School of Information Studies I-Lab moves ahead at warp speed
School of Information Studies I-Lab moves ahead at warp speedApril 08, 2004Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
When students in the School of Information Studies returned to campus for the Spring 2004 semester, they were greeted by a completely renovated I-Lab, the school’s computer instructional lab located in Room 4-207 of the Center for Science and Technology. Immediately apparent were the new double-screen flat monitors-the only place on campus where DoubleSight Displays dual-monitor systems are available for use by students.
Not so noticeable to the casual observer are the changes in the lab’s computer systems and network. The black computer towers look similar to the I-Lab’s old computers, except that the new towers house Dell Optiplex 3 GHz Pentium IV systems, two hard drives, one gigabyte of RAM, and the hottest virtual machine software on the market-VMware Workstation 4. In addition, the computers will soon be connected to the school’s back-end servers through gigabit Ethernet and a network storage system with a capacity of more than one terabyte. When the network is completed in April, the I-Lab will be the only place on campus with gigabit Ethernet connections to desktop computers.
“Over the years, we have discovered that the best approach to technology education requires a balance between classroom teaching and experiential learning,” says David Molta, assistant dean for technology integration in the IST. “These new lab facilities will help students learn by doing, using state-of-the art software and hardware.”
The dual-monitor system and the VMware enable students to install, configure and manage multiple operating systems on one computer. For example, a student can configure a Windows XP client in one window that is communicating with a Windows 2000 operating system in a second window – which can simultaneously be talking to a server running under Linux in a third window. The student can interconnect all three systems a virtual network environment.
“The dual monitors enable students to immediately see the effects of their work while also giving them a visual separation of the different worlds they have created within their virtual network,” says Jeffrey Owens, IST laboratory manager. “In addition, the system enables students to experiment with their networks, as well as save and later retrieve their work, without damaging the underlying operating system and configuration of the lab computers.”
The I-Lab upgrade and upgrades to the school’s Information Technology Experiential Learning Lab (ITELL), located in Room 2-211 of the Center for Science and Technology, are part of an overall strategy to expand curriculum offerings that provide students with applied technology skills to help them better compete in today’s job market. ITELL is equipped with a range of computer and network hardware, including switches, routers, wireless access points, a full-structured wiring system, and the latest network analysis software from Wild Packets and AirMagnet.
“ITELL is designed to give students hands-on experience with the hardware and teach them everything from simple networking and the fundamentals of routing and switching to setting up advanced, global network systems,” Owens says. “They come here to experiment, play and learn. They leave with the skills they need to secure positions in some of the world’s largest telecommunications corporations.”