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Academic Computing Resources
for You and Your Students

Lee Ridgway

Academic Computing at MIT provides a rich environment to promote varied uses of educational technology for teaching and learning. A robust infrastructure of facilities, systems, and services is in place to support a diverse spectrum of educational goals. For an overview and links to detailed information about Academic Computing, see http://web.mit.edu/acs/.


Resources for Faculty

Academic Computing maintains the following resources to help faculty and their assistants understand and implement educational technology in their courses.


People Who Can Help You

The Academic Computing Faculty Liaisons help faculty and other instructional staff use educational technology in their teaching. They can:

You can contact the Faculty Liaisons in the following ways:

Home page: http://web.mit.edu/acs/fl.html

Offices: N42 (211 Mass. Ave)

Phone: x3-0115

Email: f_l@mit.edu


Academic Media Production Service (AMPS)

MIT-AMPS (Academic Media Production Services) is a "one-stop shop" for instructional design and Web design, video production, and digitization and compression. AMPS services for MIT faculty and programs are through three groups:

For more information about these services and how to contact them, go to http://web.mit.edu/amps/.


Print and Web Resources

A brochure, Educational Computing Resources at MIT, was recently mailed to all faculty. It outlines a variety of resources available on campus. For a Web version see http://web.mit.edu/acs/instr-comp.html.

The Electronic Teaching Toolkit at http://web.mit.edu/faculty/ett contains links to electronic resources that can assist faculty in preparing and conducting classes.

The Academic Web Page Creation Guide at http://web.mit.edu/acs/webguide/ was developed to assist faculty and TAs in creating course Web pages.

The Insider, published three times a year with news from Academic Computing for faculty and TAs, may be received on paper or viewed online at http://web.mit.edu/acs/insider.


Other Activities and Initiatives

Crosstalk, a forum sponsored by Academic Computing and the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education, brings together interested faculty for discussions, presentations, and feedback to Information Systems on a variety of topics. For more information see http://web.mit.edu/acs/crosstalk.html.

Proposals for support of educational computing initiatives may be submitted to Academic Computing. Details are available at http://web.mit.edu/acs/guidelines.html.

An Institute-wide Council on Educational Technology (MITCET), chaired by the provost and another faculty member, has taken up the issues identified in the 1997 report of a previous, similar council. It is considering new strategic directions, evaluating opportunities, and fostering discussion of continuing programs.


Athena Clusters, Tools, and Software

The Athena system is a centrally managed, scalable, secure, campus-wide computing environment consisting of networked client workstations, servers, and printers available to MIT students and faculty to help them achieve their academic goals.

On campus, 20 general-purpose clusters house over 400 Unix workstations, while several departments and other facilities maintain their own clusters. Athena course tools include:


For links to detailed information, see the Athena home page at http://web.mit.edu/is/athena.

For a comprehensive list of Athena software, see What Runs Where at http://web.mit.edu/acs/whereruns.html.


Classrooms and Other Facilities

Facilities for preparation and delivery of educational technology include:

For information on electronic classroom locations, equipment, and reservations, see http://registrar.mit.edu/schedule/eclass.html.

For information about the New Media Center facilities, see http://web.mit.edu/nmc.


Resources for Students

To help MIT students use Athena successfully, Information Systems offers a comprehensive series of "minicourses" on a variety of Athena-related topics. These courses are scheduled frequently throughout the academic year.

During Orientation week, incoming freshman, graduate, and transfer students have the opportunity to attend two basic courses:

  • Athena: First Course
  • By offering these courses before classes start, new MIT students can become familiar with Athena before they receive their first problem sets and paper assignments.

    During the year, IS schedules minicourses for all levels of users. Minicourses are held the first six weeks of each semester, the week after Thanksgiving and spring break, and during IAP. Days and times are Monday through Thursday at noon, 7 pm, and 8 pm. All sessions are in Room 3-343. No registration is necessary and minicourses are free.

    We encourage you to remind your students to take advantage of this excellent opportunity to learn more about the computer system that will be part of their MIT experience. Minicourses are free and no registration is necessary: just show up!

    Below is a listing and brief description of the full slate of minicourses. The two basic courses, Athena: First Course, and Working on Athena, are suggested as pre-requisites for the other courses. [See the side bar for the Fall 2001 schedule.] For current and future schedules, and contact information for the Athena Training Group, go to http://web.mit.edu/minidev.


    Athena Minicourses

    Athena: First Course (First)

    Our new introduction to the Athena academic computing environment: what you can do on Athena, your account, finding help, and other basics. Also includes E-mail, Zephyr, WebSIS, and Residential Computing.

    Suggested pre-requisite: None

    Working on Athena: Files and Unix (Working)

    Just the basics: files, directories, setting permissions, job control, and more. What every new user should know about Unix, Athena’s operating system.

    Suggested pre-requisite: First Course

    Word Processing Options: (WPO)

    A survey of the text-editing and word-processing packages available on Athena: FrameMaker, LaTeX, EZ, Emacs. Pick the right tool for the right job.


    Introduction to EZ, a combination text editor and formatter, with text-editing commands that are similar to Emacs. As a formatter, it is menu-driven and easy to learn, in the popular style of the "What You See Is (pretty much) What You Get" packages.

    FrameMaker (Frame)

    FrameMaker is a powerful word-processing and document preparation package available on Athena.


    An introduction to Latex, a widely-used text formatter for converting a text file into an attractive, professional-looking document. It is a powerful and flexible program, with the capability to typeset many foreign characters and very complex mathematical text.

    Serious Emacs (Ser Emacs)

    The text editor introduced in First Course has many useful features not covered in that course. This course is a must for anyone who uses Emacs more than an hour or two each week.

    Suggested pre-requisites: Emacs on-line tutorial, some Emacs experience

    FrameMaker Thesis (Frame Ths)

    FrameMaker, with a special template, can be used to produce an MIT thesis that meets all Institute formatting requirements.

    Suggested pre-requisites: Frame, some FrameMaker experience

    Latex Thesis (Latex Ths)

    Using the Latex text formatter to produce a fully-featured thesis that meets all MIT format requirements.

    Suggested pre-requisites: Latex, some Latex experience

    Math Software Overview (MSO)

    A survey of major mathematics and graphing packages available on Athena.


    An interactive program for scientific and engineering numeric calculation. Applications include: matrix manipulation, digital signal processing, and 3-dimensional graphics.


    A mathematics program that can perform numerical and symbolic calculations, including formal and numerical integration, solving algebraic or transcendental systems and differential equations, and series expansion and matrix manipulation. It also has extensive graphics capabilities.


    A powerful and easy-to-learn spreadsheet, with a full range of mathematical, statistical, matrix, and string functions. It will be useful for scientific and engineering computations, as well as to general and financial users.

    Information Resources on Athena (Info Res)

    A survey of the communications, help, and other resources available on Athena.

    HTML – Making a WWW Home Page

    Covers the basic features of HTML (Hyper-Text Mark-up Language), the language of the World Wide Web, as well as the steps needed to post your own Web page on Athena.

    Customization on Athena (Dotfiles)

    Intended for the intermediate-level Athena user, this course will discuss the Athena login sequence and the user-configuration files (dotfiles) that affect it, as well as changes users can make to those and other files to customize their working environment.

    Suggested pre-requisites: some Athena (or other X Windows) experience.

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