Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.
Within the higher education domain, there is a prevalent belief that e-learning, virtual classroom and tele-education are essential requirements for the long-term effectiveness and success of educational institutions. Many information technologies have been adopted to assist studying and learning remotely and are hence potentially beneficial to students, teachers and educational providers. For educational providers, the benefits are that there are no physical or geographical limits to the number of students that can be enrolled in a course of study. However, within the field of network technology, students must actually use network devices during their studies. This is important not only because it significantly enhances student learning, but also within this field, employers expect students to have practical ‗hands-on‘ experience. Software simulators are available but they cannot provide students with the necessary practical experience of connecting together the physical devices. Despite the requirements to provide a ‗hands-on' approach it effectively eliminates remote on-line students. Edith Cowan University (ECU) invested over AUD$350,000 in dedicated network teaching laboratories, which are considered to be of a 'world-class' standard. An access server has been used to provide remote students with access to this equipment. Significantly it is also possible to view the actual network devices by means of a webcam. Whilst remote access to equipment has been possible students only interact via a computer screen. This work allows students to interact by means of Webcam (visual) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (audio). Work to date has consisted of establishing the appropriate infrastructure and testing the communication links. Further trials are planned for semester 2, 2008. Traditional remote access can only operate via Command Line Interface (CLI), this can be difficult for many students to practice and gain experience in computer network and internetworking. In effect on-line students will be able to conduct their workshops on a remotely located 'world class' network laboratory. For students, the on-line curriculum is available twenty four hours a day; there is typically on-line support, and software is now available allowing access to recorded lectures.