Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Information Technology

School

School of Computer and Security Science

Faculty

Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Dr. Ken Fowle

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Dr. Stanislaw Paul Maj

Third Advisor

Dr. David Veal

Abstract

Computer network technology and the Internet grew rapidly in recent years. Their growth created a large demand from industry for the development of IT and internetworking professionals. These professionals need to be equipped with both technical hands-on skills and non-technical or soft skills. In order to supply new professionals to the industry, educational institutions need to address these skills training in their curricula. Technical hands-on skills in internetworking education can be emphasised through the practical use of equipment in classrooms. The provision of the networking equipment to the internetworking students is a challenge. Particularly, university students in developing countries may find that this equipment is ineffectively provided by their teaching institutions, because of the expense. Modern online learning tools, such as remote access laboratories, may be used to address this need. However, the provision of such tools will also need to concentrate upon the pedagogical values. In addition, traditional remote access laboratories provide only text-based access, which was originally designed for highly professional use. Novice students may struggle with learning in these virtual environments, especially when the physical equipment is not available locally. Furthermore, non-technical skills or soft skills are social skills that should not be neglected in graduates’ future workplaces. A traditional model of developing soft skills that was used in face-to-face classroom may not be as effective when applied in an online classroom. Research on students’ opinions about their soft skills development during attending internetworking courses is needed to be conducted. In order to address both research needs, this study was focused on two research aspects related to online learning in internetworking education. The first focus was on research into providing a suitable technical learning environment to distance internetworking students. The second focus was on the students’ opinions about their non-technical skills development. To provide a close equivalent of a face-to-face internetworking learning environment to remote students in Thailand, a transformation of a local internetworking laboratory was conducted. A new multimedia online learning environment integrated pedagogically-rich tools such as state model diagrams (SMDs), a real-time video streaming of equipment and a voice communication tool. Mixed research data were gathered from remote online and local student participants. The remote online participants were invited to use the new learning environment developed in this study. Qualitative research data were collected from twelve remote online students after their trial usage. Concurrently, another set of research data were collected from local students asking their opinion about the development of soft skills in the internetworking course. There were sixty six participants in this second set of research data. Although the research data was limited, restricting the researcher’s ability to generalise, it can be concluded that the provision of multimedia tools in an online internetworking learning environment was beneficial to distant students. The superiority of the traditional physical internetworking laboratory cannot be overlooked; however, the remote laboratory could be used as a supplementary self-practice tool. A concrete learning element such as a real-time video stream and diagrams simplified students learning processes in the virtual environment. Faster communication with the remote instructors and the equipment are also critical factors for a remote access network to be successful. However, unlike the face-to-face laboratory, the future challenge of the online laboratory will creating materials which will encourage students to build soft skills in their laboratory sessions.

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