands-on interactive workshops for your department or for a selected group of your colleagues. Or, for students in your course, I can visit your class to facilitate a classroom session on a specific issue or project.


Get connected with more resources and research on a particular area of interest in pedagogy. I can curate selected high-quality sources for you, and I also maintain both online and print collections of resources. See, for example, the Frost Library's Teaching & Learning Café Collection of recommended books on a variety of teaching and learning topics.


Learn how to get started with Moodle in 60 minutes (or fewer!) through a hands-on guided tutorial. See the Getting Started with Moodle workshop page for more details.

Audio and Video E-Reserves

Faculty can submit a request to have audio or video materials digitized for use in coursework as electronic reserves (E-Reserves), which can then be streamed to student computers.

The curricular digitizing service does not provide for digitizing of research materials, archiving of collections, or any other use which is not clearly curricular and a definitive part of a planned course syllabus.

  • Film title already digitzed: posted on Moodle same or next business day
  • Film title owned by Frost library, but not digitized: posted on Moodle within 2 business days
  • Film title not owed by Frost library: please submit a purchase request and allow approx 3 weeks for ordering, deliverly, cataloging and digitizing. 


Features and Benefits: 

We can:

  • convert CD or cassette tracks to MP3
  • create digital clips from VHS tape or DVD
  • put audio content onto the campus streaming server

Once digitized, you and your students can listen to or watch streamed audio and video content related to your course as E-Reserves. Students can watch these videos any time, day or night on their own computer, or on public computers on campus.


To submit a request faculty must:

  1. read the campus Copyright Information
  2. fill out the Video Digitization and Streaming Request Form
  3. if applicable, drop off necessary materials to Room 110 Seeley Mudd
  4. pick up materials when completed from Room 110 Seeley Mudd

The curricular digitizing service does not provide for digitizing of research materials, archiving of collections, or any other use which is not clearly curricular and a definitive part of a planned course syllabus. The service also does not include recording of television or other broadcasts, even those that are curricular. However, we can digitize portions of broadcast recordings that you have already made, such as from a VHS tape. If you have any non-curricular materials that need to be digitized or if you need assistance recording broadcasts for your curriculum please contact Academic Technology Services for training and/or advice in finding an appropriate student assistant.

If you have any questions or would like more information please send an email to Academic Technology Services.

Getting Started: 
  • Video Digitization and Streaming Request Form
    Please fill out and submit this on-line form for each video or audio title you’d like to stream.

    Things to keep in mind while filling out this form:
    • The title search feature in our request form only looks for the DVD format of videos that are owned by Amherst College. We cannot digitize personal copies, or videos not belonging to the college.
    • VHS tapes do not digitize well, and should be replaced with a DVD copy by submitting a purchase request to the library. There is a link for this right inside our request form. Please add a note in the purchase request, that “this is for digitizing”, so the Library staff will know that the VHS copy is not adequate and indicate the show-date or date of class assignment.
    • Please submit DVD purchase requests at LEAST 3 weeks in advance of the show-date so that the library has enough time to: order, receive, and catalog the new DVD.
Additional Information: 

Requirements for Using Digital Video in Instruction

  1. At the end of the semester, video clips longer than 15 minutes will be automatically deleted from the streaming server.
  2. Clips shorter than 15 minutes will be stored in the faculty member’s personal web space with access limited to students enrolled in the course where it is used. Faculty are responsible for removing clips at the end of the semester. Clips may be stored locally on an office computer.
  3. For clips shorter than 15 minutes, faculty are required to post the following copyright notice on the webpage with the link to the video clip (for longer clips, the copyright notice is displayed automatically):
    "Copying, displaying and distributing copyrighted works may infringe the owner's copyright. Any use of computer or duplicating facilities by students, faculty or staff for infringing use of copyrighted works is subject to appropriate disciplinary action as well as those civil remedies and criminal penalties provided by federal law."


Academic Technology Services provides technology-equipped classrooms for academic use. After class hours rooms can be reserved for events. See the list of technology-equipped classrooms with equipment.

Features and Benefits: 

Classroom Accessibility

The majority of classrooms are accessible to those with mobility issues.  Most buildings on campus have access ramps and/or elevators. To confirm accessibility, check with the person handling your room reservation.

Inaccessible rooms include Arms Music building rooms 102 and 212, all of the 2nd floor rooms in Chapin Hall, Clark 100, and the Babbott Room on the second floor of the Octagon building.


Please request a classroom that is already furnished with media equipment if your course requires extensive use of media.

Classroom assignments for classes are made by the Registrar's Office before each semester begins.

See the list of technology-equipped classrooms for reservation information for events booking. If you are looking for a room for an event, please also go to Public Affairs' Event Planning site. Please note that most non-classroom spaces have no multimedia equipment.

Getting Started: 

Computers installed in classrooms are Mac Minis that run both Macintosh (Mac) and Windows operating systems.

If you choose to run Windows, please be aware that the computer will reboot, the projector will go to "blue screen" and take a couple of minutes to get going, then work as normal. If you choose to run the Mac operating system, the computer will start a bit faster.

Both the Windows and Mac operating systems have PowerPoint.

If you have trouble don't hesitate to call the Classroom Help line at x5069 for help.




For room or equipment details, questions or to provide comments contact John Kunhardt (jwkunhardt).

Additional Information: 

Senior Faculty Course Evaluations

The Senior Faculty Course Evaluation system makes it easy for senior faculty to fulfill the course evaluation requirement voted by the faculty. Each semester, all courses taught by a senior faculty member will have a corresponding CEP-default evaluation form generated automatically. Faculty can decide to use the default form, modify it, use a copy of another webform they own on the website, or select an alternative evaluation method.

The CEP-default evaluations submitted by students will be anonymous and are made visible to the faculty member after all the grades in the course have been submitted.

Features and Benefits: 

Automatic: If you do nothing, the system will automatically generate your evaluation forms and notify your students about when and where to fill them out.

Configurable: If you know how to use the webform module on the website, you can customize the evaluation form or create a new one.

Anonymous: No student information is captured by the default form or displayed to the senior faculty member.

Confidential: Only the senior faculty member has access to her or his evaluation results.


You can use any web browser to access the course evaluation system.

Note that the Custom Form option allows you to modify an existing form or choose one you've already created. Custom evaluation forms require specialized knowledge of webforms used on the Amherst website.

Getting Started: 

Share your thoughts for improving the Senior Faculty Course Evaluation system.

Computing Cluster

To facilitate faculty and student research, the College operates a 460-core computing cluster consisting of 77 computers or nodes. Such distributed computing is related to the ideas of parallel computing (which could occur within a single computer with multiple CPUs) and grid computing (describing a large number of mostly independent computers that cooperate on a project).

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Features and Benefits: 

Using the computing cluster can dramatically accelerate completion of large and complex analytical problems by splitting the work across multiple computers.

Cluster hardware specifications         Cluster software applications

Getting Started: 

To request an account on the Computing Cluster, please contact Andy Anderson. He can also assist with the implementation of your project.

The Cluster is accessible over the Internet through a head node, using either Remote Desktop Connection, X11 Connection, or Secure Shell (ssh – standard with the Mac Terminal, or putty for Windows). The head node is the only machine from which you should develop software and submit and control jobs.

Most Cluster users use the Condor system to define how each instance of the software should be run (called a job), distribute the jobs automatically to the available nodes, and ensure sharing of the computing resources amongst all of the users.

There may be some situations where you won't want to use Condor, e.g. when using Mathematica's built-in parallel computing features.

More information and some examples can be found in the Knowledge Base.

A complete example using Condor and a problem written using the Python programming language can be found here.

Additional Information: 

Academic Technology Consultants

Academic Technology Services supports faculty and students in their use of information technology in teaching and research. The Academic Technology Project Showcase features several academic projects that ATS has developed and supported.

ATS provides expertise in advanced technologies that enhance in-class activities, course projects, data collection and analysis, multimedia communication and more.

ATS offers individual consultation, provides instruction to classes or small groups, and helps develop and implement new and innovative learning tools.

ATS works closely with the Library's subject librarians, the Center for Community Engagement, the Writing and Q Centers, and others to support instruction and research.

Faculty who have questions about using technology in their teaching or research are encourage to contact their department's Academic Technology Consultant, the IT Service Desk at or x2526.

Department or Program


American Studies Paul Chapin
Anthropology and Sociology Andy Anderson
Architectural Studies Bridget Dahill
Art and the History of Art Paul Chapin
Asian Languages and Civilizations Paul Chapin
Biochemistry and Biophysics Andy Anderson
Biology Andy Anderson
Black Studies Paul Chapin
Chemistry Andy Anderson
Classics Paul Chapin
Computer Science Andy Anderson
Economics Andy Anderson
English Paul Chapin
Environmental Studies Andy Anderson
European Studies Paul Chapin
Film and Media Studies Bridget Dahill
French Bridget Dahill
Geology Andy Anderson
German Bridget Dahill
History Paul Chapin
Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought Bridget Dahill
Mathematics and Statistics Andy Anderson
Mead Art Museum Paul Chapin
Music Bridget Dahill
Neuroscience Andy Anderson
Philosophy Paul Chapin
Physics and Astronomy Andy Anderson
Political Science Andy Anderson
Psychology Andy Anderson
Religion Paul Chapin
Russian Bridget Dahill
Sexuality, Women’s, and Gender Studies Bridget Dahill
Spanish Bridget Dahill
Theater and Dance Bridget Dahill


SensusAccess Document Conversion for Accessibility

The Five Colleges, including Amherst College, have access to the SensusAccess document conversion service. SensusAccess is an email and web-based service capable of automatically transforming documents into a variety of alternative formats for people with visual and/or reading impairments.This service is provided by Five Colleges Incorporated to generate accessible versions of print documents for individuals with disabilities. 

By using this service you agree that your use is for a person with a disability and that you are an Amherst College community member.

The website address for SensusAccess is

Braille services

Transcription of documents to and from contracted and uncontracted Braille. The documents can furthermore be formatted and paginated, and delivered as ready-to-emboss files in a variety of digital Braille formats.

Audio services

Conversion into plain mp3 files and well as Daisy Talking Books, including Daisy books with spoken math.

E-book services

Documents can be converted into both EPUB and Mobi Pocket (Amazon Kindle) e-book formats. Furthermore, EPUB may be converted into Mobi Pocket and vice versa. To accommodate users with low vision, the base line of the body text in an e-book may be raised to allow for more appropriate text scaling in mainstream e-book readers.

Accessibility services

Otherwise inaccessible documents such as image files in gif, tiff, jpg, bmp, pcx, dcx, j2k, jp2, jpx, djv and image-only pdf, as well as all types of pdf files can be converted to more accessible formats including tagged pdf, doc, docx, Word xml, xls, xlsx, csv, text, rtf and html. The service furthermore supports conversion of Microsoft Office documents into tagged pdf and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations into rtf files and web-projects.

SensusAccess is developed jointly by Synscenter Refsnæs (the National Centre for Visually Impaired Children and Youth in Denmark) and Sensus ApS.

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Getting Started: 

Contact the IT Help Desk and someone from Academic Technology Services can answer questions or assist you to use this service. Please also report any problems when using this service to the IT Help Desk so we can notify SensusAccess.

Classroom Response Systems

Classroom response systems enhance the interaction between students and teachers, especially in larger classes (30 students or more).

Features and Benefits: 
PRS Cricket Transmitter

With classroom response, you pose multiple-choice or true-false questions to your class, and students use personal transmitters or “clickers” to send private responses.

Students are therefore much less reluctant to respond in class, and even find it fun to participate. More importantly, they are engaged in a way that encourages them to think more deeply about the class presentation.

A receiver attached to your computer collects student responses. The classroom response software tabulates the responses and displays a summary as a graph, PRS Results which you can use to stimulate class discussion and thereby greater understanding. For example, when there is no consensus on the answer, a common practice is to use peer instruction, where the students talk to their immediate neighbors about their answers, after which you re-ask the question.

Questions don't necessarily have to have a correct answer, either. Indeterminate or controversial subjects can be introduced by first displaying student opinions on the matter. You might then ask one representative from each perspective to hold forth; from the graph, they know they have some supporters in the room!

While student responses are private, they are not necessarily anonymous; you can choose to track student identity for monitoring, attendance, or grading purposes. A roster for designated classes can be quickly downloaded and applied to the classroom response software.

You can hear more about classroom response in this NPR story. You can also read more about its effectiveness in this Science research study.


To use a classroom response system, you must arrange for a receiver to be installed in your classroom. Students must visit Seeley Mudd 109 to check out a personal transmitter, and return it by the end of the semester.

All of the personal transmitters currently have lights with distinct patterns to confirm receipt of a student’s response. If necessary, an accessible transmitter that vibrates can be provided for students that cannot distinguish the lights. Many of the transmitters already include Braille next to the buttons.

Moodle-based iPal is an alternative to dedicated hardware that depends on students using smart phones, iPads, or laptops to respond (borrowing arrangements can be made if they don’t have their own). These devices provide accessibility to disabled students through specialized applications such as TapTapSee and Jaws.

Getting Started: 

Send e-mail to Andy Anderson, or call x2255.


WordPress allows faculty and students to easily create professionally polished looking websites where course writing extends beyond the boundaries of the classroom and becomes a vibrant entity within the social media context. From online e-magazines, to social activist websites to creative writing collections, the applications for blogs are endless.

Features and Benefits: 

More and more of the faculty are implementing WordPress blogs as a writing medium in their coursework.


Faculty can request an account on the Amherst WordPress server for academic use for courses.

Course Catalog Editing System

Departments use the Course Catalog Editing System to propose new courses, make minor and major revisions to existing courses, include required textbook information for courses, and indicate which courses will be offered--and will not be offered--in the upcoming academic year.

Getting Started: 

ADCs, department chairs, and faculty members access the system at If you are not logged into the website, you'll be prompted to enter your Amherst username and password.