TANet: Taiwan Academic Network

Prof. S. S. Tseng
Department of Computer and Information Science
National Chiao-Tung University

Lung-Sheng Su
En-Huei Chao
Programmers, Computer Center, Ministry of Education

1. Introduction

In June 1994, the Executive Yuan organized a steering committee of NII to set up a "National Information Infrastructure Plan" and establish task forces to build a national information superhighway. Its goal is to integrate the effort of government and investment from private enterprises for developing all applications related to a computer and high-speed network, and to train professionals for research and development, design and applications. Among the 17 projects that have first priority, the plan "E-mail to Secondary Schools" is one of the most important projects proposed by the Ministry of Education (MOE). We want to provide Internet access services to all levels of schools. Therefore, the topology of TANet (Taiwan Academic Network) will be expanded from two-layer to three-layer, and its backbone will be properly adjusted. This plan will be integrated with another plan, "Improvement of Informational Technology Education for all Levels of Schools" to upgrade the standards of information education. Through these plans, there will be a great improvement of the entire information technology environment in our country.

This article describes the support and assistance of computer utilities for the information network geared toward information technology education in compulsory education; it illustrates mainly the networking deployment in compulsory education and the networking services. First of all, the Internet service providers in Taiwan will be introduced, next the topology of TANet will be presented, then how networking resources assist the information technology education in compulsory education will be briefly illustrated, and last, the future prospects of the information technology education in compulsory education, the networking applications and services will be discussed.

2. Three major Internet service providers in Taiwan

2.1 TANet

In Taiwan, there are three major Internet service providers: TANet, HiNet, and Seednet. TANet was built by the Ministry of Education's Computer Center (MOECC) and some national universities in July 1990 to establish a common national academic network infrastructure and to support research and academic institutes in Taiwan. Because of its open strategy using Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) as the networking protocol, the number of networking users among campuses is swelling rapidly. The topology of TANet is basically a ring/mesh using intelligent routers to interconnect high-speed leased circuits/local area networks (LANs) where a high-speed T1 (1.544 Mbps) link is installed among regional network centers. At present, there are 11 regional network service centers, which are run by 11 national universities (Figure 1). A T1 international link bandwidth between the MOECC and SprintLink replaced the previous 512 Kbps link in October 1995. Although the TANet backbone is basically using TCP/IP protocol, all regional networks may support multi-protocols and additional facilities including X.25 transport or dial-up services, on a local basis, in accordance with regional requirements [3].

Currently, TANet applications focus on Internet-based applications and their localization. Many Chinese information applications are introduced and developed on TANet, such as the bulletin board system (BBS), NetNews, Wide Area Information Servers, Internet Relay Chat, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), e-mail, Archie, WWW and Gopher, etc. (Figure 2). On campus networks, there are public hot lines, public domains, news groups, online discussions, online library catalogs, electronic databases, electronic magazines, etc. [7] for students and teachers to share their research and experience; in the meantime, TANet has become a public medium helping to improve problem-solving in education.

TANet connects more than 290 sites, including all universities and colleges, research organizations, and a few senior high schools and vocational schools (Figure 3). As for junior high schools and primary schools, more than 21 cities/counties such as the Provincial Education Department, Hsinchu City, Taichung County, Tainan City, and Kaohsiung City are now establishing District Education Computer Networks and installing systems, such as BBS and Gopher, with provincial information networks on them. Also, Kaohsiung County government is establishing an educational administration network that connects many primary schools to TANet, aiming to promote information technology education. It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 nodes on the TANet, and more than 250,000 users per day. These efforts are to provide all teachers, students, and educational administrators a comprehensive network to access resources they need and to exchange all kinds of information with one another.

2.2 HiNet

The HiNet is a network that provides Internet access to all commercial enterprises and private users in Taiwan. It was established in March 1994 by the Data Communications Institute (DCI) of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The DCI completed the plan of management of radio frequency spectrum in April 1995 and set up a testbed of high-speed broadband network in Hsin-Chu Science Industrial Park in June 1995. It will continue to set up more testbeds in Taipei, Taichung and Kaoshiung areas. So far, HiNet has 16 nodes in Taiwan. Its backbone is a frame relay network, it has a T1 link to the U.S. Internet, and connects TANet by frame relay with 1.544 mbps and connects Seednet by T1 leased line. Figure 4 shows the connectivity between HiNet, Seednet and TANet. As of the end of 1995, there were more than 3,000 lines open for dial-up connection and 321 leased lines. The growth rate is about 44 percent per month. Therefore, DCI proposes a budget of more than $10 million for developing HiNet every year.

2.3 Seednet

In 1988, a project for Seednet was put into practice by the Institute for Information Industry as an R&D network in the industry in Taiwan. Seednet involves five service centers situated separately in the cities of Taipei, Tao-Yuan, Hsinchu, Taichung and Kaoshiung, linking one another with T1 leased line with X.25 spare. It has a budget of $18 million every year for development. There were over 10,000 leased line/x.25 connecting with the Seednet by the end of 1995. It grows by more than 15 percent each month.

3."E-mail to Secondary Schools" project

3.1 The topology of TANet

To promote the project "E-mail to Secondary Schools," we have refined our original TANet backbone topology from a two-layer structure to a three-layer structure. After constructing campus networks for all universities, research institutes and colleges, MOE is planning to construct campus networks for K-12 to connect TANet, and to make available the resources on TANet to all K-12 students. In addition, we are trying to build a national education information network system for K-12 students [6].

Once the above computing environment is built, we can help students, teachers and all civilians through E-mail and distance education on networks to access various permanent study databases, library information, test samples database and CAI software; additionally, they can hold discussions with one another and exchange instructions to make learning interactive, and establish a permanent study environment suiting various people's needs. Furthermore, to make mutual communication easier between Taiwan and mainland China, we are studying approaches to integrate Chinese text files to consolidate the different Chinese character patterns.

The topology of TANet is as follows: [8]

3.2 University campus network

As mentioned above, we realize that campus networks play an important role in building a good teaching and research environment. We will use the case of National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) as an example.

National Chiao-Tung is a noted university, especially in science and technology. In 1989, we established a campus network, which is the first campus network in Taiwan based on FDDI-dual-ring backbone. Using the intelligent FDDI routers, this network connects all the departmental building LANs. Moreover, in the next year, this network will expand to connect all the dorms. Accordingly, we were selected by the MOE in 1990 as the Regional Network Center responsible for the services and access of Internet in Hsinchu and Miaoli. Currently, in the NCTU campus network, there are 3 FDDI rings, 12 FDDI routers, 160 Ethernet segments and over 7,000 nodes (Figure 5). In addition, several applications, such as distance learning, video-on-demand and multimedia databases have been established. In the future, we are planning to improve the network backbone bandwidth by introducing the ATM switch. A new topology of the proposed campus network is shown in Figure 6.

According to the network plan mentioned above, our strategy is to establish promoting organizations and enlarge the functions of the computer center on campus.

3.3 District education network

To establish a district education network center for each county or city is the first action of the "E-mail to Secondary Schools" project. By establishing district education network centers in each county or city, all district education networks can be easily combined with TANet to form a well-constructed Education and Research Network in the future (Figure 7).

Up to the present, we have built 21 district education network centers to provide local dial-up services to access the resources on the network. By the end of this year, there will be 6 more district education network centers built, and overall there will be 27 centers running in all 25 counties and cities in Taiwan.

A district education network center has been established under the support of the experienced TANet regional network centers and is coordinated with the educational bureau of each county or city. In each network center, a BBS, Gopher and electronic mail system will be installed, as well as a WWW server. In the long term, many databases concerned with education, research and educational administration (local and national) will be established on district education networks step by step.

At the beginning, all teachers and students are encouraged to access those applications on the local district education network center via dial-up. Also, district network centers will provide their experience in building networks to other local schools and encourage those schools to establish their own campus networks. Moreover, they will teach users how to access the Internet and introduce applications on the Internet to stimulate all teachers to change their traditional methods of instruction.

3.4 High school campus network

The campus network built in Taipei Municipal Chen-Kuao Senior High School illustrates how a campus network is built in a secondary school (Figure 8). Its campus network contains a wide area network and a LAN. Its LAN connects its computer classrooms and provides a terminal server for dial-up users. Right now, the school has its own WWW and bulletin board system.

4. Resources for K-12 on TANet

There are many resources for K-12 teachers and students on TANet, including bibliographic information, quiz banks, CAI coursewares, etc.

4.1. Bibliographic information

At present, there are 2,616 libraries in our country, including a national library, public libraries, university and college libraries, school libraries, and special libraries [4]. Statistics concerning each type of library and library automation status are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Library statistics and automation status of Taiwan (by type)

Type                          Number  Established  Planned
----------------------------------------------------------
National library                 1       100%
Public libraries               439        25%        16%
Univ. & jr. college libraries  130        85%         7%
Senior high school libraries   307        39%        41%
Junior high school libraries   384        15%        10%
Elementary school libraries    963        12%        N/A
Special libraries              392        N/A        N/A

Total                        2,616
----------------------------------------------------------

In the last decade, most university and college libraries had already established their own library automation systems, while the libraries in high schools and the county cultural centers have just set up their library automation systems in the past three years. It is known that 92 percent of the university and college libraries in Taiwan have already established their integrated automation systems and have provided their online public access catalog (OPAC) to their readers through TANet [5].

As for junior colleges, according to an investigation report by the Ministry of Education, about 77 percent of junior college libraries have set up library automation systems and about 15 percent of them were developed by the school's teachers. About 26 percent of library automation systems are run on minicomputers, 64 percent are run on personal computers [1].

As for library automation in high schools, we have more than 200 high schools, each of which has about 35,000 titles on average. Thus PC-based systems seem to be good enough to provide satisfactory services. Therefore, all except two schools, the Ming-Dao High School (in Taichung) and the Taipei Municipal First Girls' Senior High School, use PC-based systems [2].

In 1987, the National Bibliographic Information Network (NBINet), established by the National Central Library (NCL) was to gather all Chinese bibliographic records. From 1987 to 1993, the number of bibliographic records grew slowly. To increase the applications of TANet and enhance the sharing of resources among libraries, the MOECC organized the Bibliographic Resources Sharing Working Group in March 1993. The number of bibliographic records on NBINet grew by 167 percent to reach 449,532 in June 1994. By July 1995, it further increased to 1,242,664 (some records are duplicates), and became the largest Chinese bibliographic database in Taiwan.

Since most university and college libraries provide OPAC searching service through TANet, the bibliographic databases can be easily accessed through Internet and campus networks. In addition, Chinese databases, which include the Chinese journal and periodical index database, the government publications catalog database, contemporary literature and historical data image database, contemporary artistic works database etc., have also been created by NCL and some university libraries. This information can be retrieved with the WWW systems through Internet. The uniform resource locator (URL) of the NCL home page is http://192.83.187.7/. Some journal/periodical current contents databases and dissertation bibliographic databases have also been created by NTHU and NCCU, respectively. The URL for NTHU is http://www.lib.nthu.edu.tw, and the domain name of the NCCU library OPAC system is cculais.nccu.edu.tw.

4.2 Comprehensive quiz banks for teachers

The purpose of building the quiz banks is to provide teachers in every subject basic teaching assistant resources and to reduce work loads for teachers while they are preparing tests. It is hoped that by using the quiz banks, teachers can put time and energy into improving the quality of tests. The contents of the quiz banks include subjects of junior high schools, such as Chinese, English, math, and chemistry. By this system, past methods of managing quiz banks and processing tests can be improved, and all quiz banks in every subject can be well organized. Using various methods of testing, teachers can efficiently use the test resources to compose a test rapidly, while upgrading the quality of testing and attaining its purpose of assisting instruction. This system can be accessed by Gopher to query contents of quiz banks and also can be retrieved by FTP on the network.

4.3 CAI courseware

To improve instructional performance, CAI courseware is developed on the network to make access easy and to enhance computer capability for all teachers. To upgrade the quality of CAI courseware, the MOE develops courseware according to curricular standards and instructional goals by collaborating with subject teachers because of their expertise and with industries because of their innovative technology. Industries are highly encouraged to join in the development of CAI courseware to aggressively expedite its development.

Currently, the MOECC has published six easy-to-learn CD titles of CAI courseware. The subjects include automobile and home appliance maintenance, hairdressing, baking, and skin care and makeup. This courseware is introduced on the WWW and also can be retrieved from the following FTP sites:

5. Conclusion

To construct campus networks to connect TANet and make its resources available to all K-12 students, we have proposed an action plan, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Provide a fundamental environment for fast access and information exchange to all teachers and students. We plan to make it possible for 30 percent and 60 percent of students in secondary and primary schools to use e-mail and network resources before 1998 and 2000, respectively. We also plan to establish an information services system for secondary and primary schools to change the traditional teaching model. After 2000, we will make it possible for 80 percent of students in secondary and primary schools to use e-mail and network resources, and establish an overall service center as well as one education network center for each circuit area.
  2. Establish various educational databases and promote networking applications such as an educational resources database, national quiz banks, a national student record exchange database, a national bibliographic information system and digitized curricular database, etc., to be accessed by the public and provide long-distance learning activities on the network, thus building a good lifelong learning environment for all civilians of the whole country.
  3. Combine video and audio instructional facilities and multimedia CAI courseware to upgrade instructional quality and provide students a voluntary learning environment, and further, to change the traditional, one-way interactive attitude between teachers and students while giving instruction.

References

  1. Department of Vocational Education, Ministry of Education, "The Investigation Report of College and Junior College Libraries," pp. 42-49, May 1995.
  2. Hu, Nacy O-Lan et al., "The Requests for Proposal of Integrated Library Automation in High School Libraries," pp. 7-17, March 1993.
  3. Ministry of Education Computer Center, "TANet," December 1995.
  4. National Central Library, ed., "Library Statistics of Taiwan-Fukien Area, 1991," pp. 38-39, December 1992.
  5. Su, Lung-Sheng, "Overview of Library Automation in Taiwan," Ministry of Education Computer Center Newsletter, April 1995.
  6. Tseng, Shian-Shyong, "Construct Computerized Campus to Lay the NII Foundation," INet'95 Conference Proceedings, Volume I, 27-30 June 1995.
  7. Tseng, Shian-Shyong, "TANet Future Perspectives," TANet Networking Seminar Papers, National Central University, April 1994.
  8. Tseng, Shian-Shyong Jin-Ho Liu, "New Architecture of Computerized Educational Environment," Ministry of Education Computer Center Newsletter, November 1994.