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Computer networking is an enormously complex subject which involves various concepts of the protocols and technologies which are interconnected. The theoretical study and practical experience of a concept play an important role in the field of science and engineering. Taking a reference to the traditional teaching experience it can be made possible to structure an experiment with proper tools and software for establishing a network lab.
An online computer networking lab seems better than regular labs because it overcomes problem
Web based computer networking laboratory is much better than the traditional laboratory because it releases some of the time, space, work force, safety and economic constrains that a traditional physical laboratory imposes on educational institutions.
In real world laboratory, first students are briefed about the theory of the concept to experiment and its respective contents, accordingly students attend the lab on time and experiment on the equipments provided.
However, they might face some problems such as inadequacy of funds to maintain the lab apparatuses also or less or no secure network environment which can provide appropriate services provided on the same machine.
To resolve such problem in future, a solution can be suggested to adopt virtual lab in real world. It is a new instructing approach to overcome traditional teaching. The practical sessions of the virtual lab can be carried by the students as per the demonstrations in the simulation.
As advantages student can access the lab from anywhere. A remote access can be provided. Big and lengthy lab manuals are replaced by the animations, simulations. Real world and expensive equipments such as routers, switches, servers can be used remotely making use of the virtual reality created by the simulations. It is also economic to establish a virtual lab instead of the real world lab.
Presentation of a virtual lab was done by Daniel Joyce from Villanova University which supported CS1 and CS2 courses in the university. Existence of this virtual lab was in place of the actual lab without reserved rooms scheduled hours. Reasons of implementation were described by Joyce in detail, the whole structure of the lab is programming oriented.
Two major persons responsible for triggering the subject of integrating Internet into courses are Poindexter and Heck. Their explanation of interactive and sophisticated interactive lab was helpful understanding the use of the lab as a whole, and was also a good substitute of physical labs.
Development of virtual laboratory environment tool for executing molecular modeling applications on WWW were carried out leveraging existing technologies. As discussed by the reference the design of a virtual biology lab of which maximum entities including all virtual experiments are executed as java beans application.
Another application of the virtual laboratory was implemented for DSP (Digital Signal Processing) course, which used all the programs as stand-alone applications as Java Applets. Implementation of the virtual laboratory to teach IP networking was carried out as stated by one of the references. In this experience, implementation of one Ethernet Switch and many PCs running on a particular operating system behaves as a simulation in a server. Users of that system input network commands which in turns responded by the responding output server. Use of advanced internet technologies such as HTML, CGI, and Java play a big role in implementing this system. An internet based virtual laboratory implemented a web based distribution network simulation framework.
Among the virtual labs implementations mentioned above, many of them concentrate on particular technology, which does not always have to computer networking. Many other science fields can also be implemented in order to demonstrate the use of virtual laboratory.
After all the above implementations, there might be some chance of the failure in the proposed system due to many different aspects. To overcome these failures a web based virtual computer networking lab can be developed. This implementation reduces the use of the actual expensive resources in the real world lab and satisfies various requirements as well.
While the implementation of the system a brief introduction to computer networking course can be the first step towards implementation of the lab. Provision of the brief introduction gives students a theoretical knowledge of the topic. Concepts towards the hardware knowledge can also be provided through the introduction. Introduction to basic concepts like network architecture, IP addressing, routing protocols etc can be delivered.
In the laboratory students make use of many tools such as switches, routers, Ethernet cables firewalls, wireless routers with access points etc are provided as simulation. After every chapter simulated and taught assignments are assigned for practice.
The primary design implementation of the system is done on WWW which uses regular web browser as a UI (User Interface). The browser itself gives an access to the virtual lab using appropriate credentials. The entire lab is run on browser from where users access the lab at any point of time.
The whole system comprises of four major pillars namely, Application server, Database, Web Server and other equipments as per requirements to carry out particular experiment. Application server, equipments and web servers are connected to each other by Ethernet cable which accesses the TCP/IP protocol for communication.
The required databases are installed in the particular application server connected to the web server which is responsible for handling the data and producing it as per user requirement. Web pages which provide the UI are handled by the web servers and executed on the browser. The application server is responsible to handle the physical equipments. Basic to the whole implementation is the configuration of the above systems so as to produce the desired output which includes all the physical equipments.
Concluding, this lab provides an interactive Distance learning opportunity for many students. Saves time, space, work force, safety and economic constraints that a real world physical lab appoints on the learning process as whole.
This lab provides a technological basis for Interactive Distance Laboratory Education. It releases some of the time, space, work force, safety and economic constrains that a traditional physical laboratory imposes on educational institutions.
More future work is planned for the fulfillment of the lab. Implementation of networking security and multimedia networking can be implemented for more advanced features to be implemented.