Carrying That Ten Thousand Dollar Lab in a Backsack: A Mobile Networking Laboratory with the Use of Open Source Applications

Carrying That Ten Thousand Dollar Lab in a Backsack: A Mobile Networking Laboratory with the Use of Open Source Applications

Dongqing Yuan (University of Wisconsin- Stout, USA) and Jiling Zhong (Troy University, USA)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-613-8.ch007
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In the past decade, with the development of wireless and other mobile technologies, including mobile computer, cellular phone, and GPS, educational practitioners have had the opportunity to develop a ubiquitous learning environment. This chapter provides a detailed account of developing a mobile network laboratory with a set of open source software (OSS) that allows students to conduct the labs either as an individual or as a group at anytime and anywhere.
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IEEE/ACM IT Computing Curricula (IEEE/ACM, 2008) recommends the incorporation of hands-on lab components into the undergraduate networking course as they help students apply the theories to solving real-world problems. Honey and Mumford (1984), and Kolb (1985) claim that students have different learning patterns, and science and technology students have the ability to learn primarily through hands-on experience. Denning (2003) also indicates that, ignoring application, computer education will end up like the failed “new math” of the 1960s- all concepts, no practice, lifeless, and dead. Dewey (1985) argues that “the first stage of contact with any kind of education, from children through adults, must be hands-on and experiential. Learning is a process of discovery and enactment and of wrestling with problems first hand” (p. 160). Having laboratory components and well-designed lab materials are essential to the success of networking education (IEEE/ACM, 2008).

However, most computer networking courses do not have laboratory components coupled with a modular curriculum, which allow students to practice the real-world problem-solving skills expected in the IT career field (Casado & Mckeown, 2005; Goyal, Lai, Jain, & Durresi, 1998; Kneale, Horta, & Box, 2004). Two factors contribute to this problem. One is the fact that it requires significant cost, space and time to set up a networking laboratory in an academic environment (Hughes, 1989; Lawson & Stackpole, 2006). It would cost more than $150,000 to set up a networking laboratory for 20 students initially just for the hardware and software (Gerdes & Tilley, 2007). Most schools do not have the budget, space and facility to create and maintain a “hands-on” learning environment. Another is that it would take many hours for the instructors to design a lab exercise that meets the objectives (Helps, 2006). To aggravate the problem further, to stay abreast with the rapid change of technology, the instructors, in addition to their busy teaching schedule, need to design and re-design the curriculum to explore the new technology (Helps, 2006).

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