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Enhanced educational framework for networking

McLuskie, David


David McLuskie


Teaching and assessing students in the practical side of networking can be achieved through the use of simulators. However the network simulators are limited in what can they can do since the device being simulated is not fully functional and the generation of the exercises always result in the same specification being presented to the student[1, 2]. When the student has finished the exercise they are just presented with a pass or fail mark with no indication of areas of weakness or strength. The thesis investigates how the Bloom[3] and SOLO[4] learning taxonomies can be used to specify and mark network challenges while using the idea of fading worked examples[5] to design the challenges to lower the cognitive load on the student.

This thesis then proposes a framework that can be used to generate network challenges specifications that changes every time the student attempts it. The challenge can then be solved using an emulation package called Dynamips while a bolt-on package called GNS3 is used to provide the graphical user interface. Once the student has finished the challenge it will then be graded and feedback presented indicating what was correct and incorrect.

The evaluation of the framework was carried out in two phases. In the first phase the performance of the framework was monitored using a windows utility called performance monitor. The performance was measured on Windows XP, Windows Vista and XP running in an emulator. In each instance the performance was deemed to be satisfactory for running on each operating system.

The second phase of the evaluation was carried out by asking students to evaluate the proposed framework. Once the students had finished the evaluation they were then asked to fill in a questionnaire about their experience. From the results of the questionnaire two of the most positive aspects of using the framework was that a fully feature IOS command line interface was available for the students to use and also once they had a mastered a skill they did not have to start from scratch in subsequent exercises reusing skills that had already mastered. However one of the negative aspects noticed from the questionnaire was the number of complex steps that was required to be followed to setup the challenge.

The final implementation of the framework proved the concept of the design, even though all the proposed elements were not implemented. A program was written that generated a challenge with dynamic variables that changed every time it was attempted, Dynamips was used to provide to the student a fully working command line IOS interface and GNS3 was used to provide a graphical user interface. Finally the student was presented with feedback when they had completed the challenge.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 10, 2011
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Network simulators; fading worked examples; learning taxonomies; emulation package; Dynamips; GNS3; assessment; router configuration;
Public URL
Contract Date Jan 10, 2011
Award Date 2008-10


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