Case Study

MATLAB made easy for PhD students using Nuvolos

The Challenge

At a “Macroeconomics and Inequality” graduate course at the University of St. Gallen, advanced students need to be able to use MATLAB to do the necessary mathematical coursework. As with many economics courses, the emphasis is on developing and calibrating models, and this means working with both code and data using MathWorks’ flagship software for numeric computing. 

For this to proceed smoothly and make sure students all start on the same page, several requirements must be met from a practical point of view. Firstly, the university’s MathWorks licence must be easily applicable to each student, so they can use the necessary software without issue. Secondly, all students must be able to use it from anywhere – even with classes no longer fully remote, especially at graduate level students may not always be present on campus to participate. Thirdly, version control and identical environments must be guaranteed: no differences should exist between students based on their working environment. Finally, it has to be efficient. Setup and configuration for each individual student can be very time-consuming for student and course leader alike, and that time is better spent on the exercises. 

The Solution

A tall order, to be sure. But Nuvolos, the integrated cloud-based platform for computational science, met the challenge with ease. Because in Nuvolos you can deploy your familiar mathematical applications directly in the browser, users can run their favourite computational applications regardless of their preferred equipment, saving considerable time and effort on individual setup and potential debugging and preventing issues arising from differing working environments. What’s more, built-in support for version control makes this ‘blank slate’ running of applications feasible for courses using both data and code. Nuvolos also integrates directly with the course’s licensing for the necessary software, so that all the students could benefit from this ease of use, while the simplicity of login from anywhere and centralised course material distribution meant that graduate students could catch up with the exercises even when not physically present on campus. And last but not least, it could scale: since each student receives dedicated resources, the number of students on a graduate course is never an absolute limit for the Nuvolos platform or its performance.

The Outcome

Using Nuvolos, graduate students at the University of St. Gallen were able to achieve substantial savings in time and effort on their advanced macroeconomics course. Simply running the application from the browser inside the cloud-based platform meant doing their MATLAB exercises was virtually a plug-and-play process, even on the tablets preferred by many students for doing coursework. By running the application in Nuvolos, such students need not worry whether their tablet possesses the necessary compute resources to run complex computational problems. Version control, course material distribution, scalability, and remote access are all guaranteed, making Nuvolos the ideal one-size-fits all solution for coursework involving both code and data. Less time wasted on setup, coordination, and troubleshooting means more time for students to do their exercises and learn. Peter Kress, a PhD student who experienced Nuvolos first hand on the course, recommends it to anyone “who does their teaching using code… for students, you just start it and it works!”

Key Benefits

  • Saving graduate students time and effort on computational software setup and configuration

  • Built-in version control support guarantees ease of use for coursework involving both code and data

  • Plug and play application deployment in the browser means students can work from anywhere and follow the curriculum at any time without worrying about differences in working environment