How to deliver practical IT courses with a basic computer lab

We have recorded a webinar on how to deliver practical IT courses with a basic computer lab

The purpose of this webinar is to encourage more colleges to offer practical IT courses. As you can see in there is a massive demand for IT professionals out there. However, we saw that there are just not enough colleges that offer practical IT courses. According to our research, there are 35 colleges in New South Wales offering IT courses and only 13 of them had more than seven practical units. Since the core units are mainly theory based, in order to offer a practical learning experience, colleges will need to choose more practical elective units.

Open College released a report that says the information technology sector has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the world in the last decade. In Australia alone, IT industry grew by over 20 percent in 2018. As daily processes are really becoming more and more digitalised, the demand for IT specialists will only continue to increase.

Personally, we want to see more graduates out there that we could hire. It’s such a struggle for us to recruit the right candidates. They show up to the interview with their advanced diploma in IT or even a Master degree in IT. But they really struggle with a basic level one IT support tasks. We do hope that this webinar will encourage some of you to offer more practical IT courses.

Let’s start with the first question “How to deliver practical ICT units with the latest technology available and with computers that you already have”. When I say practical IT units, I’m talking about units like ICTNWK529, which is “install and manage complex IT networks and ICTNWK536 “Plan, implement and test enterprise communication solutions”. Those two are great for providing a real learning experience for students who want to become a network engineer or systems administrator. These units are designed to deliver hands-on skills.

However, to offer such practical IT unit, colleges require a complex lab setup that supports multiple technical components such as running in several operating systems within the lab at the same time, like Microsoft Windows Server and Linux distributions. Then we require worldwide connectivity simulations between different sites. For example, simulation of a head office network connected down with a bunch of branch offices, which consists of testing numerous authentication and encryption protocols used to protect data at rest or transit.

This complex lab setup then needs to facilitate to every individual student so they can work independently on a project demonstrating their performance and knowledge. As units cannot be completed within one school hour, this lab needs to accommodate a continuous learning experience through the term. So good news is that with a virtual lab even if you have refurbished classroom computers and monolithic network designs, students will be able to access their virtual lab environments as long as they have a web browser and access to the internet.

When you access a virtual lab, sharing of the lab environment will become things of the past. That means that colleges will no longer need to refresh the labs after being used by the previous student. And each student will get their own individual lap environment so they can continue their assignment at home from where they left it in a class.

We know some people mix up a virtual lab with cloud-based applications.  The cloud-based application is a software offered by a service provider. For example, your accounting software in a cloud. Where the virtual computer lab could consist set of applications, various operating systems and complex network designs which are contextualized to satisfy the training package.

Our virtual computer lab is a one-stop cloud solution where you can access the complex systems to deliver practical units. So where can you find this virtual computer lab? Well, it’s in eduLAB. eduLAB is a virtual computer lab that offers the latest technology with predesigned real-life scenarios in one portal. Importantly, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

How much of the capital investment would we need to facilitate such complex lab setup with physical equipment? tens of thousands of dollars? I hope it’s not hundreds of thousand dollars. Well, with eduLAB, we have pay-as-you-grow model which is suitable for any college size.

A few for our clients have shared their concern in regards to inconsistency in their IT class delivery. Trainers were using applications and learning resources that they familiar with. As a result, when a new train comes, students who were learning from different resources and these brought inconsistency in their learning outcomes.  Over the years. Learning management systems or LMS brought some level of consistency for theory-based resources. It allows trainers to access the same learning resources and monitor performance of the learners.

So, let’s ask ourselves what would you need to manage the lab environment that brings consistency in the practical delivery of component? For example, performance evidence in ICTWEB502 unit says “produce dynamic web pages that include both client and server-side dynamic content”. This can be executed by using classic ASP, Django or NodeJS framework. We see that web development is really one of the fastest-changing technology. That means if your trainer happens to be familiar with the classic ASP framework and chooses to use it in the classroom, it’s not going to help much to students to be a job ready.

The college should be able to choose a technology that is in high demand on the market and offer it to the students as a learning tool. If a trainer is not familiar with the technology chosen by the college, the trainer should be able to do some professional development and deliver the class. It should not be the other way around. For this reason, we embedded a lab management system into the eduLAB. eduLAB consolidates all the lab requirements for teaching and learning in one portal. Once the master lab environment is designed, it will be provisioned to all students and the relevant trainers. Trainers and students will then share the same lab environment complete in assessment tools. And this is how you could bring consistency in I.T. delivery regardless of the trainer.

Last but not least, how to support your students to become job-ready graduates. First of all, here’s my question for you. Will it be possible for an education provider to make students job-ready, graduates? Well, I think the work has to be done for both ends students and the education providers. When I was 19, I accompanied my father to his job interview. I was just fresh from high school, but I was quite familiar with the technology in the workplace. At the end of the interview, I got a job and not my dad. It was simply because I was very interested in IT. I must say, I spend lots of time in front of the computer fiddling around and trying different things. And before I knew it, I was job ready. However, my dad was the one who provided me with the right playground for me to focus on IT. Oh, and in the end, my dad got a job as well. So, it was all good.

If a student is willing to spend time and energy in the right IT learning environment, this will help the student to flourish and become job ready. What would be the right learning environment for practice in IT? Julie Riley, a learning designer at Harvard University, said. “People learn best when they are interacting more with material and with each other”. For this very reason, she created a flexible learning environment where the technology in the room is designed to complement the range of users.

For IT students, colleges can provide a flexible learning place where a complex lab setup can become their virtual sandbox. In this sandbox, they could freely make errors while mastering their IT skills. When they are in the workplace, they would know how to avoid making mistakes. In eduLAB environment, students could safely do some hacking without compromising any damage to the college network system. Students are permitted to go wild in the virtual world.

So how to support your students to become job-ready graduates? My answer would be to provide them with a safe lab environment with eduLAB.

Thank you, everyone, for joining the webinar today. I hope the information provided encouraged you to offer a practical IT course. And if it did, you have to try eduLAB.

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