Yuri V. Demchenko <firstname.lastname@example.org>
National Technical University of Ukraine
Society's demand for professional education in modern networking information technologies, mainly caused by the rapid development of the Internet in Ukraine, initiated pioneering work in the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) department at Kiev Polytechnic Institute (KPI). This work focuses on developing an educational course and instructional methodology for teaching computer networking and Internet information technologies. Some interesting results and problems encountered during implementation of these courses are discussed in the paper. The main principles of developing an instructional methodology for teaching in a networked information environment have been formulated and are also discussed in the paper.
The Internet eliminates boundaries and distance in the dissemination of new technologies. But still there are many differences between studying networking information technologies and the Internet under local conditions and studying it in the developed countries. It was impossible to duplicate the experience of some Western universities, given the poor communication infrastructure and information resources locally available. We should exploit the new approach to learn from the Internet and to contribute to the building up of our information infrastructure and resources.
The emerging information society is characterized by the wide use of modern computer communications technologies, which provides access to a variety of different information resources distributed over global networks. The recent G7 summit of senior government ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States, held in Brussels in February 1995, has adopted plans for creating a basic set of rules for the global information infrastructure (GII) that will play a key role in developing the global "open information society" (OIS), defined at the summit as a knowledge-based society. The G7 declared their intentions to welcome the participation of developing and technologically emerging countries in building GII and developing its information contents to provide them with "the chance to fully participate in this process as it will open opportunities for them to leapfrog through stages of technology development and to stimulate social and economic development" .
An important role in Ukraine's participation in GII development and creating elements of the open information society will belong to the university's academic and research community. The knowledge-based economy demands greater openness and creativity in schools and universities, and the acquisition of new skills and adaptability through life-long training. An open approach to education that combines local and national cultures and promotes mutual understanding between all people is required. Access must therefore be tackled at its roots by providing citizens with the tools to learn in an information society [1, 2].
Successful implementation of GII elements in Ukraine and its future sustainability requires special attention to professional education in networking information technologies and concurrent training and user support activities, which will contribute to training the work force/specialists for to operate in all society's important areas of activity: academic, industrial, and business.
Currently, the most notable activities in Ukraine are focused on building a regional networking infrastructure for the academic and research communities in the framework of numerous state and international projects . Further development of the networking and information infrastructure in Ukraine will demand the education of specialists in computer networking and communications technologies and wide user training and support.
As a result of a deep understanding of the importance of education and training in the emerging new technologies, many organizations, companies, and foundations in Ukraine have started different programs and projects for the development of educational and training courses oriented toward the wide dissemination of the new knowledge and the creation of a critical mass of specialists for the sustainable development of the new technologies. Training and user support are the obligatory components of all projects on Internet programs in Ukraine, funded by the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), the International Eurasia Foundation (IEF), and IREX. Special projects on the development of a distance learning model for training in Internet technologies and services are supported by UNESCO . Still, professional education on the Internet and networking IT is only achievable in the leading organizations and universities.
In part, the needs of developing an Internet infrastructure are satisfied by training small groups of Internet node administrators through different international workshops and seminars such as INET workshops, TERENA, NATO, and CEENet workshops on advanced networking technologies.
However, it does not solve the problem of preparing specialists for important areas of economic activity or preparing different companies that are starting to implement new Internet/intranet technologies for smooth integration into the world economy and business practices.
A pilot project on the development of educational courses and instructional methodology for teaching computer networking and Internet information technologies was started by the CAD Department at KPI because of the existing demands of Internet and networking information technologies development in Ukraine. The project is based on effective utilization of existing professional resources and specialists in modern networking technologies and the Internet at KPI, where there is experience in campus and regional network building as well as Internet training courses and materials development.
The project has two parts: professional education in modern networking and information technologies, and training on the Internet and service applications for different categories of users. This approach reflects the two directions in worldwide implementation of new technologies: professional education that creates and strengthens a sustainable basis (academic and research) for implementation of new technologies, and short term training and continuous professional retraining to satisfy the urgent demands in dissemination of the new technologies among wide groups of users.
The proposed paper discusses the results of a two-year project on the development of an educational course and instructional methodology of teaching Interment/intent networking and information technologies. The development and implementation of the new approach in education that combines cooperative and contributive learning models has allowed us to organize the educational process in real conditions of deep economical crisis and the restructuring of the economy, with very limited government support existing for educational implementation of new technologies.
A pilot group of 50 first-year engineering students started their education in September 1995 in the CAD Department of KPI. Some of them will continue for a master's degree through May 1997 and do master's theses on the Internet and networking information technologies-related topics. Also, they will be engaged in the development of a complete educational course on a technical and information base.
The educational program is intended to give students solid technical knowledge and beginning project design experience in computer networking technologies. Therefore, the pilot program is composed of three basic courses: Computer Networking, Internet Working and Internet/intranet Information Technologies--furnishing the necessary background for designing corporate and/or campus computer information networks.
The program includes the following specialized courses on computer networking and networking information technologies that can be developed with existing information and technical background. They require a minimum of additional funding and are the geared for local conditions:
The rapid development of modern networking technologies required a change in course content of more than 40 percent during the second year of our program as well as changes in educational project themes. Information about new technologies and standards reach the students through lectures, classes and via the departmental server.
The prospective program development will cover all components of the new Internet/intranet technologies, including the following campus or corporate network services:
All courses use instructional and computer presentation materials that are distributed among students in paper and/or electronic form. Some materials are available on the educational WWW server. One of the purposes of such work is to create an initial base of instructional and educational materials and to adopt and test Russian/Ukrainian terminology in real lecturing and educational project development.
Students will acquire practical experience in development and design real networks for actual academic and educational institutions, including development of necessary information services for the operational needs of given organizations and/or user groups. Also, the installation of services and pilot information resource development is performed on a special educational laboratory base.
The two main components of these complex educational projects are network infrastructure design, and information server structure and content development. Projects are developed by groups of three or four students and include all necessary components of real networking project design for the campus or company's network, including teamwork organization of the project group and
Project topics can be chosen from an existing list or proposed by the students themselves. Most developed WWW server contents were devoted to the department's first two projects.
Examples of student Web pages developed during the current semester are listed below:
During the design phase, all projects have their home pages on the educational WWW server in the CAD department in special working directories (reference page ). After completing and final editing by webmasters, Web pages or templates are moved to their final destination on the departmental WWW server and the other two mentioned servers. Original works are left on their working directories for future use by other students as templates. Thus, with such instructional methodology, most students are involved in the development of both the course and creation of the information resources.
Experiences of the 1995/1996 academic year have demonstrated the effectiveness of this organization of student work. Student projects in the 1996/1997 academic year have a more practical orientation, either the design of different corporate networks or projects geared toward students' future employment. This year's students have the possibility of using the popular CACI COMNET III network modeling software in their project design for modeling network components and traffic flow.
Second-year master's students contribute to the development of the educational and information base for new courses. A complete information library on Internet networking and information technologies (including HTML, CGI, HTTP, RFC and other standards, application software and accessories, etc.) was established and is now on the educational server and accessible to students via FTP or WWW.
During the first year of the project, five graduate student theses were devoted to the Internet and related topics. Also, four bachelor's degree projects were devoted to the development of components of KPI's campuswide information system (CWIS), the gateway between the Fidonet user group and Majordomo mailing lists, the Ukrainian WWW resources index database, and Java graphics presentation.
Master's research work is devoted to the most current Internet information technologies and WWW application, including
Research topics are worked out in cooperation with students in the first and second years of the master's program so that there is continuity of investigation and development of these topics in the department.
The results of the intermediate phase of pilot project can be stated as follows:
To provide an efficient tool for testing students' knowledge and for feedback to be used for course revision and improvement, the examination test system was developed. Questionnaires on computer networking technologies have 50 questions (randomly chosen from the base of more than 100 questions with more than 1,000 linked statements) covering all key items of the course. This questionnaire has now attracted wide interest among commercial companies. If officially adopted, such a test system could be used for specialists' certification for staff education and training management needs. The demo version of the examination system will be accessible in the near future via the departmental WWW.
One of the interesting secondary results in teaching such a course, mainly based on English-language manuals and handbooks, is the increased interest among students to learn and enhance their knowledge of English. All the educational project's home pages have their presentations in English and Russian/Ukrainian, but some documents have only their original presentation either in Ukrainian or Russian. To properly solve the language and Cyrillic encoding problems in the Internet application, special research work was started in the department .
The requirement for all students to use Russian or Ukrainian in textual materials in both the pioneer course and for diploma projects sometimes conflicted with the students' own desires. But such an approach will help to create an information base for future course development and dissemination.
Another task of the project's current phase is to encourage wide use of Internet and computer communications among professors, tutors, and students as a way to develop collaborative learning models in the department. Academic contacts have to be established for cooperative development and wide dissemination of the new educational courses and technologies at the university, in Ukraine, and throughout the world, involving the most active network users from the academic and scientific community--the tutors, researches, students, and associated user groups.
To provide the course with current technical information and new technologies, professors and tutors in the CAD department actively participate in organizing workshops, conferences and seminars in Kiev and Ukraine in order to promote the project. Participation in training helps university tutors to get a better understanding of the real needs of different categories of users and practical workers.
As a result of the recognition of the advantages of provided education methodology and of the existing needs of the networking market in Ukraine, specialists and students in the department served as technical assistants at EnterNet'96, a specialized Internet/intranet exhibition held in Kiev, 26-30 November 1996. The EnterNet'96 Internet/intranet Network Operating Team (INOT), responsible for network design and maintenance, were students and specialists from the CAD department. Many students were also involved in development of intranet WWW information resources. Such cooperation with the exhibition company Euroindex Ltd. provides a good opportunity for students to see and master new technologies and be acquainted with the IT market in Ukraine. This experience is very similar to the well-known NOC and ITM volunteer program of Interop world exhibitions .
Basic training materials and courses on Internet-related issues were developed with the academic curricula. Regular training courses for different categories of users were started in the CAD department. The first groups trained were the teaching staff of the department and the university's postgraduate students, who have been encouraged to use Internet in academic work and research. Another group was KPI 30 students who took part in the international distance educational course sponsored by the International Association of Universities Presidents (IUAP) that focused on the book "Preparing to the 21st Century" by Paul Kennedy, during 1995/1996 academic year.
Important factors for the success and future development of the project are
Current experience points toward the wide implementation of such instructional methodology. The achievement of its potential under local conditions will affect teaching of other IT-related courses in the department and lead to their integration in the Internet/intranet networking base and the information technologies that were very effective for reengineering the educational process.
A strong orientation toward reaching practical results in integration into GII in the discussed pioneer work has allowed the formulation of the main principles of developing instructional methodology for teaching and/or implementing modern information technologies in technical, technological, and non-technical education. These principles can provide a real basis for establishing an active position for teachers and a creative role for students.
In general, these principles are based on the university's approach to Internet development (as opposite to commercial one), which supposes inexhaustible access to available resources so individuals can create consumable goods and resources . An understanding of this is very important for making policy decisions regarding future development in this area of activity. It also confirms the common principles of Internet and modern technologies development, even when the conditions that exist in the former Soviet Union countries are so different from those that exist in the developed countries.
The project was faced with number of problems caused by technical, organizational, methodological, and funding restraints. Some of them can be discussed in more detail:
The special educational WWW server integrated into the KPI campus network was established in the CAD department to provide the wide dissemination of its current work and basic information about academic curriculum and educational courses. It consists of necessary instructional and reference information and basic training materials on Internet services.
Results of the pilot project are the development and implementation of new approaches for professional training and education under the conditions that prevail in Ukraine's emerging technologies setting. The key idea is to apply cooperative and contributive models for interaction between tutor and students through the practical use of modern Internet/intranet technologies. Such an approach has allowed creation of a critical mass of specialists (and students) for the continuing development of the courses.
The educational projects made real contributions to the development of the information contents of two WWW servers:
Such pioneer work will create a solid base for the wide implementation of networking IT in a university environment in Ukraine, and mobilize the community's intellectual forces for self-supported development of the new technologies. Areas for international cooperation can be found in the exchange of educational courses and instructional methodologies among universities.
The experience described here can be duplicated easily in other places but requires dedicated and experienced tutors to manage it.
This project was made possible by the staff of the CAD department, which provided both materials and moral support.
At the initial stage, this project was supported by special grants from the United States Information Agency (USIA) in Ukraine  in the areas of conference participation, educational materials publishing, and student research. For the 1996/1997 academic year, the project has received a special grant from the International Renaissance Foundation of the Soros Foundation  for development of the professional education program in networking information technologies and information resource management.
The Dialectica Computer Publishing Company  generously donated technical literature on networking and Internet technologies.