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Abstract -- The Educational Demands of Networking Development in Lithuania Education Track
D3: New Initiatives To Support School Networking

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The Educational Demands of Networking Development in Lithuania

Reklaitis, Vytautas ( vytas@pit.ktu.lt)
Strom, Jim ( j.strom@doc.mmu.ac.uk)


Lithuania realised the importance of networking in the process of conversion to a new market economy. Computer networking is fast becoming an essential part of academic, government and business practice. Global access to IT resources plays a vital role in the process of recovery and sustainable development. A number of factors reflect the present situation of IT development in Lithuania. Despite the struggle for independence, the level of computer literacy in the country is quite high. Universities such as Kaunas University of Technology (KUT), Vilnius University and Vilnius Technical University supply graduates of computer science and applied mathematics as engineers and programmers. The computing facilities currently used by these institutions together with other industrial and commercial enterprises are mainly PCs. LAN technology is now starting to play an important strategic role in building IT resources in these organisations. Outside of local resources, the country is starting to build up its wide area communications facilities. The legacy of limited data rate links however, coupled with a general lack of UNIX-based experience, is affecting the achievement of a data communications infrastructure sufficient to support TCP/IP based network services on a national basis. Furthermore from a financial viewpoint there is a great lack of investment due to shortages in budgets and in general the pace of development is very much controlled by the economic climate within the country. However, currently both commercial and government bodies are becoming very active in seeking wide area connectivity, particularly with links with Internet. In terms of academic networking, a number of pioneering projects have been carried out by academic and research institutions in Lithuania resulting in the formation of LITNET (LIThuanian academic and research NETwork), integrated within the broader BALTnet programme. We now witness the rapid growth of a Lithuanian academic network which, through a natural progression of Internet service development, will lead to the establishment of local information services based on LITNET servers. As networking technology becomes established in Lithuania, it brings with it an urgent requirement to build up local technical support and development expertise. It is very important to stimulate local human resources with the necessary skills to design, develop and manage networks, particularly with local networks within organisations but also with wide area connectivity. As a result there is a demand for technical and software development expertise for which specialised educational computing programmes need to be established. We distinguish two kinds of networking education: professional development and public awareness. We consider the primary need is for the professional development of graduates with the necessary skills to support local network facilities within national enterprises. However with the expansion of the national networking infrastructure comes an equally important need for user awareness and training in network use. A key educational development, addressed in this paper, was carried out at KUT under an EC TEMPUS Joint European Project (JEP 4840). The 3-year project, set up in 1992, has established new curricula for the teaching of computer networking for students of the Informatics Faculty seeking a Computer Science degree. The project enabled KUT to achieve a progressive development of resources whereby a totally new Computer Network Teaching Laboratory(CNTL) has been created.. The CNTL cluster was designed however not simply as a workgroup LAN but rather as a network teaching environment, providing a wide range of teaching facilities to support workgroup peer-to-peer design up to distributed systems and network management. To facilitate this in a flexible manner and also to support a professional development, the curriculum has been structured to represent an embodiment of two study themes: software development and technological development, which reflect the national need for the build up of a professional workforce capable of supporting the rapid deployment of local and wide area network facilities.