Designing, Developing, and Evaluating a Cloud-Based Laboratory for Online STEM IT Students

Designing, Developing, and Evaluating a Cloud-Based Laboratory for Online STEM IT Students

Dongqing Yuan (University of Wisconsin – Stout, USA) and Brandon Cross (University of Wisconsin – Stout, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9924-3.ch005
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In an IT learning environment, hands-on learning is central to one's learning. Many previous studies found that STEM students who were taught through a hands-on learning method, as opposed to only the textbook and lecture method, showed higher comprehension of the concepts. Hands-on labs and experimenting expand a student's understanding and appreciation of science. For many years, traditional IT program instructors have been able to integrate hands-on approaches into the classroom. Although hands-on laboratory exercises are integral to a successful IT program, e-Learning students in IT do not have the same laboratory experience as onsite students. Consequentially, there is a problem with e-Learning IT students not acquiring all the essential hands-on skills with equipment used in the IT industry. In this chapter, we present a solution which is based on private cloud computing and can be used to build a laboratory and learning environment for a variety of online hands-on IT courses including Wireless System, IP Telephony and Server Application. Students, as cloud clients, can access the server by web access through VPN connection.
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2. It Laboratory Technology

There are several laboratory options for IT learners to include onsite laboratories, remote laboratories, and simulation laboratories, each having its own advantages, problems, and limitations.

2.1 Onsite IT Laboratory

To begin with, onsite IT laboratories commonly contain similar or identical equipment that is used in the IT industry (Li, Toderick, Li, Mohammed, & Lunsford, 2008). Routers, switches, servers, and network cabling are all common equipment seen in IT laboratories. A fundamental lab setup for an onsite IT laboratory can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

A typical onsite IT laboratory


A fundamental setup typically consists of multiple routers, multiple local area network (LAN) switches, lab computers, and a server(s). Some advantages of onsite IT laboratories include students get to interact with the actual physical equipment, permitting them to explore the exact technology employed in the IT field. In consequence, IT learners receive realistic training and can use their newly acquired skills immediately in the workplace. Two major disadvantages of onsite IT laboratories include the cost of purchasing the laboratory equipment and the inflexibility of when the equipment can be used. Equally, in many instances an onsite lab is only available for use between certain hours and may require a lab worker be available during those hours.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN): A group of end stations with a common set of requirements, independent of physical location.

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN): A wireless computer network that links two or more devices using a wireless distribution method within a limited area.

Power of Ethernet (POE): Allows a single cable to provide both data connection and electrical power to devices such as wireless access points.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA): A security protocol developed by Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks.

Extensible Authentication Protocol-Flexible Authentication via Secure Tunneling (EAP-FAST): A publicly accessible IEEE 802.1X EAP type developed by Cisco Systems. It is available as an IETF information draft.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Refers to the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to their workplace, and to use those devices to access company information and applications.

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